Labour MEP for Scotland, Catherine Stihler, has written to Highland Council to oppose plans to close nine rural public toilets.
Ms Stihler became aware of the issue on a family holiday at Easter in Achmelvich, and has signed a petition set up by local residents.
As part of its budget proposals for 2018/2019, Highland Council is planning to close public toilets at Achmelvich, Kinlochbervie, Rhiconich, Scourie, Smoo Cave, Lairg, Kylesku, Talmine, and Tarbet.
The move comes despite increased tourism as a result of the publicity around the North Coast 500 route.
Catherine Stihler said:
“Over Easter I enjoyed a wonderful family holiday in Achmelvich, but I was concerned to learn about plan to close the public toilets there.
“I have written to Highland Council to plead with the authority to reverse this short-sighted decision.
“With the increasing popularity of the North Coast 500 there is an increasing number of tourists to the North West Highlands who require access to toilets along the route.
“A lack of public toilets in this area will cause anxiety to anyone needing a comfort break during their travels and will also discriminate against the elderly, infirm, disabled and toddlers during the toilet training stage, who cannot do without a regular rest break during long journeys. There are also obvious public health concerns.
“While I fully understand the budgetary pressures on local councils across Scotland, cutting this vital public service is not the solution.”
The full text of the letter is as follows:
Cllr Margaret Davidson
Leader of The Highland Council
19th April 2018
Dear Cllr Davidson,
I have just returned from a wonderful family holiday in Achmelvich. However,
I am very concerned by the Highland Council’s plan to close 9 Rural Public Toilets in the Sutherland area including Achmelvich Public Toilets. I have signed the petition set up by locals but I also wanted to write personally to you about the Council’s decision.
With the increasing popularity of the North Coast 500 there is an increasing number of tourists to the North West Highlands who also require access to public toilet facilities along the route.
A lack of public toilets in this area will cause anxiety to anyone needing a comfort break during their travels and will also discriminate against the elderly, infirm, disabled and toddlers during the toilet training stage, who cannot do without a regular rest break during long journeys.
The closure of the Public Toilet facilities will also encourage ‘wild toileting’ which could lead to Public Health issues. I know, from speaking to local people, that they do not want the beauty and cleanliness of the area to be spoilt by ‘Wild Toileting’.
Have you proof that your proposal of suggested alternatives, as making use of facilities such as local businesses and village halls, will actually be feasible? It may be presumptuous as many businesses and village halls would only be open during core business hours and not available to those people requiring toilet facilities outside these standard times. Many businesses also only allow access to their toilet facilities to paying customers.
I would be interested to learn what processes you have planned to put in place to accommodate 24hr toilet facilities for tourists in the areas of the planned closures.
I would also like to urge you to re-think your plans to close the 9 public toilets you have designated to this fate.
I look forward to your response.
Catherine Stihler MEP
Labour MEP for Scotland