THE council closing public toilets is “not a good look” for the Borders, a meeting has heard.
And questions were asked after it was revealed that Scottish Borders Council (SBC) staff have been allowed to access loos shut to the general public.
A petition submitted by West Linton resident Ian Reid on the toilets in the village was the focal point of Tuesday’s (October 5) meeting of the audit and scrutiny committee.
Having submitted the petition to the council earlier this year, Mr Reid subsequently withdrew it after the toilets reopened on a temporary basis.
However, with the facilities set to close again after October 31, the petition – which drew support from as far as Bahrain and Canada – was put forward once more.
“Nobody, not one person, has said that the toilets should be closed,” said Mr Reid, a West Linton resident of around 30 years.
“It has an impact on local people, visitors and people who work.
“Older people make that big leap to go out in the local community knowing that if they are caught short or if they anticipate they’ll need to use the toilet there is one there.”
The petition generated upwards of 1,300 signatures, with Mr Reid stating that the toilet situation had caused “a lot of angst” within the community.
He added: “This has had a significant impact on the quality of life for a lot of people. How can we be the City of Culture if we’re not even cultured enough to have public toilets?”
The West Linton toilets are currently open seven days a week, from 9am-5pm, and are cleaned once a day.
Tweeddale West councillor Heather Anderson, of the SNP, said the village is advertised as having public facilities.
“We’re on the tourist route signposted to Edinburgh,” she said.
“When they approach West Linton there’s a sign saying conservation village and public toilets.”
Mr Reid said that “it’s not a good look” for the region when those facilities are then not offered.
He also told the meeting that people have been using the toilets in a nearby café, causing the need for repairs at the owner’s expense.
SBC cites a lack of staffing and financial resources as reasons for being unable to keep all public toilets in the region open.
During the meeting, SBC neighbourhood operations manager Jason Hedley revealed that council workers were allowed to access the loos when they were closed to the public during the lockdowns.
Mr Hedley also confirmed that the toilets were being cleaned after workers were using them.
When asked why the public were not then able to use them, he said: “The difference is workplace not leisure – staff have got procedures they need to follow and we can’t ask the public to follow those same procedures.”
On the West Linton toilets, Mr Hedley added: “The usage statistics are not huge at all.
“It’s really difficult to categorise toilets.
“If you’re that one or two people who use it that day, as opposed to the 1,000-2,000 that use the ones in Galashiels, that is still important to you.”
It was proposed at the meeting for the cleaner at the Graham Institute, run by Live Borders, to also clean the public toilets which are within close proximity.
However, Mr Hedley said: “Ultimately we would have to pay and our financial position doesn’t lend itself to that.”
The SBC officer added that a report would come before the council in November on the situation with public toilets across the Borders – but said he was unable to reveal the details of that paper.
The committee recommended to SBC that the West Linton toilets should be kept open.