Position Statement on Scottish Canals

Issue date: 3rd July 2018

The Inland Waterways Association, a national charity which campaigns about all 6500 miles of inland waterways in mainland Britain, has expressed dismay at the suggestion that sections of the Lowland Canals in Scotland could face closure.

Notwithstanding the additional allocation of £1.6m from the Scottish Government announced on 28th June, IWA fears that there is a very real danger of Scottish Canals implementing the closure of its Lowland Canals, and is extremely concerned at suggestions that these waterways could be downgraded in status.  Proposals that sections of these canals could face closure are outlined in an Asset Management Strategy published on 21st June by Scottish Canals.  

The Forth & Clyde and Union canals were restored as a Millennium project, with funding from the Millennium Commission, European Regional Development Fund, Scottish Enterprise and local authorities.  Some of the grant funding included conditions that the canals must be maintained to cruising standard for up to 25 years. The canals were reopened just 17 years ago.  

The canals were upgraded from “Remainder” to “Cruising” waterways in 2011, and this placed a statutory duty on Scottish Canals to maintain them for cruising vessels. This change was put in place in order to protect the investment made in restoring the canals and it would seem very short sighted to reverse that decision just 7 years on. Given the importance of the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies to Scotland’s tourism it seems ludicrous that Scottish Canals should even be considering closing the through route that helps to keep these tourist attractions alive with boats.  

Scottish Canals argues that the coast to coast route is not being used sufficiently to justify it being kept open, but in IWA's view a lack of dredging and poor maintenance – together with recent closures and restrictions – will have contributed to a reduction in use.  IWA considers that the level of use should not be a significant factor in whether or not a waterway is kept open, as a vibrant waterway is kept alive by boats using it, and this in turn brings benefits in terms of improved health and wellbeing for the local population, as well as increased income through recreation, tourism and regeneration.  

IWA believes that Scottish Canals should be doing everything it can to keep the Lowland Canals fully open, and urges that this should include using some of the revenue raised from their property and tourism investments, which is currently not being spent on the core function of maintaining the waterways, despite an expectation from the Scottish Government that it should do so.



Photographs available on request.  

Press Contact

For further information please contact Alison Smedley, Press Office, The Inland Waterways Association, by emailing alison.smedley@waterways.org.uk or phoning 07779 090915.

Notes for Editors

About The Inland Waterways Association

The Inland Waterways Association is the membership charity that works to protect and restore the country's 6,500 miles of canals and rivers.  IWA is a national organisation with a network of volunteers and branches who deploy their expertise and knowledge to work constructively with navigation authorities, government and other organisations.  The Association also provides practical and technical support to restoration projects through its expert Waterway Recovery Group.




Photographs available on request.