Annex A: Legislative Framework

Annex A: Legislative Framework

Since July 2012, Scottish Canals has been the trading name of the British Waterways Board, operating solely in respect of its Scottish assets and functions.

The Transport Act 1962 established the British Waterways Board as the GB-wide organisation with statutory responsibility for operating and maintaining the nationalised inland waterways for which it acted as navigation authority. The organisation was charged with stewardship, development and growth of our canals, ensuring that they were not only managed efficiently, safely and effectively but that commercial opportunities which generated an income were exploited for the benefit of wider navigational and safety functions.

The Transport Act 1968 recognised the changing role of canals and rivers at a time when their use for freight distribution was in decline and the waterways leisure industry was in its infancy. It classified the nationalised inland waterways in use at that time as either commercial (available for the commercial carriage of freight) or cruising (principally available for cruising, fishing and other recreational purposes). The Caledonian and Crinan Canals were classified as commercial waterways. The Union, Forth & Clyde and Monkland Canals were described as remainder canals - to be dealt with in the most economical manner possible consistent with the requirements of public health and the preservation of amenity and safety, but not maintained for navigation. In 2011, in light of their reopening, the Union and Forth & Clyde Canals were upgraded to cruising status, placing a statutory obligation on the canals organisation to maintain these in a suitable condition for use by cruising craft.

Responsibility for Scotland's canals transferred to Scottish Ministers in 2001. The British Waterways Board continued to operate on a GB-basis, but received policy direction and direct grant-in-aid from the Scottish Government in relation to its statutory functions in Scotland. In addition, it generated income from its commercial activities. Grant-in-aid to the canals has totalled over £150m since 2001-02, with successive governments being highly supportive of the canals. This direct investment acted as a stimulus for other public and private sector investment.

In July 2012 the UK Government transferred the British Waterways Board's assets and functions in England & Wales to a new waterways charity. The British Waterways Board still exists in relation to its Scottish assets and functions, now operating as a self-standing body within the Scottish public sector with a board wholly appointed by Scottish Ministers and an opening balance of £30m. This change means that corporate policies, resources and activities can now be determined wholly by Scottish considerations.

In addition to its underpinning legislation, Scottish Canals is required to comply with a wide range of statutory duties and legal requirements covering aspects such as heritage, reservoir safety, water quality and asset management. More information about the legislative framework is available at: