Highland Council Causing a Stink with Toilet Closures

Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie has accused The Highland Council of ignoring its own impact assessment by pressing ahead with the proposed closure of public toilets.

The Highland Council Equality Impact Assessment [1], conducted in January this year identifies public health issues for older people, people with disabilities and notably those who are pregnant.

John Finnie said:

“The Highland Council’s Equality Impact Assessment acknowledges that closing public toilets on such a wide scale will have negative impacts for older people, people with disabilities and pregnant women. Despite this the council leadership are determined to press ahead in their usual, incoherent manner, ignoring procedures, policies and good practice. Given the clear implications for public health, and potential for increased instances of public nuisance, it is astonishing that the council has not discussed this matter with NHS Highland and Police Scotland.

“Recent experience shows that closing these essential amenities results in laybys and other public spaces being impacted by human waste, not an attractive prospect. And while it may be possible in some circumstances for communities to take control of facilities, this is not always possible. Community ownership is certainly less practical when the council reduce comfort scheme funding so that communities are forced to subsidise former council owned toilets from their own limited resources.”

John asks Highland Council to stop bankrolling Big Tobacco

John Finnie speaking at the Edinburgh University building occupied by students in protest at fossil fuel investments
John Finnie speaking at a protest by students opposed to Edinburgh University’s fossil fuel investments
A Press and Journal investigation has found that British American Tobacco is the second-biggest equity holding in Highland Council’s pension scheme. The scheme increased its investment in the tobacco giant last year from £12.6 million to £15.2 million.

John Finnie has been campaigning to persuade pension schemes – including the Scottish Parliament’s own scheme – to stop bankrolling the tobacco, weapons and fossil fuel industries and direct their investment into more socially useful activities. He urged the Highland Council scheme to dump its tobacco shares:

“The Highland Council pension scheme manages one and a half billion pounds that could be providing a secure future for employees while investing in work that benefits society. Instead they are choosing to bankroll an industry which kills over 10,000 Scots every year.

“I don’t believe Council employees, who have chosen a career working for the wellbeing of the Highland community, want their retirement to rely on the profits of Big Tobacco.

“Ethical investments which avoid supporting harmful industries perform just as well for savers without profiting from suffering.

“And schemes like the Housing Fund for Scotland allow pension funds to invest directly in the homes and jobs Scotland needs – an opportunity Falkirk Council has already taken up.

“I’m asking Highland Council’s pension fund to stop bankrolling Big Tobacco, Big Oil and the arms industry, and build a secure future for its members on investments that will help make a better world for them to retire into.”