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. The Millennium Commission and European grants included conditions that the canals must be maintained to cruising standard for up to 25 years. The canals were reopened just 17 years ago.
As recently as 2011 the Scottish Government re-classified the Lowland Canals as Cruising Waterways, thus placing a statutory duty on the Board to maintain them for cruising vessels, in order to protect the investment made in restoring them.
Scottish Canals argues that the coast to coast route is not being used sufficiently to justify it being kept open, but a lack of dredging and poor maintenance – together with recent closures and restrictions – will have contributed to a reduction in use. In our view 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 income through recreation, tourism and regeneration.
Scottish Canals should be doing everything it can to keep the Lowland Canals fully open, and 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.