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Public toilet closures cause inconvenience across the Highlands

By Tom Ramage

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Route map of Scotland's loos
Route map of Scotland's loos

The closure of public toilets during the coronavirus pandemic has caused great inconvenience – particularly in rural areas.

Now a researcher at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) has lifted the lid on the number of public toilets usually available across the country.

Mike Spencer, a data scientist at SRUC, has created a map showing the density of public toilets across Scotland using the geographic information system QGIS with open data from OpenStreetMap and Ordnance Survey.

Published on Zenodo.org, the map shows the greatest density of public toilets is in Edinburgh, followed by Glasgow. In rural areas, there are fewer public toilets – something which can put visitors into conflict with residents because access to sanitation may be inadequate for the number of people in need.

Mike said: “Access to toilets is important for individual health and wellbeing and sanitation is recognised by the United Nations as a human right.

“Understanding toilet locations is a step towards estimating adequate provision of sanitation – and if there are enough public toilets both for the resident population and visitors.

“Closing public toilets impacts local areas because visitors will still relieve themselves even if they cannot access facilities.”

While restrictions on access to toilets remain in place due to Covid-19, he recommends looking at Mountaineering Scotland’s guide on going to the toilet in the outdoors before answering a call of nature.

There is also useful information in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

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