Opponents of gender-neutral toilets have raised concerns that women and children are more likely to be harassed and sexually assaulted in them compared to sex-segregated facilities.
Advocates argue that they eliminate confusion from members of the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and or intersex communities) over going to the ‘wrong toilet’.
It’s a highly sensitive issue and one that is addressed in a motion from Galashiels and District councillor Harry Scott at Thursday’s meeting of Scottish Borders Council, in which he calls for pupils and teachers at both schools to be fully consulted on their views.
The motion says: "That this council consults with secondary pupils and staff in the Scottish Borders, on proposals to install gender-neutral toilets in the new Galashiels Community Campus, and Peebles High School, the aim to learn and implement lessons for the improvement of those arrangements from those schools and campuses where they are currently in use.”
It is an approach fully supported by Hawick councillor and town provost Watson McAteer, who said: “This is a very sensible motion and seeks to establish the views of those most impacted by the introduction of gender-neutral toilets. I know there are mixed views on this type of approach and I would certainly like to be reassured that the young people sharing such facilities do so feeling safe and comfortable in their surroundings. While this is targeted at the Galashiels and Peebles High Schools I would expect the outcome to similarly be included when considering Hawick’s 2027 new High School”.
Jedburgh and District councillor Scott Hamilton said he would be supporting Mr Scott’s motion.
He said: “Councillor Scott’s motion to the council comes at an opportune time for the development of two further new schools at Peebles and Galashiels. I believe he is right to seek the views of the people who will actually be using the facilities.
“Both Jedburgh and Kelso have new schools/campuses where the toilets were changed from boy/girl to single units and I personally have received no complaints from pupils but have received comments from parents in the community.
“I only wish the pandemic hadn’t prevented people from visiting the new campus at Jedburgh. I think its important to remember that each cubical is self-contained and private. The bathroom sinks are the only place where kids will mix and that part is open plan.
“The design concept was to promote safety and aimed at reducing bullying. I can see the positives on both sides of the debate and that’s why I will be supporting Harry’s motion.”