The Kinlochbervie woman who bore the brunt of a verbal attack last week by the leader of the Highland Council on her community’s campaign to save their public toilets from closure said a subsequent phone call from the council leader was welcome and “constructive”.
But Margaret Meek added that council leader Margaret Davidson fell short of apologising, and made no commitment about keeping open the toilets currently being reviewed.
She also said she fears that council data underpinning its ongoing toilet ‘rationalisation’ review is based on assumptions and flawed information.
Mrs Meek and fellow ‘Highland Save Our Loos’ campaigners visited Highland Council HQ in Inverness last Thursday to hand in a 14,600 strong petition against the potential closure of 29 rural public toilets.
The campaigners say the closure decision was approved in this February’s budget, with nine of the targeted toilets in the North-West Sutherland area and indispensable to the tourism industry, not to mention to locals moving around the big distances within their county.
After handing in their petition, the campaigners attended a full council meeting when a motion was proposed by Sutherland councillor Kirsteen Currie asking the council to look for viable, commercial and sustainable alternatives to keep the toilets open.
During the debate council leader Margaret Davidson dismissed Mrs Meek in scathing terms saying people had been ‘wound up’ to sign the petition, and of the people who contacted her, ‘98% of them were from overseas, out with the area, or suffering from conditions like Crohns disease.’
She told Mrs Meek to get herself better informed about the council’s policy.
Mrs Meek, who has a BA in Urban Geography, a Masters in Community and Regional Planning and has spent a career in Housing and Community Planning, including Citizen Participation, said that whilst there was no apology, she appreciated the Mrs Davidson’s phone call the following day.
She said: “I explained that I was not acting alone but that our petition was sponsored by the Kinlochbervie Community Council of which I am a member,and it was my ‘job’.
“Mrs Davidson said the council is hoping to convince community groups to take on the toilets but we have been in contact with several who have already done this and are struggling financially.
“Mrs Davidson invited me to meet with her with other community members from the north west.
“She was also open to our community council having the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposals before the council votes on the report.
“However, she did not make a commitment about keeping open the toilets currently being reviewed.”
The Press & Journal has contacted Mrs Davidson for a response.