Annex B: Progress - The Restoration and Renaissance of our Canals

Annex B: Progress - The Restoration and Renaissance of our Canals

Our first canal policy document - Scotland's Canals: an asset for the future - published in 2002 identified policy decisions in the following areas as having the potential to have a significant impact on the sustainable development of our canals: regeneration, planning and development, public access, integrated transport, environment and tourism. Partnership working, especially with the public sector, was seen as key to achieving the desired outcomes. It identified a need to increase awareness of the canals and to promote voluntary sector and community involvement.

This original policy statement has stood the test of time well and served as a very useful starting point. Scottish Canals found it to be a valuable guide for its own work and for establishing partnerships in both the public and private sector. We have learned much since 2002. Good progress has been made on many of the aspirations, though inevitably with the rate of advance varying and with scope to do more.

A fuller report on progress with the various aspirations in the 2002 policy document will be published separately by Scottish Canals.

Since 2002, major Scottish Government investment through grant-in-aid enabled the canals organisation to progress repairs and improvements to the canal infrastructure, eliminating safety backlog arrears and providing a safe and secure infrastructure. This has, in recent years, given the organisation capacity to not only maintain the infrastructure in sound condition, but to start working towards delivering wider social and economic benefits.

Examples of infrastructure developments over the past decade include:

  • completion of the 10-year lock stabilisation programme on the Caledonian Canal, safeguarding its future
  • Edinburgh Quay - transformation of the Edinburgh terminus of the Union Canal into a thriving cosmopolitan environment with commercial office space, restaurants, apartments and public space
  • Port Dundas, Glasgow - creation of 300 metres of new canal, a mooring basin and two lock structures between Speirs Wharf and Pinkston Basin in Port Dundas
  • Falkirk Wheel visitor centre
  • Bowling Harbour - boat removal, creation of a public events area, new moorings and car parking, the construction of a new boat storage area and facility block
  • Auchinstarry, near Kilsyth - development of a moorings basin with the amenity of the Boathouse Inn
  • Southbank Marina in Kirkintilloch
  • investment in modern services and facilities for boaters
  • as part of the Helix project the construction of a 1 km canal extension to the Forth & Clyde Canal at Grangemouth - offering improved access with the potential for an increase in boat numbers on the canal

Scotland's canals, and the Forth & Clyde Canal in particular, run through some of the most deprived communities in the country. The 2002 policy document recognised the importance of partnership working, particularly between Scottish Canals and other public sector organisations, in stimulating the regeneration and economic development of neighbourhoods along the canals which are blighted by high levels of unemployment, increasing migration, major environmental challenges and a shortage of high quality, affordable housing.

Since 2002 Scottish Canals has worked with local authorities, public sector organisations, private sector partners and the third sector to raise awareness of the contribution the canals make to Scotland's economic and social prosperity as well as to stimulate economic regeneration in key locations. This partnership-led nodal strategy has delivered regeneration and place-making along the canal corridors, with strategies being developed or delivered along the Glasgow branch of the Forth & Clyde Canal, between Grangemouth and Falkirk and around Strathleven (between the Forth & Clyde Canal and the proposed Lomond Canal) and masterplanning underway for the gateway to the Crinan Canal at Ardrishaig.

Although canals were originally significant transport arteries, they now have a broad range of uses. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code, introduced by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, gave everyone a statutory right of access to most land and inland water and has been instrumental in encouraging a wider range of uses and more people to enjoy recreational and leisure pursuits along the canals. These include:

  • walking & cycling - towpaths form part of Scotland's cycling and walking networks, both regionally and nationally, and there has been a surge in usage of the canals for both activities. This contributes towards delivery of the Scottish Government's heath and sustainable transport targets
  • paddlesports - in recent years there has been a considerable growth in paddlesport activity in Scotland, which led to the development of the Great Glen Canoe Trail along the Caledonian Canal. This has added another aspect to Scotland's outdoor tourism offer. A new paddlesports centre at Port Dundas is also under development
  • tourism - the Falkirk Wheel and Caledonian Canal are recognised as 'must see' international tourist destinations. Exploring the canals by boat, boot and bike has become increasingly popular
  • third sector - there has been a growth in the use of the canals as an important educational and environmental resource as well as the location for community-based events. Scottish Canals, working with the Scottish Waterways Trust (a waterways charity), has also used canals to engage communities in relation to Scottish Government targets such as healthy living, active travel and education