Lanark is to be the guinea pig in a scheme which could lead to a desperate need being met throughout the rest of South Lanarkshire.
The Royal Burgh had, at one time or another, at least seven public lavatories but, since the War, all have been closed down by successive councils, mainly due to cost-cutting.
It was the past decade’s public spending austerity which led to the last two places to spend a penny in Lanark closing, namely the manned toilet block in the Horsemarket near Morrisons and at the locally-dubbed ‘biscuit tin’ automatic loo in the Castlegate.
Now local councillors in South Lanakshire Council’s SNP administration are backing a scheme to reward local businesses with cash payments for opening their staff toilets to members of the public to use.
The SNP councillor for Carluke and Law, David Shearer, explained this week: “South Lanarkshire’s lack of public toilets has been a long-running bone of contention for several years since the previous Labour administration of South Lanarkshire Council closed them.”
He said that he’d been working on a possible solution “to fund an alternative in the face of tough financial constraints.”
He welcomed the council administration giving the go-ahead with his suggestion of a new “partnership comfort scheme” offering local businesses payments of between £500 and £1000 to allow the public to use their toilets free of charge. It is anticipated a pilot scheme for one year would begin in April 2019.
Councillor Shearer went on: “I am pleased to see the council taking action over this pressing issue. I can see this project being only beneficial to all parties that take part, with the visiting public being most appreciative.”
The choice of Lanark as the pilot area for South Lanarkshire was also welcomed by the town’s SNP councillor Julia Marrs.
She said: “I’m absolutely delighted that Councillor Shearer’s scheme is being piloted in Lanark.
“It offers a great addition to Lanark’s tourism strategy and offers some financial help to a number of local businesses and will be ideal if the scheme is in place for Lanimers and the summer season.”
In the recent past, a Lanark business has already shown its public spirit at the town’s favourite visitor attraction, Lanark Loch.
With the closure of the public toilet block there, the adjoining Inn on the Loch volunteered, unpaid, to open its toilets to non-customers.