Number of public toilets halved since millennium
Age UK says lack of facilities affects older people in particular
The plummeting number of public toilets in Scotland could leave people unwilling to leave the house for fear of being “caught short”, warn elderly rights campaigners.
New figures have revealed that the number of council-owned conveniences in the country has almost halved since 2000, from 759 to 421.
One of the worst affected areas is Aberdeen, which has seen three-quarters disappear in that time.
While there were 33 local authority-operated toilets at the turn of the millennium, there are just nine today.
Aberdeenshire lost 39 of its toilets during the same period – a reduction of 36% – while the Orkney and Shetland islands cut three and four, respectively.
Caroline Abrahams, director of charity Age UK, said: “A lack of public toilets affects everyone but for many older people, knowing there’s a decent public convenience freely available for all enables them to get out and about with confidence, without fear of being caught short.
“We know that some older people with health conditions choose to stay indoors rather than taking a chance on being able to find a toilet if they need one, so public toilets really do make a big difference to their quality of life.”
Just 20 of the 32 Scottish councils were able to respond to the request for information on public toilets.
Of these, there was an average reduction of 45%, with the largest decrease of 95% in North Lanarkshire which closed all but one of its 20 toilets over the last decade.
In terms of volume, the biggest fall was in Fife where 154 were shut with 21 open today.
Only two councils have increased their numbers. Perth and Kinross and West Dunbartonshire have each added three since 2000.
An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said that the local authority’s toilets have been placed “strategically” in areas with a high footfall and which are not already served by publicly available toilets including near Fittie or the Duthie Park.
She added: “Across Aberdeen, as with any city, there are lots of publicly available toilets in places such as supermarkets, shopping centres, cafes, and coffee shops, so there is less of a need for local authority-maintained toilets.”
Meanwhile an Aberdeenshire Council spokesman said: “A detailed review of public toilet provision in Aberdeenshire took place in 2016, and the majority of facilities remain open.
“Our focus has been to ensure provision remains sustainable, based on identified demand and to support major transport and tourist routes.” Scottish Labour has pledged to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 through a longterm strategy.
The plan goes further than the Scottish Government’s proposal in the Climate Change Bill to cut emissions by at least 90% by 2050.
Labour’s plans match the government’s first interim target of a 56% reduction by 2020 but set a more ambition interim goal for 2030 of 77%, compared to the government’s 66%.
Ahead of the announcement, yesterday, Labour’s climate change spokeswoman, Claudia Beamish, said: “It is our duty to step up for global climate justice and Scottish Labour’s climate policy addresses these obligations while giving Scotland time to adapt in a just way for the workforce and communities.”
She said the policy recognises the inequality in Scotland’s current and historic greenhouse gas production, compared to elsewhere in the world, and that the worst impacts of climate change are hitting those who contributed least to the problem.
The MSP also said action must be taken now in the interests of “inter-generational justice” to avoid passing the burden on emission reduction to the next generation.”
She called for the Scottish Government’s pledged Just Transition Commission to be enshrined in the legislation, adding: “For the sake of those on the frontline of climate change around the world, for our beautiful planet and for our children: no more complacency – now for real ambition.”