Concern voiced over misuse of radar keys at disabled toilets in Borders

Councillor Davie Paterson outside Hawick's Howegate toilets.
Councillor Davie Paterson outside Hawick's Howegate toilets.

Disabled Borderers are being inconvenienced because specialist keys needed to access their public toilets are being misused, it is claimed.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson was informed of that issue by a constituent with a bowel problem kept waiting outside a disabled toilet at the town’s Howegate because it was being used by an able-bodied occupant also equipped with a radar key.

The man was astonished to see a bus driver without any apparent disability exit the toilet while he was waiting to go in.

Mr Paterson has since learned that some people are using radar keys, often bought over the internet, to avoid spending 30p on gaining access to Scottish Borders Council’s fee-charging public toilets.

He is now urging able-bodied Borderers to consider the possible consequences for those genuinely entitled to them of acquiring and using radar keys.

He said: “What I’m concerned about is that this is a problem that is widespread all over the Borders and the country. It may not be illegal, but it is wrong.

“People are going into these toilets with a key that has been purchased on the internet for a few pounds or possibly has been copied.

“It’s no wonder the takings from the ordinary public toilets are down.”

There are more than 8,000 disabled toilets accessed by radar keys throughout the UK, but they reportedly also attract non-disabled people, often ones wishing to take drugs or have sex, because they are larger, more private and less likely to be occupied.

Mr Paterson added: “One of my constituents got in touch who has trouble with his bowels as a result of cancer and he went to use the disabled toilets at Howegate.

“It was occupied, which is fair enough, but he couldn’t believe it when he saw a bus driver exit the toilets. He’d just parked the bus outside and got in with this key. The driver said a lot of people had these keys, which you can get for a few pounds on the internet.

“It’s been exploited all over the Borders because it’s not against the law. I’d like to see a situation where these keys cannot be copied.”

A council spokesperson said: “Radar keys are designed to provide people with disabilities access to public toilets in the UK and should not be used by a member of the public to simply avoid paying a charge.

“If paying is an issue, there are publicly-accessible buildings with toilets within communities which you are not required to pay for and could be used instead.

“Anyone with a disability who wishes to purchase a radar key should contact the council’s customer services or visit the Disability Rights UK website.

“Both require proof of eligibility in order to receive a key.

“Further details are available at www.scotborders.gov.uk or by calling 0300 100 1800.”