Government spending 50K on twitchers’ island toilet

THE government is spending £50,000 to build a toilet on a Scottish island where nobody lives.
The toilet is being constructed on tiny Handa to take care of the needs of 6,000 birdwatchers who visit every summer.
The operation to relieve the twitchers of Handa will involve five men working six days to construct the turf-roofed, steel loo – which will have some of the finest views in Britain.
Handa, three miles off the coast of Sutherland in the far north-west, is home in the summer to more than 100,000 seabirds such as puffins, guillemots and razor bills.
The island’s existing “facilities” – a tiny bothy with a septic tank – were totally inadequate to deal with the annual influx of visitors.
So the Scottish Wildlife Trust decided there was no option but to spend five million pennies with the bill picked up by the Scottish Government, Highland Council and some private sources.
Twitchers on Handa will finally have a proper toilet

Phil Knott, the ranger on Handa, said: “The septic tank could not cope with 6,000 visitors per year.

“Before, if you had to ‘go’ on Handa as a day visitor, you needed to find a quiet corner.
This improvement has been needed for a long time.”
Architect David Somerville designed the toilet and has been working on the project for an incredible five years.
“It was a very challenging project,” he said. “The winds are so strong on Handa that the building needed to be made with steel to hold it down.
“There’s also no electricity and no water so everything had to be thought through very carefully before we even got to the island.”
He added: “The structure is rooted seven feet into the sand, with an eco-friendly composting facility in which sawdust is sprinkled after each use, instead of flushing.”
Mr Somerville said this meant the toilet only had to be cleaned out once every two years.
Mr Knott said: “There will be no pollution from this toilet, only compost.
“We have tried to blend it in to the landscape with the turf roof. And from the door you can see lots of iconic mountains like Suilven, Foinaven and Ben Mor Coigach as well as seals and otters on the nearby beach.”
The island, with its red sandstone and steep cliffs, is among the best sanctuary for seabirds in Scotland.
Handa is owned by the Scourie Estate and is manned in the summer by four volunteers, backed up by 45 volunteers who work for a week at a time.
Between September and March, all humans return to the mainland and the island is left to the birds and other wildlife.
On the busiest days, as many as 150 visitors arrive by boat to study one of Europe’s biggest colonies of guillemots as well as red grouse, puffin, Arctic skua, Arctic tern, and eider duck.
Mr Knott said: “There are no distractions from civilisation, phone signal is poor and, of course, we do not have a TV.
“Many of our volunteers have been visiting Handa for nearly 20 years, coming back year after year to help out.
“To those who know it best and have got to know it intimately, it is one of the most special places in Scotland.”
Handa had a population of around 65 in the 19th century and the community even had its own parliament.
But Handa’s residents abandoned the island for the mainland in 1848 as a result of the potato famine.