Num­ber of pub­lic toi­lets halved since mil­len­nium

Age UK says lack of fa­cil­i­ties af­fects older peo­ple in par­tic­u­lar

The Press and Journal (Moray) - - NEWS - BY JAMES WYL­LIE

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.”

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