A call of nature in Scotland is increasingly being answered by a “tap and go” of the plastic kind. Thirteen public toilets now have credit card payment facilities installed in the Highlands and the council says it plans to roll out more.

Highland Council has been installing the credit card machines at loos around the region, with 50p the price of admission. However campaigners say that within a few years virtually every public toilet in Britain will have credit card facilities.

HeraldScotland: Camley's cartoon: Card machines at public toilets.Camley's cartoon: Card machines at public toilets.

Raymond Martin, managing director of the British Toilets Association, which campaigns to keep public loos open and for better hygiene standards, said that the new type of machines were first trialled two years ago, but now councils were increasingly turning to them.

And within a few years nearly all the public loos in the UK will be cashless.

“It makes sense on so many levels. This is definitely the way it’s going,” he said.

“It is another sign of how we are moving to a cashless society.

“It is becoming more and more popular because councils are struggling to keep toilets open. This helps keep them open.

“It costs about £500 for each card machine and 50p seems to be the most popular fee – of which 3p or 4p goes in transaction costs.

“It means that councils can not only generate cash to provide the facility, but it also cuts the need to police them and collect money from the toilets. The more popular ones can even generate money for the local community.

“The trouble is that many people who break into coin-operated machines, especially in rural areas where you are less likely to be seen, often do so to buy drugs. Making them cashless eliminates that problem. These machines are pretty robust too.

“There is also the potential for the appropriate authorities to use the information on the use of the customer’s card to track missing persons or those with dementia.

“People use a credit card for many small payments these days – such as a cup of coffee, why not also to go the toilet? It also removes the problem of getting stuck without a coin when you are desperate to answer a call of nature.”

He said half of all the toilets in north east Lincolnshire are now card only.

“It’s the way its going,” he added.

“Some people may baulk at a 50p charge, but when public toilets took off 150 years ago, the fee was 1p, which is well over that in today’s money.”

However some users on social media were bemused by their introduction in the Highlands – though most broadly welcomed the change.

“I think its shocking, but if they’re looked after and kept clean I don’t grudge paying. Paying by card is handy as I’ve rarely got change,” said one.

“I don’t mind paying as long as it’s clean and never have change on me any more so definitely handy this way,” added another.

But users in Glencoe were particularly bemused by the technology.

Taking to Facebook, one wrote: “Toilets at Glencoe are 50p and you can pay with credit card. I have never seen anything like it.”

One woman wrote: “Think it’s a great idea and I’ve never minded stumping the 50p at Drumnadrochit – at least there are toilets, the council is closing them all over up in Assynt on The NC500 too.”

A council spokesperson said it had so far introduced card machines at 13 of its public loos across the region and planned to roll them out to more.

“Some of our facilities include contactless payment options, as well as credit/debit card and cash payment options,” he said.

“Not everyone chooses to carry cash these days and we think it is important that no one is caught short, in either sense.”

Last year, Age Scotland asked Highland Council to make toilet provision a budget priority, to prevent further closures and to secure funding for maintenance to existing facilities.

It also wanted the council to identify how the number could be increased after 29 toilets were earmarked for closure. Many were later saved following public petitions, including Achmelvich, Rhiconich, Scourie, Smoo Cave and Tarbet.