IT is one of Scotland’s most popular tourist destinations and welcomes around a million visitors every year.

But the island of Arran is facing a looming crisis during this year’s peak tourist season because of the closure of all the public toilets, forcing visitors to use those in local businesses.

North Ayrshire Council recently announced it would close all Arran’s nine public loos to save £35,000 a year.

Now an online petition with approaching 2,000 signatures has been set up to reverse the decision which has left many visitors no choice but to use local pubs, hotels and cafes which is causing severe disruption to customers and owners.

Barbara Crawford who runs the Kinloch Hotel in Blackwaterfoot, on the west side of Arran said the hotel’s footfall had increased dramatically, without any corresponding increase in business: She said: “The public toilets are now padlocked in the village, and the only places for the public to go here is our hotel and the golf course. But all the tour buses stop outside the hotel and they are now coming in to use our toilets. The number using them is now unbelievable: families, young people, all sorts.

“We certainly had over 100 at Easter weekend. You don’t want to refuse them, but they don’t ask anyway. We phoned the council and they said just to tell them not to use them. It’s terrible. This is supposed to be a holiday island.”

Under a Community Asset Transfer scheme, ownership of the public toilets at Kilmory, Whiting Bay, Sandbraes and Glen Sannox is set to pass to local organisations.

But no community agreement has been struck Lochranza or Lamlash and their toilets have now closed.

So have those at Brodick Green, though the public can access the nearby facilities in Brodick Hall during opening hours. The toilets at North Sannox have been been decommissioned because of their age and condition.

It comes as cheaper ferry fares have significantly boosted the number of visitors to Arran. A recent report evaluation found the introduction of the road equivalent tariff in 2014 has had a bigger impact on the island than any other to which Clyde and Hebridean Ferry Services sail.

The scheme, which bases fares on the cost of travelling the equivalent distance by road, cut the price of tickets on the Ardrossan to Brodick and Claonaig to Lochranza routes by as much as 65 per cent.

But some retail businesses have also reported a decline in customers and turnover as a result of people travelling off-island for shopping. Now business owners say the problem has been exacerbated by the public toilet closures.

Pierhead Tavern in Lamlash owner Jane Howe told the local newspaper The Arran Banner she was at her “wits end” as staff had to clean the toilets continually due to the numbers using them.

The paper has been full of letters, many from visitors. One from Wiltshire said Arran could be “one of the most beautiful destinations in the British Isles. However, the lack of public toilets relegates Arran to the second division of destinations....”

Jim Bannatyne, added: “I live near Blackwaterfoot and I can see people going up the riverside to relieve themselves. It is a disgrace. The island has been progressing well with the tourist industry benefitting from the cheap ferry fares introduced by the Scottish Government’s road equivalent tariff. So this is a bit of an embarrassment. The local toilet is closed, even to disabled people.”

A North Ayrshire Council spokesman said: “We have had to find £73 million of savings since 2010 which means that difficult decisions have to be made.”