The phased move out of lockdown has brought the issue of public toilet provision into sharp focus. A decade of austerity has seen the network of public toilets across the UK decimated as Local Authorities cut services
they do not have a legal duty to provide. In Angus, the Local Authority entered into partnership agreements with local communities such as East Haven to manage their own public toilets in exchange for a small grant. In countries such as New Zealand, free public
toilets are available across towns, cities, rural settlements and even roadside viewing points. Given that the country is a similar size to the UK, it sets an example of what can be achieved to support health and well-being, tourism and local economies. Like
the East Haven toilets, they are highly valued, always clean, well stocked and free from vandalism. In 2020, the pandemic has forced the closure of public toilets across the UK due to concerns about spreading the virus. Public Health have advised Local Authorities
that toilets are high risk areas and must remain closed. During phase 1 and 2 of lockdown when people were asked not to travel more than 5 miles to a beauty spot there should have been time for indivduals to return home to use facilities when nature
called. However, across Scotland the public have travelled longer distances and chosen to urinate and defecate across both public and private areas. Those behaving in this way represent all ages and all sectors of society. The behaviour is on such a scale
that it risks polluting water courses and introducing other public health problems. Unless the Government is able to support the re-opening of public toilets soon the issue will only intensify as we move into phase 3 in early July. This issue is an uncomfortable
fact but one which deserves some wider reflection and consideration. It has highlighted that using the toilet is a basic human need shared by everyone. For some such as pregnant women and those with health conditions, the need for public toilets is even greater.
It stands to reason that if facilities are closed then people either have to stay close to their own facilities or make the decision that they will relieve themselves wherever and whenever the need arises. Maybe now is the time for the Scottish Government
to reconsider the importance of public toilets in modern Scottish Society. Let’s be more like New Zealand and make it a legal duty to provide them and not just a discretionary power. Let's see a network of clean, well managed public toilets right across
the country and encourage people to enjoy and respect our beautiful landscape and the wider environment.