DOG walkers who clean up after their pets are being rewarded with treats – including cream teas.
Edinburgh Council is backing the controversial project which involves community wardens handing out vouchers for goodies to conscientious dog owners.
But the “poop-means-prizes” scheme has been criticised by taxpayers groups who claim it is wrong to reward dog owners for doing “what is expected of them”.
Although the prizes have been donated by local firms, community wardens will be involved in handing out vouchers and, in some cases, filming people as they receive them.
Greener Leith, the environmental group behind the scheme, said people are more likely to respond to the positive treats than “nagging” and fixed penalty notices.
Alastair Tibbitt, a volunteer with the group who came up with the idea, said: “We wanted to celebrate the fact there are still loads of people who [do] simple things like putting their rubbish in a bin or clearing up after their dog.
“Rather than nagging people who might not always use a bin to change their ways, we hope this project will encourage everyone to think about the positive difference they can make to the great public places we all share in Leith.”
As well as vouchers for cream teas, dog owners can get rewards to use at a pet shop, and tickets for the Royal Yacht Britannia.
The Haven, a cafe in the city’s Newhaven area, is one of the businesses taking part.
Dog owners with a voucher can come in and claim a free cream tea after scooping up after their pet.
Natalie Kew, 26, the owner, said: “If people are going to get rewards for making Leith a better place then we’re happy to support that.”
But Robert Oxley, of Taxpayers Alliance, branded the scheme as “bizarre”.
He said: “It seems bizarre to be handing out gifts to people who are doing what’s expected of them in the first place.
“The council should focus on making it easier for responsible dog owners to clear up after their pooch.”
And Eben Wilson, from TaxpayerScotland, said despite the good intentions the only thing likely to work is “more fines”.
He asked: “Good to see some imagination but is this going to achieve anything?
“Only more fines offer a real deterrent.”
Earlier this week Fife Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser called for DNA tests to be used to catch owners who don’t clean up after their pets.
Mr Fraser claimed wardens should get the £35-a-time testing kits to track down irresponsible dog lovers and even called for a doggy-DNA database.
In July last year it emerged many Scottish councils were imposing an average of less than one penalty notice for dog fouling a month.
Despite having a population of around 90,000, Stirling Council has fined just 13 dog owners in six years.
Other poorly-performing councils include Fife with just 12 fines in five years, Aberdeenshire with 11 fines over the same period and Clackmannanshire with nine.
The problem of dog fouling is so bad in Oban that postmen recently threatened to stop some deliveries after Argyll and Bute handed out just 128 fines in the past five years.
Edinburgh City Council confirmed they are supporting the voucher scheme but could not reveal the financial cost of their support.
A spokesman said: “Our environmental wardens are assisting with this project.”