Published: 10/07/2017 12:00 - Updated: 09/07/2017 16:05

Highland MSP flags tourist toilet troubles as NC500 success attracts thousands more to area

Rhoda Grant
Rhoda Grant: 'Must cater to pressing demand'
FEARS are being flagged that floods of folk flocking to Ross-shire thanks to the phenomenal success of the NC500 could be caught short.
The Highland road trip cutting through vast swathes of Ross-shire has been credited with pumping an extra £9m into the Highland economy.
But now a local MSP is quizzing council and tourism chiefs whether they’re catering for the extra 29,000 people a year needing to answer the call of nature and spend a penny.
Rhoda Grant said: “We have a unique and wonderful asset in our iconic scenery all across the Highlands and Islands. Each year we attract more and more visitors to the area. Just look at the NC500 initiative which has helped attract an extra 29,000 visitors to the area and a windfall of £9m being added to the region’s economy. 
“Along this route and in our other scattered communities, we have many excellent visitor attractions, some award-winning, yet when I am out and about meeting constituents, I often get asked about the availability of, or lack of public toilets.
“Of course with the swingeing cuts to council budgets, something had to give. But I am concerned that on one hand we are attracting more and more visitors to the area and showcasing the skills of many within our communities, but on the other hand we do not provide the basic public amenities to service a demand.”
She has written to the chief executive of Highland Council, Steve Barron, and the boss of VisitScotland, Malcolm Roughead, seeking the current position with council-managed toilet facilities available within communities for locals and visitors.
A map of the NC500 route.
A map of the NC500 route.
She’s also quizzing them on take-up of the Highland Comfort Scheme through which a business or community facility receives a monthly payment to offset the cost of making their toilets available to the general public. 
She said: “Tourism now more than ever is an asset that we need to capitalise on and if we are going to attract more and more tourists to the area, boosting the local economy, we should surely be providing amenities such as toilets available for public demand.”
A VisitScotland Spokesperson told the Journal: “Our latest research highlights the importance of basic facilities like toilets as a key part of the visitor experience. Public toilets are not compulsory and come under the responsibility of local authorities, so VisitScotland does not have control over these facilities.
"Whilst we recognise the financial pressures local areas are under and the difficult decisions that have to be made, we would urge the appropriate bodies to recognise the importance of these facilities and invest time and resource accordingly, especially in key tourism hotspots.”
A spokeswoman for Highland Council said the chief executive would respond to Mrs Grant. 
She added: “Where we receive requests for additional facilities in an area, we will assess existing provision there. If we believe that we need to provide additional facilities, we will approach local businesses or community facilities and ask them to participate in our Comfort Scheme. We do not currently have established criteria for providing public toilets, such as population density or visitor footfall, but this is something we will be adopting in the future. The Council’s Comfort Scheme operates in partnership with businesses where the is no existing toilets or where there is increased demand for toilets and we are unable to provide additional facilities. Businesses participating receive a payment in return for making their facilities to members of the public.”
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