Almost 7000 rat sightings reported in Glasgow amid waste crisis fear

Official figures showed pest control received 6656 reports of vermin sightings – a decrease of 748 from 2020.

Almost 7000 rat sightings reported in Glasgow amid waste crisis fear iStock
Rats: Almost 7000 sightings reported in Glasgow in 2021.

Nearly 7000 rat sightings were reported in Glasgow in 2021 amid fears of a waste crisis in the city.

Official figures showed pest control received 6656 reports of vermin sightings – a decrease of 748 from 2020.

Locals caught glimpse of the disease-bearing rodents almost 5500 times in outdoor and non-residential settings while 1222 rats were spotted in living areas.

The figures, revealed through Freedom of Information by the Glasgow Times, showed the total number of pest control reports spiked last year during the pandemic.

Last year, a total of 7404 reports were received by the local authority with 1339 of them in residential areas.

Council bosses said that while there is “no method of accurately counting a city’s rat population”, it should be noted that rodents became more visible in lockdown due to home working.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “Throughout the UK it appears that during the early part of lockdown rats across the country moved into more residential areas to search for food.

“These figures reflect our understanding that with large numbers of people working from home, vermin also became a degree more visible to householders.

“Due to public health concerns, we were determined to ensure our pest control service continued to operate all through the pandemic.

“With Covid restrictions in place, we focused on laying treatments in outdoor areas, but as restrictions eased we were able to return to offer our full-range of pest control services.

“There is no method of accurately counting a city’s rat population that we are aware of, but estimates do indicate Glasgow’s population is entirely in keeping with the size of the city.

“Our pest control service is free to all householders in the city, but to maximise the effectiveness of pest control treatments, it is essential that backcourts are kept in good order by residents, owners and factors and that potential sources of food are properly contained.”

Following four rat scares involving binmen in Glasgow, the GMB union has warned that rodents pose a health and safety threat to the cleansing workforce.

All of the four employees were promptly taken to hospital for tetanus jags after the startling encounters, which took place in backcourts.

The union claims the lockdown did not accelerate a “waste crisis”, instead it “merely exposed and compounded it”.

GMB Scotland organiser Sean Baillie said: “Glasgow’s waste crisis is well understood and the health and safety challenges presented by vermin to workers and communities are a consequence of this.

“But let’s also be clear the Covid pandemic hasn’t caused this crisis, it’s merely exposed and compounded it.

“GMB members have campaigned for over five years about the impact of Glasgow’s budget cuts on their working conditions.

“The council will continue to claim that Glasgow faces the same challenges as every other city, from waste collection to rats, but that’s not an excuse for doing nothing.

“Our members would much rather the council stands with them to fight against another budget cut for local government, and to secure the significant investment Scotland’s biggest city so clearly needs to tackle its waste crisis.”

Meanwhile – as the number of rat sightings dropped – more than 7000 complaints were received by the local authority this year over littering.

Locals lodged 7063 reports to the council over unemptied bins, overflowing bins, litter bins and rubbish tossed to the ground.

Conservative group leader Thomas Kerr said: “To have around 7000 reported rat sightings and 7000 reports of litter a year is disgraceful and is likely to only be the tip of the iceberg.

“These reports clearly show the SNP’s record of failure in keeping our city clean.

“Their lack of attention and investment in cleansing is coming back to roost in the state of our streets.”

Council bosses revealed that while the pandemic “undoubtedly” impacted the street cleansing service, a new plan is in place that will help Glasgow to recover from the harsh impacts of Covid-19.

It means investment will be pumped into mechanical street sweepers, a plan to double the city’s bin capacity for street litter and new technology.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “Unfortunately these figures highlight that too many people in the city think it’s acceptable to drop litter.

“Everyone has a basic responsibility to dispose of their litter properly at all times and if a street bin is not available for whatever reason, then the litter should be taken home.

“The Covid pandemic has undoubtedly had an impact on the delivery of the street cleansing service.

“But we are currently implementing an extensive street cleansing plan to support the city’s recovery from the impact of Covid.

“The plan includes investment in new mechanical street sweepers, completion of a programme to double the city’s bin capacity for street litter and the use of a range of technology to ensure resources are deployed to tackle issues as effectively and efficiently as possible.

“Glasgow’s street cleansing operation is significantly larger than any comparable local authority in Scotland and more is spent on street cleansing in Glasgow per head of population than in any other area in the country.”