A Wester Ross campaigner says communities on the popular North Coast 500 trail are “drowning in human waste” because of a lack of public toilets.
John Wood, 70, says since the start of the coronavirus pandemic he and others along the route cleaned up waste at laybys and picked up used toilet paper from public parks, just to keep the area clean.
But he doesn’t blame the tourists.
He says the council has a duty to provide public toilets.
Now he is petitioning the Scottish Government to enshrine public toilet provision in the law.
‘All hell broke loose’
The North Coast 500 is an increaslingly popular road trip covering just over 500 miles of Scotland’s north coast, officially starting and ending in Inverness.
Mr Wood, who has lived in Poolewe for six years, said 2020 was a “horrendous” summer around the North Coast 500 because of the mass influx of tourists to the area.
“In cities there are cafes you can go to if you need the toilet, but in rural areas we don’t always have that,” he said.
“If there is somewhere open it might be miles away.
“Poolewe is a small place and there are public toilets in the middle of the village but they were closed in 2020 when Highland Council withdrew all funding for them.
“And then in summer 2020 all hell broke loose as everyone headed to the rural areas for fresh air.”
He said communities like his were “inundated” with tourist, but “the facilities were just not there”.
Lack of toilets to blame
While some blamed “dirty campers” and visitors flocking to the Highlands, Mr Wood thinks the problem lies with those in charge.
He said: “It causes a lot of antagonism between visitors and locals but to me if there were proper facilities in the first place this situation would never need to arise.
“Everyone who is out and about will need the toilet sooner or later.
“This shouldn’t be an optional extra for local authorities, it is a basic need.
“A lot of people had to clean up human waste but the tourists are only human and if the toilets were there they wouldn’t have to do that.”
Mr Wood said some people in the Poolewe area also find driving 75 miles to Inverness difficult because there are so few toilet stops along the way.
Call to enshrine public toilets in law
Mr Wood took his petition to the Scottish Parliament, where MSPs will consider the case.
Under his plan, Highland Council would be forced to ensure there are enough public toilets on the North Coast 500 route.
He said: “The Scottish Government has the money for an awful lot of things and this might seem like a huge expense, but it is not really.
“It is absolutely affordable and is needed to save our communities from being drowned in human waste.”
A spokeswoman for Highland Council said it does not have a statutory responsibility to provide public toilets, but they “understand the importance placed on these facilities by locals and tourists alike”.
They added the council is spending £190,000 on public toilets in 2022/23, with 75 public toilets and 37 comfort schemes with local businesses across the Highlands.