Ahead of Wold Toilet Day on the 19th of November, Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell has ‘twinned’ his office toilet with one in a remote Malawi village.

 

Toilet Twinning is a water and sanitation international charitable initiative with the motto “We are flushing away poverty, one toilet at a time.” This is done by means of a one off donation which twins a toilet at home, work or even in a school with one in a country in the developing world. The project currently covers 10 countries: Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Malawi.

 

Having visited Malawi in 2012 as Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Education, Michael has kept active links with the country. Some time ago he was told by an MSP colleague about the scheme and as a result took the opportunity to personally pay for the twinning of his Scottish Parliament Office toilet on Argyll Street in Dunoon with one in Chatumbra Village in the Rumphi District of Malawi. As part of the scheme a certificate with a picture of the twinned toilet is provided, and that now sits in his office.

 

Commenting, Mr Russell said:

 

“During my ministerial visit to Malawi in 2012, I discovered why it is so rightly known as the “warm heart of Africa”. Malawi is an astonishing country home to incredibly welcoming and kind people.

 

However it is also one of the poorest countries on the continent and it faces a huge range of difficulties. Sanitation is a key issue that underlies many of the health and social problems of the country and Toilet Twinning presents the opportunity to help to change this.

 

I would encourage anyone who wants to make a difference to get involved. I would love to see toilets across Argyll twinned with others in many countries and contributing to a better world.”

 

For more information visit www.toilettwinning.org

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell has submitted a formal objection to Argyll and Bute Council with regard to the proposals for draconian new parking restrictions and charges in Dunoon and on the Island of Mull.

 

Commenting on the proposals Mr Russell said:

 

The introduction of new parking charges and restrictions in Oban earlier this year has been a disaster and has had a severe effect on visitors, locals and on the residents of the island of Kerrera who were completely ignored by the process and who now cannot park their cars in the town, but can’t take them to the island either.

 

Arrochar was next to get these unwelcome changes and they have also caused chaos with many walkers and climbers deterred because of the massive jump in the cost of leaving a vehicle for the time needed to visit and climb the famous “Cobbler”.

 

Despite these issues the Council has simply ignored objections and a promise to review the Oban situation seems to have been quietly shelved.

 

Now the chaos is coming to Mull and Dunoon but there is still time to stop it if the public  – and councillors – object strongly enough.

 

In Dunoon there are already some charges in parts of the town centre. Now the proposal is to charge for the pier car park where commuters leave their vehicles every day. This will add £45 or £50 a week to the cost of commuting to Gourock which will be impossible to pay for many people. But there are virtually no alternatives and the Council has even been refreshing the yellow lines in the town to make clear that it will prosecute car owners who are just wanting to get to their work.

 

On Mull restrictions in Tobermory, at Craignure and at Fionnphort will all cause real problems. Tourism will be badly affected, including tourism for Iona, and those who travel regularly to Oban from Craignure – and some people do so every day – will be met with a similar scale of charges to those that are going to cause real hardship in Dunoon.  Dangerous and disruptive parking will increase and disputes about parking will intensify.

 

The Council has seen the evidence of these problems caused by the new policy in Oban. It should be pausing its plans to look at the issues in Dunoon and Mull with a fresh eye. Instead it is intending to bulldoze ahead despite massive community opposition and even opposition from Councillors who are part of the ruling Administration.

 

A public meeting on Mull this week will give Councillors the chance to show where they stand but action is going to be required rather than just words. Such action is also needed in Dunoon and members of the public also need to contact the Council to find out how to lodge a formal objection.

 

I have done so this week and I would urge the Council to think again and to seek a better way forward.