Amid the decline in road maintenance and the gradual loss of many of the nation’s libraries, the closure of public toilets has been one of the most remarkable symptoms of the financial travails of Scotland’s councils.

In North Ayrshire only a fifth of those open five years ago remain so. Clackmannanshire, which had one and has closed it and South Lanarkshire which has closed its 19 are more extreme, in percentage terms. On average 20 per cent of public loos have been lost and a third of the remainder across the country are under review.

That such an obvious necessity should be deemed expendable is startling. Campaigners at the British Toilet Association say it is a scandal, and a violation of human rights. That may seem extreme, and perhaps it is. After all, there are toilets in many cafes and fast food outlets, not to mention shopping centres and public transport hubs.

But the latter tend to require payment, while restaurants and cafes understandably try to restrict access to paying customers and shopping mall toilets are useless when the shops are closed.

While it may seem trivial to the young and able bodied, the lack of a public toilet can be anything from a hindrance to an insurmountable barrier to a trip for parents with babies, and the old or disabled. The lack of them exacerbates the nuisance of public urination and makes life difficult for the tourists who make a significant contribution to our economy.

Schemes encouraging shops businesses to make their loos publicly available, and Network Rail’s plans to drop charges in stations are both helpful developments.

But the obvious benefits to the wider health of our communities and the cleanliness of our public spaces make it inexplicable that unlike schools, roads or waste disposal, public toilets have historically always been an optional extra for councils. It is clear local authorities face difficult choices. But like an increasing number of forced council cuts this seems like a false economy.