Responding to the amended motion lodged by Gail Ross MSP in the Scottish Parliament which related to her (Rhoda Grant MSP) original Parliamentary Motion highlighting the possible closure of public toilets in the Highlands, Regional MSP Rhoda Grant has said “ Gail is perfectly entitled to lodge an amendment to my original motion, but in doing so she has shown that she is actually more concerned about protecting the reputation of the Scottish Government than her own constituents. I was keen to point out in my motion that Local Authorities are having to look at closing public toilets as a community service in order to make ends meet. I understand that these toilets are being looked at because Highland Council do not have a statutory obligation to keep public toilets open. They are therefore obviously looking at providing for all their statutory obligations first and foremost. Something has to give if we want to protect key services in our communities in light of Government budget cuts and it is only right that a review is carried out and there is consultation with communities. Although this was perhaps lacking at the outset, these consultations are ongoing.
“For Gail Ross to try and maintain that Highland Council have much choice other than to look at cutting non statutory services, because of the Governments budget cuts, is farcical. You cannot expect a Local Authority to continue to balance the books and provide the same level of services if you put less money on the table. Scottish Labour had a proposal whereby the wealthy paid more in taxes and thus generated more income for the Government to allow them to provide a more realistic budget for Local Authorities to work with.
Motion Number: S5M-14298
Lodged By: Rhoda Grant
Date Lodged: 11/10/2018
Title: Highland Public Toilets
That the Parliament notes The Highland Council’s proposal to review its public toilet facilities; understands that this could lead to the closure of 29 toilets across the local authority area; believes that they are an essential public convenience for communities and tourists; understands that they are in greater demand as a result of what it sees as the welcome increase in tourism that the North Coast 500 has brought; believes with regret that Scottish Government cuts to council budgets has led to The Highland Council, and other local authorities, considering such options; notes that, in response to these cuts, writing in The Press and Journal, Dr Jim Hunter stated that, “Ministers and MSPs can keep councils on the tightest of tight reins, and, when services in consequence get slashed, they can arrange for councillors to get the blame. Perhaps, then, the time has come for councillors to quit council chambers, lock the doors and mail the keys to Holyrood. ‘Since you guys insist on calling all the shots’, their covering notes could say, ‘it’s high time you carried the can'”; understands that more than 20,000 people have signed a petition calling on the council not to go ahead with the closures; notes that the local authority has delayed a decision on this until 31 October 2018, and calls on it to do all that it can to keep all of the 29 public toilets open.
Motion Number: S5M-14298.1
Lodged By: Gail Ross
Date Lodged: 15/10/2018
Title: Highland Public Toilets
As an amendment to motion S5M-14298 in the name of Rhoda Grant (Highland Public Toilets), leave out from “facilities” to end and insert “as part of its revenue budget considerations; understands that this process will lead to less provision of public toilets throughout the local authority area; strongly believes that they are an essential public convenience for communities, tourists and people with protected characteristics, understands that more than 20,000 people from throughout Scotland and the world have signed a petition calling on the council to reconsider its programme of rationalisation; commends the campaigners who have gathered the petition and raised awareness of this situation; regrets that the council appears to have completely ignored public calls to keep these facilities open and notes that it has agreed to a later closure date of 31 October 2018 to discuss alternatives with stakeholders, and calls on the council to do all that it can to keep all 29 public toilets open.”