Midlothian Council suspends the use of weed killer

Midlothian Council Debating chamber at Midlothian House, Buccleuch St in Dalkeith 19/2/18
Midlothian Council Debating chamber at Midlothian House, Buccleuch St in Dalkeith 19/2/18

Use of a common weed killer has been temporarily suspended by Midlothian Council over concerns about its impact on communities.

The local authority agreed to halt the use of glyphosate weed killers across its services while it investigates concerns about its safety. The commonly used herbicide is available to buy at DIY stores and gardening centres across the UK.

Councillor Colin Cassidy (SNP), who brought a motion to the local authority demanding a ban on its use, said he had seen the impact with his own eyes after a recent spraying near his home left his driveway “covered with dead bees”.

And he said concerns had been raised by residents whose dogs had become violently ill after eating grass in local parks.

He said: “I’ve had complaints about the council spraying dandelions in the early spring. Dandelions are the first source of food for bees and bees are an essential part of the ecosystem as everyone knows.

“In Lugton there is a very large bee colony and as soon as the sun shone, the flowers came out and our men were up there with the sprays, spraying them.”

Glyphosate is a herbicide which has been banned across several European countries and states in America amid concerns about its effect on wildlife and health.

Two US court cases have seen juries rule it caused cancer in the last year although America’s Environmental Protection Agency has this month insisted it is not a carcinogen.

However concerns have been raised about the cumulative effect of using it year after year and its impact on wildlife and public health.

Councillor Cassidy told fellow councillors: This is not only a cost to our insect life,  this is a cost to human life.

“The French have banned it, there are something like 12 states in America who have banned it. We have to take the first step.”

However, his motion sparked a debate during last week’s council meeting after colleagues raised concerns about the impact of  a ban.

Cllr John Hackett (Lab)warned finding an alternative could be costly at a time when there was no money in the budget to find a change.

He called for more research to be carried out before any ban was introduced and “one more cycle” to be allowed before a decision is taken.

He warned: “The consequence of not using it is we will have weeds. This is why we have weed management.”

And he told SNP councillors calling for the ban that he would send complaints he received from constituents about weeds to their offices.

The debate led Provost Councillor Peter Smaill to comment “I never expected dandelions to be quite this emotive.”

However Cllr Dianne Alexander (SNP), who seconded the motion for a ban, said: “We are creating an eco disaster. We have to take a stance somewhere and it would be better to take it now.”

Cllr Andrew Hardie (Con) suggested a moratorium on the use of glyphosate until a report on their impact could be brought to the next council meeting. Cllr Peter Smaill asked members to vote on the “motion on dandelions proposing a moratorium”, adding “it will possible mean more weeds and dandelions in the next month or two”. It was passed unanimously.