Controversy over mess and lack of public toilets in the Meadows as best-selling author Ian Rankin witnesses park-goers 'urinating behind bins'

Major concerns have been raised about overflowing bins and the lack of public toilets at the Meadows as several locals witnessed people urinating there on Saturday.
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Many took to social media to vent their anger about the mess, which included disposable barbecues scorching the grass and litter being left strewn across the park.

Best-selling crime writer Ian Rankin, who lives beside the Meadows, was among those to highlight concerns on Saturday evening.

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On twitter he wrote: "Hundreds of people on The Meadows. No public toilets open. The view from my building is basically non-stop micturition."

In response to a twitter follower suggesting similar problems were being experienced in Pilrig Park but that it would be more difficult for women to urinate publicly, he said: "Using behind the on-street bins here. Still in full view, mind..."

Another follower posted on the author’s twitter thread to describe Meadows Lane smelling like "like a public toilet" and a"river of urine flowing down the lane."

Other locals, including John Mitchell, took to social media to share video footage from the park which showed a number of small groups social distancing but several others clearly forming large groups of more than the eight people – breaching the Scottish Government guidance.

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In a tweet alongside his video, Mr Mitchell wrote: "Lockdown Edinburgh Meadows style 7.30pm. Drunks reeling all over, overflowing bins, disposable shared barbecues burning the grass, garbage strewn everywhere, p**sing wherever. Polis? And we are putting up cones in Stockbridge. Pointless."

Video footage appeard to show some groups of people were not sticking to Scottish Government guidance. Pic: John Mitchell/Twitter videoVideo footage appeard to show some groups of people were not sticking to Scottish Government guidance. Pic: John Mitchell/Twitter video
Video footage appeard to show some groups of people were not sticking to Scottish Government guidance. Pic: John Mitchell/Twitter video

Another park-goer told the Evening News that some people appeared to be using a “pop-up” toilet, adding: “People weren’t washing their hands, blokes were just rubbing them on their trousers.”

He also described seeing many people not sticking to the two metre social distancing rule and said there was a notable lack of police patrols.

Police said community officers were on patrol to engage and explain the legislation and guidance, and that reports of public urination were received and when someone was caught they were issues with an on-the-spot fine.

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Edinburgh Council leader, Adam McVey, has also previously warned residents about using disposable barbecues after mess was left in some city parks during another sunny weekend at the end of May.

One park-goer said this pop-up tent was being used a a toilet.One park-goer said this pop-up tent was being used a a toilet.
One park-goer said this pop-up tent was being used a a toilet.

Gardens and doorways 'used as toilets'

Several more Edinburgh residents took to twitter yesterday to voice their concerns about the lack of public toilet facilities and the mess being left behind in the Meadows.

One person wrote: "The state people are leaving the Meadows in is horrible. Literally takes two seconds to tidy up after yourself."

Another tweeter said: "But if you don’t provide public toilets it exacerbates the problem. Of course people will gather outside on a sunny day if pubs are shut. Now the Meadows and folks' gardens/ doorways used as toilets which is arguably more of a health risk than opening toilets."

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And another wrote: "Out of curiosity when are the public toilets (especially in the meadows) set to reopen? You’re putting those with disabilities and hidden Illnesses at a disadvantage by not having these open when they’re allowed a wee bit of freedom."

The Evening News reported previously that plans for the limited reopening of public toilets in Edinburgh could be unveiled by late June, as Edinburgh City Council seeks to curb the growing number of residents relieving themselves in public spaces.

A motion has been brought forward to the council’s Policy and Sustainability Committee requesting a plan for the limited reopening of public toilets be put to the committee in time for its June 25 meeting.

If the motion passes, the plan for reopening public toilet facilities will include assessments of how social distancing can be maintained; how cleaning methods, storage and waste material disposal can be enhanced; and how the provision of sanitising material within facilities can be ensured.

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Mr McVey said previously that all public toilets in Edinburgh are closed because it is “not possible” to operate them safely, although this is under review. He said that guidance from Health Protection Scotland and the Scottish Government says people should only be travelling to places where they can get back home to the toilet easily.

Public issued with fines

Inspector Keith Watson said: “We are aware that many people gathered in the Meadows and Bruntsfield Links area of Edinburgh on Saturday, 20 June. Community Policing officers were out on patrol to engage with the public, explain the legislation and guidance and to encourage compliance if necessary.

“Reports of public urination were received in the area throughout the day, officers attended and when caught, members of the public were issued with on the spot fines.

“The regulations remain that people should only leave the house for very limited purposes, for example for basic necessities, for exercise or recreation, for medical needs or travelling for work which cannot be done from home.

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"The Chief Constable has made it clear that we are asking people to take personal responsibility to do the right thing and remember the purpose of these measures is to aid the collective effort to stay safe, protect others and save lives by preventing the virus from spreading.

"Our officers will continue to engage with the public, explain the legislation and guidance and encourage compliance. We will use enforcement as a last resort only where there is a clear breach of the legislation."

New SRUC research

The controversy comes as new research from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) was published suggesting the closure of public toilets is causing great inconvenience across Scotland.

Mike Spencer, a data scientist at SRUC, has created a map showing the density of public toilets across Scotland using the geographic information system QGIS with open data from OpenStreetMap and Ordnance Survey.

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The map shows the greatest density of public toilets is in Edinburgh, followed by Glasgow.

Dr Spencer said: “Access to toilets is important for individual health and wellbeing and sanitation is recognised by the United Nations as a human right.

“Understanding toilet locations is a step towards estimating adequate provision of sanitation – and if there are enough public toilets both for the resident population and visitors.

“Closing public toilets impacts local areas because visitors will still relieve themselves even if they cannot access facilities.”

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While restrictions on access to toilets remain in place due to Covid-19, he recommends looking at Mountaineering Scotland’s guide on going to the toilet in the outdoors before answering a call of nature.

Edinburgh City Council has also been contacted about the concerns raised at the Meadows on Saturday.