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Underfunding: Scottish Canals

Funding of Scottish Canals

150 miles of canal in Scotland are managed by Scottish Canals, the name for what remains of the British Waterways Board after their waterways in England and Wales were transferred to Canal & River Trust in 2012.

The Forth & Clyde and Union canals (the Lowland Canals) were restored as a Millennium project and reopened in 2002, with funding from the Millennium Commission, European Regional Development Fund, Scottish Enterprise and local authorities.  A shortfall of £18 million in the total estimated sum required to fully complete the restoration meant that shortcuts were taken and reclaimed materials were sometimes used in place of new.  This means that repairs are now becoming due across the canals.  The Monkland Canal, also in the Lowlands, is unnavigable and largely built over.  Further north, the Crinan Canal and the Caledonian Canal have remained navigable as coast to coast routes, but only just, as time and inadequate funding are catching up these magnificent waterways too.

IWA has made representations to Scottish politicians and the management of Scottish Canals covering numerous other issues relating to lack of investment and maintenance such as the poor condition of locks and bridges and lack of dredging.  In its current Asset Management Strategy for the Lowland Canals, Scottish Canals acknowledges that there is now an accumulation of over £112 million worth of outstanding work.  We will continue to campaign for additional funding to be made available.

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Find out more

Read the full background and round-up of IWA’s current work on these waterways on our IWA in Scotland page

Jonathan Mosse, IWA’s lead in Scotland, is also campaigning to get freight in Scotland off the roads and onto the waterways – and there are some clear opportunities which he demonstrates in these four articles that were originally published in Towpath Talk, and are republished here with kind permission of the editor:


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Volunteers working on the restoration of the Stover Canal

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