A DECISION to permanently shut public toilets in Galashiels has been labelled “short-sighted”.

All council-run loos closed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then just 27 of 41 public toilets have reopened, with Scottish Borders Council (SBC) outlining plans to demolish or offload the remaining 14 facilities.

The loos in Bank Street Gardens are among those to permanently close and the decision was questioned at a meeting of Galashiels Community Council last week.

“It’s very short-sighted,” said chairwoman Judith Cleghorn. “We’re trying our best to get visitors into Galashiels and there’s no toilets.”

But SBC leader Euan Jardine, a Conservative councillor for the town, refuted the claim.

“These are those really difficult decisions, it’s toilets or libraries,” he said. “A couple of days ago I was in North Berwick.

“I got off the train and I had to walk a mile to find public toilets. I think we’re in a better position.

“It’s not like we’re closing every single toilet, we’re looking at it strategically.”

Mr Jardine said that there were council-run toilets at the Interchange, while facilities could be found at supermarkets Asda and Tesco, as well as cafés across the town.

He added: “We’re trying to make the best decisions, but it’s hard to make difficult decisions. I think it’s short-sighted to say we need a million public toilets.”

Community councillor Jim Johnston said that if he was the manager at either supermarket, he would be unhappy at SBC advertising their facilities.

“For the council to mark them as public use, you’re being very presumptuous to advertise that the public can go in and use them,” he said.

Fellow community councillor Bill White asked whether the toilets at Bank Street Gardens could be opened on special occasions, such as Gala Day or during Christmas lights switch-on events.

Mr Jardine said he had raised the point with SBC chief executive David Robertson but the preferred option was to bring in portaloos instead.

Galashiels councillor Fay Sinclair, of the SNP, said: “It’s not the toilet paper that costs, it’s the rates of the building.

“Before the decision [to close the toilets] we should’ve had more information, more of a holistic look.”

In defence of SBC’s decision, Mr Jardine asked the community council what services they would cut to keep the toilets and questioned whether government funding was sufficient.

Mr White said: “I’d go and fight for more money.”

Mr Jardine replied: “It’s not that we’re not fighting.”

Along with Bank Street Gardens, the toilets at the High Street car park will also remain shut.

Mr Jardine said that the community council could step in and run the loos, while also stating that public facilities had been turned into Airbnb accommodation in other parts of the country.

Ms Cleghorn said that the group managing the site was “probably a step too far”.

Community councillor Rick Kenney said: “I can definitely tell you I do not want to be in charge of the management of public toilets.

“I don’t want to be involved in any way, shape or form.”