THE LEADER of Glasgow City Council has played down concerns of filth and vermin in the city ahead of COP26.

Susan Aitken was being questioned by MPs this morning at a session of the Scottish Affairs Committee when she said that “one, possibly two” employees had “minor contact with a rat” and they were taken to hospital as a precaution.

The SNP councillor also said that Glasgow was not a “uniquely dirty” city, and pointed to Edinburgh and London as also having problems with rubbish and filth.

MPs were questioning the council leader and her head of communications Colin Edgar on the city’s readiness for the global climate summit, which is due to start in six days.

Douglas Ross, Scottish Conservatives leader, asked Ms Aitken if the ‘technical issues’ which were still outstanding in the run up to the climate conference she had previously mentioned included “that the bins are overflowing there's rats in the streets and some of your employees have been taken to hospital”

READ MORE: SNP leader Susan Aitken admits Glasgow's rubbish 'hotspots' need fixed ahead of Cop26

Ms Aitken said the question was “entirely gratuitous” and added: “There has, there have been…there was I think one, possibly two at most, small incidents where an employee...where there was a public...there was a health and safety incident, and an employee was taken as a precaution to hospital for what was very minor contact with a rat.

“I have to say it's not unheard of, and it hasn't been unheard of for decades, that our cleansing employees occasionally experience rats.”

She also said that other cities had experienced problems as a result of the pandemic, with staff absences and resources being diverted elsewhere, but added that around 12000 hours of extra work had been put in to prepare Glasgow for the conference.

Mr Ross then asked: “Do you not think it's a bit sad, really that we now have a competition between two SNP-led  councils in Scotland, Glasgow and Edinburgh, which one's the dirtiest?”

Ms Aitken responded: “I could easily also point to the conservative on Westminster Council in London, for example.”

She later added: “What I reject entirely are suggestions that Glasgow is somehow particular in this, that it is peculiarly challenged in relation to any of these things, which seems to be what Douglas Ross is suggesting.”

HeraldScotland:

MPs also heard about the accommodation and travel problems anticipated during the conference which will run between October 31 and November 12.

Dr Kat Jones, of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said that while the council leader had previously told MPs that all delegates had secured accommodation for the event, this was untrue and that “thousands” of people did not yet have accommodation.

She said: “This is definitely an accommodation crisis.

“We're really encouraging people not to travel to Glasgow unless they've got confirmed accommodation, and what Councillor Aitken said there about all delegates having accommodation is not true.

“There are thousands of delegates who don't have accommodation because often the badges aren't given out until a few weeks beforehand and most of the accommodation was booked in Glasgow months ago.”

READ MORE: COP26 Glasgow Kelvingrove listed at £103,000 for 12 nights

She encouraged Glaswegians to continue putting themselves and their homes forward for the homestay scheme, which matches up Cop26 attendees with city residents, and said around 1000 people had signed up so far.

Dr Jones added that emergency facilities, such as community centres and sports halls, had been arranged for people attending events around the conference such as protests who end up with nowhere to sleep.

Asked by SNP MP Mhairi Black who would be responsible if there ends up not being enough accommodation for everyone – the cabinet office or MCI group, the company contracted to arrange the accommodation - Janice Fisher, Co-chair of the Greater Glasgow Hotels Association said that MCI was contracted on behalf of the Cabinet Office, indicating that the UK Government department had overall responsibility.

READ MORE: FM urged to intervene to prevent COP26 chaos as Scots rail strike is confirmed over failed pay talks

Colin Edgar, head of communications for Glasgow City Council, acknowledged that the planned Scotrail strikes would create problems for those attending the event if they are staying in Edinburgh.

He said: “If you can't get the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow, and the trains are cancelled, then they can't get here. That's absolutely the case. I would suggest that's why the unions have chosen to strike at this time.”

Mr Edgar added: “ It is going to be a serious problem for those people if they have come from around the world, and are only 45 minutes away if they can’t get a bus, or an Uber, then that's going to be a real problem for them.”

Mr Edgar also said that despite promises from the UK Government abut compensation for businesses, no details have emerged as yet but he was aware the plan was still going ahead.

The council spin doctor added that he did not agree with those who have suggested that Glasgow has a problem with rubbish and waste collection that is worse than previous years, or in comparison to elsewhere.

He explained: “It is very important for me not to be political.

“I don't agree with those people who suggest that the city is uniquely dirty either compared with ourselves in the past, or with other cities.”

Mr Edgar also told MPs that delegates to the conference were going to be under strict rules about covid, as they do not require vaccine passports in venues while ordinary citizens do.

He said that delegates would be “debadged” if they broke the rules, including things like moving chairs in conference rooms.

The committee heard that Glasgow’s environmental health officers would be the “eyes on the ground” but it was ultimately the UN’s responsibility to ensure delegates adhered to the tough rules.

It is anticipated that a spike in coronavirus cases will ensue after the conference as up to 150,000 people head to the city over the two-week conference from all over the world.