The neighbouring towns of Lanark and Biggar have enjoyed healthy competition over the centuries but now the Royal Burgh’s pride is at stake as its much smaller rival has bested it over - bogs!
The closure by a cash-strapped South Lanarkshire Council of the last public lavatories in each of the towns provoked dismay in both.
However, Biggar seem to have been quicker off the mark in doing something about it by forming a committee to raise the funds from within their town to re-open and run their public convenience themselves.
It is understood that the Biggar campaign is nearing a successful conclusion and it will have its public loo next to the Corn Exchange open again in time for next summer’s economically vital summer visitor season.
In Lanark, however, the issue was discussed at several meetings but nothing to save its Horsemarket toilets, closed since the summer, was actually done.
Well-known Lanark Rotarian and businessman Bill Stewart has now issued a rallying call to the burgh to follow Biggar’s lead and save its facility using ‘people power’.
Outlining his plan to a meeting last week, Bill stated: “Taking on the toilet would be too big an undertaking for any individual organisation or group in Lanark to take on itself.
“It is calculated that it would take an initial £11,000 just to get the building back into shape for re-opening it.
“Then we would have to find something like £14,000 per year for the running costs.
“A lot of that would go on lighting and heating and on paying an outside contractor to carry out regular cleaning and maintenance. We’d also have to get some sort of lease arrangement with South Lanarkshire Council.
“Some money could be saved by not having it permanently manned, as they were in the past, but by installing a turnstyle entrance.
“As I said, no one group in Lanark could do all this and so perhaps we could do what Biggar has done and get several different town bodies together on this one; in lanark that could mean the Community Council, Rotary Club, Business Group, Lanimer Committee and the Development Trust and any others who want to take part.”
He said that such a joint campaign would first require a legally incorporated body at the the heart of the effort, at least initially; on Biggar that was the Biggar Theatre Group; in Lanark, his own Rotary Club might take on that role to get the ball rolling.
He suggested that, as soon as possible, a full public meeting be held in Lanark to gauge what kind of popular support - if any - his plan might attract. If there WAS support, then the vital fund-raising could begin.