Responsibility for Scotland’s canals is devolved to Scottish Ministers. Scottish Canals, previously known as British Waterways, are the public body who manage the canal network in Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Scottish Canals receive grant-in-aid to perform statutory duties and to progress new canal-related initiatives. They also generate income from commercial activities.


Scottish Canals’ primary responsibilities are:

  • to maintain Scotland’s 137 mile canal network, comprising the Caledonian, Crinan, Forth & Clyde, Union and Monkland canals
  • to act as navigation authority for the canals and four lochs in the Great Glen, which are linked to form the Caledonian Canal

The canals are Scheduled Ancient Monuments and there are 22 Sites of Special Scientific Interest on or within 500m of a canal.


The Scottish Government laid out their plans for the canal network in the 2013 publication Making the Most of Scotland's Canals, based on the following seven principles:

  • Valuing the heritage of our canals
  • Fulfilling statutory and regulatory obligations
  • Risk management and safety
  • Increasing awareness of the potential contribution which canals can make
  • Delivering a high quality experience
  • Working through partnership and collaboration
  • Monitoring and measuring outcomes

In 2002 we began revitalising our canals and we have been building on that work ever since. Scotland's canals are an asset to the country and, when managed well, bring many benefits to the public. We can use our canals to bring economic, sustainable success across a wide range of people.

Who we are

Scottish Ministers appoint the board of Scottish Canals. Currently, the board comprises:

  • Maureen Campbell (Chair)
  • Carolyn Sawers
  • Robin Strang
  • Michelle Wailes
  • Rob McGregor 

The Chief Executive of Scottish Canals is John Paterson.

You can contact the sponsorship branch using the details below:

Ports, Shipping, Freight and Canals Branch
Transport Scotland
Area 2F North
Victoria Quay