JUST three beaches in Scotland have been awarded international excellence status this year despite a national tourism drive to promote the country’s natural attractions.
Silver Sands, at Aberdour, Ruby Bay, at Elie, and Burntisland were the only Blue Flag winners on the 2013 list, which is revealed today. The trio, all in Fife, are among thousands around the world which met stricter criteria introduced this year on water quality standards.
But Scottish councils were criticised for failing to do more to highlight the nation’s worldclass beaches during the Year of Natural Scotland when it emerged that only four beaches had been entered into the awards by local authorities.
The Marine Conservation Society in Scotland, which publishes its own annual Good Beach Guide based purely on water quality, said more work was needed to promote and protect the country’s coastline.
Calum Duncan, programme manager for the Marine Conservation Society in Scotland, said: “We are disappointed that more local authorities don’t apply for the Blue Flag awards and we would encourage them to do so. Many more beaches could have received flags if there was the political will to put them forward.
“We have got one of the most, if not the most, fantastic coastlines in Europe and we have seen this fantastic weather this weekend, with thousands of people around Scotland going to the beach. Let’s give them the beaches they deserve.”
He added: “There are lots of fabulous beaches that are not sampled [for water quality] because they are so remote, so Shetland and Highland councils have started doing the sampling themselves. We would like other councils to do the same, like the Western Isles, which has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.”
Tourism agency VisitScotland, which is leading the Year of Natural Scotland campaign, supported calls for the coastline to be promoted. A spokeswoman said: “In the Year of Natural Scotland, we would hope that all opportunities are being taken to promote Scotland’s great beaches, which are a real asset.”
The Blue Flag awards are run by independent body the Foundation for Environmental Education, and administered in Scotland by the charity Keep Scotland Beautiful (KSB). They were announced alongside the latest KSB Seaside Awards, under which 59 Scottish beaches were recognised for “excellent litter management, safety procedures and water quality”, from Machrihanish in the south-west to St Ninian’s Isle in Shetland.
The charity said many of the award-winning beaches were among almost 100 where communities had carried out litter- picks under its new Clean Up Scotland campaign.
KSB chief executive Derek Robertson said: “Our awards flags are your guarantee of high environmental standards.”
Commenting on the lack of Blue Flag awards in Scotland, a spokesman said it was down to a combination of “tougher criteria and fewer applications”.
Last year seven Scottish beaches made the list: this year’s three, as well as Broughty Ferry, Coldingham, Leven East and Elie Harbour.