Liberal Democrats want South Lanarkshire to be pesticide-free Council

A campaign to persuade South Lanarkshire Council to commit to becoming a pesticide free Council has been launched by local Liberal Democrats. The campaign follows increasing concern across Britain and Europe in recent years as to the possible effects of pesticides, both on human health and on the natural environment and biodiversity.


Liberal Democrat Group Leader Councillor Robert Brown, along with East Kilbride Liberal Democrat Councillor Fiona Dryburgh, has lodged a motion for the December Council meeting calling for the Council to look at alternative methods of weed control and to set a timetable for the phased elimination of pesticide use by the Council and their contractors.

Robert Brown said:

“A substance called glyphosate is usually the main active ingredient in weedkillers. Gardeners know it because it is used in “Roundup” and “Weedol”. It has been in use since about 1970 but has become increasingly controversial because of concerns that it might be carcinogenic – that is it might contribute to causing cancer in human beings.

The World Health Organisation said in 2015 that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic”. The European Union narrowly approved its relicensing in 2017 but that is to be reviewed by the end of 2022. Many cities and countries across the world have now banned its use, particularly after a court case in America found that a man had developed non-Hodgkin Lymphoma after many years spraying Roundup as a weedkiller. A growing number of UK Councils have either banned or are phasing out its use including Bristol, Brighton, the London Boroughs of Richmond, Lambeth and Hammersmith & Fulham, Trafford (Manchester), Stirling, Bristol, Highland, North Lanarkshire and Midlothian. France and Italy are amongst the countries which are introducing bans on its use.

I think we have to act on the precautionary principle here. Glyphosate is sprayed on roads and pavements, paths in parks and cemeteries, and even schools during the school holidays. The main risk is to the users and the Council have rigorous health and safety requirements to protect their workforce. However this stuff gets washed into drains and watercourses, it can be touched by animals and indeed children, and it is thought to be damaging to pollinators like bees and butterflies.

The challenge is what alternatives to use. There are options like hot foam and electrical weed control – basically zapping the weeds – but part of the answer on roads and pavements is likely to be better control of the mud, leaves and debris that form a seed bed in gullies and pavement edges. We have too many blocked and inoperative street drains anyway.”


Fiona Dryburgh said:

“Residents don’t want weeds all over pavements but we don’t want pesticides running off into the water systems either. Many Councils have found better ways to control weeds and we want South Lanarkshire to go down the same path and bring in weed control systems that don’t involve the use of pesticides. We probably need to do different things in parks and cemeteries to what might suit streets and pavements.

In recent years there has been concern that bee numbers have been drastically reducing and pesticide use may be one reason. During the Covid emergency, when there has been greatly reduced grass cutting and weed control, it rather looks as if bee numbers have recovered again.” 

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