SNP minister have been told to “urgently guarantee” that funding for a charity dealing with soaring levels of flytipping is protected after new figures revealed its budget was cut by 10 per cent in the space of four years.
Statistics revealed by Environment Secretary Michael Matheson in an answer to a Holyrood question shows that Keep Scotland Beautiful had its funding slashed from £11.2 million in 2016-17 to just £8.6 million in 2019-20.
While the funding was bumped up to £10 million in 2020-21, the SNP Government has handed the charity a real-terms cut of almost 10% t since the funding that was given out in 2016-17.
The figures also reveal there was also a 22% drop in funding between 2018-19 and 2019-20.
Rates of flytipping soared during the lockdown – with many recycling centres forced to close. The rising rate of illegally-dumped waste increases costs for local councils, already under financial pressure.
The Scottish Government has insisted the funding changes have not impact on the response to flytipping and is updating its strategy.
The Scottish Conservatives have called for ministers to review the funding arrangement to help protect Scotland’s environment.
Scottish Conservative chief whip Stephen Kerr, who tabled the original question, said: “Fly-tipping and litter dropping has become even more of a scourge across Scotland during the pandemic. Charities such as Keep Scotland Beautiful carry out critical work in aiming to ensure our communities remain unspoiled.
“However, they need to be fully resourced by SNP ministers. It is hugely disappointing that the SNP Government have imposed a real-terms cut over recent years on Keep Scotland Beautiful.
“That is only going to make their job harder as they aim to be pro-active in encouraging people not to fly-tip and for their work in protecting Scotland’s wonderful natural environment.
“SNP ministers must urgently guarantee that Keep Scotland Beautiful’s budget will be protected in the years ahead.”
In response to Mr Kerr’s question, Mr Matheson said that “Keep Scotland Beautiful has delivered a range of initiatives on the Scottish Government’s behalf”.
CEO of Keep Scotland Beautiful, Barry Fisher, said: “Keep Scotland Beautiful is an environmental charity which works to combat climate change, tackle litter and waste and protect and enhance places we care for.
“We receive income from a variety of sources to cover our wide-ranging charitable activities. These include, grants, donations and the sale of services.
“We managed and developed the climate challenge fund on behalf of the Scottish Government from 2008 until June 2021 when it came to its planned end.
“During this time, from the grant funds we received from the Scottish Government, we distributed over £111million to support communities across Scotland empowering them to take action on climate change.”
He added: “Keep Scotland Beautiful continues to receive welcome funding from the Scottish Government for its work to support people to combat climate change and to support our award-winning Eco-Schools Scotland programme.
“We are currently working with partners including the Scottish Government and Zero Waste Scotland on a new strategy to better tackle the issues and problems the nation faces with both litter and flytipping.
“We know that substantially increased levels of funding will be needed, from both industry and government, if we are to tackle a looming litter emergency and the behaviours leading to the decline in our environmental quality.”
So far in the current financial year, £1.5 million has been awarded by the Scottish Government to Keep Scotland Beautiful.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Flytipping is illegal, selfish and dangerous and there is no excuse for it anywhere in Scotland.
“The Scottish Government has committed to publishing a refreshed and updated national litter and flytipping strategy.
“We will publish a consultation later in the year to outline the key actions in the new strategy, including looking at where legislation may need reviewed or updated.
“Since 2016, the Scottish Government has invested £52 million in supporting Keep Scotland Beautiful’s work.
“We continue to support them on a range of important environmental activity, including action that will help curb littering and flytipping.
“Changes to Keep Scotland Beautiful’s funding are the result of contracts reaching an end – these contracts do not relate to flytipping.”