Our Aspirations

Our Aspirations


Our canals are an asset that we wish to use wisely in order to enhance the future quality of life for Scotland's inhabitants and to help create a more successful, sustainable country. We look to build on the encouraging start made in the past decade in revitalising our canals and in gaining wider public benefits from them. We wish to encourage their full and sustainable development in the future in a way that impacts positively across the widest possible range of people (whilst ensuring that safety issues remain to the fore).

This can be done by continuing to develop the role canals, both urban and rural, can play in delivering wider public benefits and by working in strong partnerships with others to secure those benefits.

The Scottish Government encourages Scottish Canals and its partners - in the public sector, private sector and third sector - to continue to build on their relationships and to identify and exploit productive new contributions from canals in the delivery of the Scottish Government's Purpose.

Scottish Ministers wish Scottish Canals to continue to lead in the development of the canals, taking full account of the role and legitimate interests of the Scottish Government, as set out in this document, given the use of public money through grant, and the public assets involved.

Scottish Canals will continue to receive government grant to meet its statutory duties and help progress new initiatives but are also encouraged to develop new and existing earned income streams.


The following principles provide a framework for achieving our aims for Scotland's canals:

1. Valuing the heritage of our canals

Preserving our canals in good and if possible improving condition, ensuring that the integrity and appearance of these historic structures are maintained - development should not damage or detract from their original design. As Scheduled Monuments they require particular care and attention, with use of appropriate materials and techniques.

We encourage Scottish Canals to continue to work closely with Historic Scotland to help deliver a canal system that contributes positively to the commercial and recreational life of Scotland, whilst acknowledging the important industrial legacy bequeathed to us.

2. Fulfilling statutory and regulatory obligations

Each of Scotland's canals is unique in its own way, serving different purposes and meeting different demands. Common to all, however, are the statutory and regulatory obligations. We expect these obligations to be met as a fundamental responsibility of the board of Scottish Canals.

In simple terms this means that proper resources are applied to ensure the safe navigation of the canals for leisure and freight as appropriate for their classification. Other regulations ensure that the natural environment including our water resources are protected and used wisely.

3. Risk management and safety

There is inherent risk associated with water-based infrastructure assets such as canals and reservoirs, as well as public and employee safety in and around the water environment.

Although we recognise that it is not possible to totally eliminate these risks, we expect Scottish Canals to apply the highest possible standards of care to the management of all canal operations to ensure risks to the public are properly managed. We also expect the public to use the canals in a responsible manner.

4. Increasing awareness of the potential contribution which canals can make

Boats add colour and interest to the canals. We wish to see further growth in the numbers of boats navigating our canals, and encourage both Scottish Canals, boaters and other parties to work together towards exploiting opportunities to achieve this.

The Scottish Government greatly values the cross-cutting opportunities that the canal corridors present to further our overarching purpose of delivering economic growth for Scotland. We expect the board of Scottish Canals to continue to build on the foundations laid to date for the canals' contribution to be maximised.

A challenge for Scottish Canals will be to maintain a balanced portfolio of projects across a range of important areas such as navigation, tourism, regeneration and housing, freight and renewables and also geographically across the canals.

Scottish Canals should utilise its resources wisely over time, balancing risk and reward, but always in line with the objectives of the Scottish Government.

5. Delivering a high quality experience

Our canals offer the potential for a wide and varied range of user experiences, whether on water or on land. We expect Scottish Canals to offer high quality services and to adopt an open and honest approach to engaging with all customers and stakeholders, and to actively seek feedback.

There has been a significant increase in use of our canals, both on land and on water, for recreational purposes in recent years. This is welcomed but can lead to tensions between different types of user. There is no hierarchy of activity in the canal corridors - with fair and open access to all exercising permitted types of use.

Managing competing and sometimes conflicting activities will require Scottish Canals to apply innovative solutions and excellent communications to manage user expectations.

We encourage all user groups to work constructively with Scottish Canals to increase levels of understanding that no one type of activity has priority and to minimise potential conflict by encouraging mutual respect.

Scottish Canals should sustain appropriate arrangements to ensure access to both the board and the management team of Scottish Canals, allowing proper customer and stakeholder engagement.

We encourage Scottish Canals to continue to develop its website and other means of customer interface, adopting policies for open and proactive publication of relevant information.

6. Working through partnership and collaboration

The restoration and renewal of Scotland's canals has been achieved through extensive partnership and collaborative working across the public, private and third sectors. Users and local communities have also played important roles. It is essential that this partnership approach continues at both a national and local level to ensure that the momentum is maintained for the next phase of the canals' evolution.

Research, development, innovation and knowledge partnerships will be of particular relevance in asset management, harnessing the potential of the canals in renewable technologies and the productive use of water as an asset.

7. Monitoring and measuring outcomes

Given the varied range of activities undertaken on our canals, we encourage effective monitoring and measuring of outcomes achieved, so that that benefit gained from initiatives can be assessed and demonstrated.