Tourists ‘neglected’ as 5 automated toilets shut

The electronic toilet at St Andrew Square. Picture: Greg Macvean
The electronic toilet at St Andrew Square. Picture: Greg Macvean
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Automated toilets are being shut down across the Capital – sparking accusations the city is neglecting its tourists.

Loos in St Andrew Square, the Grassmarket, Leith Walk and Portobello Prom are to be scrapped under plans aimed at saving up to £75,000 in annual running costs.

The five cubicles will be removed by contractor Clear Channel after city chiefs signed a new street-furniture deal which does not include agreements to keep them open.

They said it was no longer “feasible” to operate the toilets with permanent nearby alternatives at St Andrew Square bus station, Bath Street and Pipe Lane in Portobello, and Leith’s Taylor Gardens. Members of the public caught short in the Grassmarket will face treks of up to 450 metres to conveniences at Castlehill and Castle Terrace, although gaps in provision are set to be addressed through a city-wide public convenience “action plan”.

Tourist and business leaders said the move amounted to shabby treatment of the Capital’s one million overseas visitors and warned public spaces could be soiled, particularly after 10pm when permanent conveniences are closed.

Justin Davis, who has run The Real Free Tours Edinburgh since 2008 said it was not fair to expect visitors with limited knowledge of English and the city layout to locate alternative toilets.

He said: “Tourists are pumping an absolutely obscene amount of money into our economy, so we should be a tourist-friendly city.

“In the Grassmarket at night-time, I have definitely seen people on the street, chapping and knocking on the door [of the automated toilet], trying to get in.

“Tourists are coming and going through there.”

He added: “It doesn’t make any sense to try something new when something is there, a stone’s throw away, that we can all see. If it works well in somewhere like Amsterdam, where the tourists are all very happy, why can’t we use it here?”

Fawns Reid, chair of the Greater Grassmarket business improvement district, said: “Public urination is an ongoing problem and it causes an awful lot of upset for residents and businesses.

“[If there aren’t any automated facilities], this has to be addressed. You cannot just ignore the fact or criticise people for mass public urination if there’s no other option for them – what can they do?”

Portobello resident Gilbert Wallace, 80, who was recently driven to complain about the state of vandalised toilets in Bath Street, added: “They certainly shouldn’t do away with them uptown and in areas like Portobello, where you have lots of pubs, shops and restaurants.”

Council bosses said they were committed to ensuring all residents and visitors have good access to facilities.

A spokeswoman said: “While the city’s five automated public toilets will no longer be in use, there are nearby public alternatives for all but the Grassmarket, where we will be considering future provision as part of the action plan.”

Wee problem

Anyone caught short in areas where automated toilets are being scrapped have other options.

St Andrew Square: Bus station toilets.

Portobello Prom: Bath Street and the west end at Pipe Lane (summer only).

Leith Walk: Toilets in Taylor Gardens.

Grassmarket: Provision is being considered.