South Lanarkshire Council has closed all 19 public toilets it operated in 2010 while other councils have also made dramatic reductions
One in four public toilets in Scotland has closed in less than a decade, putting the health of disabled and elderly Scots at risk.
Disability Equality Scotland has discovered the number of public toilets in Scotland has dramatically reduced since 2010. Councils are now providing just 509 public toilets in Scotland compared to 670 in 2010, a reduction of 161.
Disabled Scots and elderly people are more at risk of social isolation as a result of Scottish councils’ failure to prioritise toilets in public areas, the charity says.
Morven Brooks, chief executive of Disability Equality Scotland said: “Being able to use a toilet is a basic human right, however every day thousands of disabled people across the country are denied that right due to the worrying decline in public toilets and the lack of suitable facilities therein for disabled people.
“A lack of public toilets can also be a health risk, leading to social isolation as it could prevent disabled people from leaving their homes, feeling humiliated, and worried about how they would cope without suitable public toilet facilities being available.
“Organisations and public bodies have a duty of care under The Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments or provisions for people on their premises who are at particular risk due to disability, injury or other mobility restrictions.”
The issue has been championed by Scottish Labour, which is calling on the Scottish Government to take action to increase funding to councils. It is stressing the issue also affects families and all those with caring responsibilities.
Scottish Labour’s shadow cabinet secretary for communities, social security and equalities Monica Lennon said: “Public toilets are vanishing in Scotland as councils struggle to meet the needs of their communities because of £1.5 billion of austerity budget cuts by this SNP government.
“Disability Equality Scotland is speaking out because accessible public toilets are vital for public health and participation in community life.
“It is always the most vulnerable who pay the price of austerity. Scottish Labour is calling on SNP ministers to abandon cuts and to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to fund our councils properly. Councils, for example, want the ability to introduce a local tourist tax in their areas to help pay for community amenities like public toilets and the Scottish Government should stop preventing them from doing so."
The charity looked at the reduction in public toilets in local authority areas across Scotland. It found a dozen local authorities had maintained or increased by one or two the number of public toilets in their areas. Four failed to provide data and the rest had all cut the number of toilets, with South Lanarkshire closing all 19 it operated in 2010.
North Ayrshire has also seen a steep decline from 45 to just 9, Highland has closed 26 of 118 that it operated in 2010, and Angus, Edinburgh, East Renfrewshire and Stirling have all closed a dozen toilets each since 2010.
The Scottish Government is placing the blame for the drop in facilities firmly with local authorities.
A spokesperson said: “Public toilets are clearly an important service provided by local authorities for the disabled and the wider community. The fact is that despite continued UK Government real terms cuts to Scotland’s resource budget, we have treated local government very fairly.
“In 2018-19, councils will receive funding through the local government finance settlement of £10.7 billion. This will provide a real terms boost in both revenue and capital funding for public services.”