A WARNING system to alert people to the danger of flooding could be expanded in the wake of recent severe weather, the environment minister has said.
Paul Wheelhouse said he was “happy” to ask bosses at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) what could be done to further extend its warning system.
He spoke out on the issue a week after about 150 people had to be evacuated from their properties after torrential rain hit parts of Scotland, with Dumfries and Galloway and Ayrshire particularly badly hit.
About 40 houses in Kirkconnel, Dumfries and Galloway, were evacuated, as were 25 in Dumfries after the River Nith burst its banks, flooding the Whitesands area of the town.
Elaine Murray, the Labour MSP for Dumfriesshire, raised the problem of flooding in the area with Mr Wheelhouse in Holyrood.
She told the environment minister that Dumfries was the largest town in Scotland which was regularly hit by flooding but which did not have a flood prevention scheme in place.
Ms Murray, whose constituency office was affected by last week’s flooding, pressed the minister to extend the flood warning system.
The Sepa Floodline warning service sends free advance flood warning messages direct to landline or mobile phones, notifying people when a flood warning message has been issued for their local area
“I had several hours to prepare my constituency office for the flooding on December 30, courtesy of the Sepa flood warning system,” the MSP said.
But she said others in different parts of her constituency, such as Kirkconnel, were not covered by the early warning scheme
“Given the increased events of flooding in Scotland, would the Scottish Government consider funding Sepa to extend its full flood warning scheme?” she asked.
Mr Wheelhouse told her: “I certainly acknowledge the importance of flood warning schemes, indeed the experience in Whitesands was that the authority was able to put in place the response in time. That demonstrates the value of such investment.
“We have had a steady programme of extending the range of parts of the country that are covered.”
He said he had asked leaders at Dumfries and Galloway Council what areas in the region would most benefit from having early warning that flooding could be on the way.
Mr Wheelhouse said: “It is in some cases very challenging to put in place a flood warning scheme, but we will look to see what we can do to help the local authority and others across Scotland
“Sepa have published their flood warning strategy to 2016 and I’m pleased to say that does set out a programme of work to enhance the network across Scotland.
“It does include a coastal flood warning scheme for the Solway Firth, that’s planned for 2015, and I’m hapy to ask Sepa what more could be done across Scotland.”
He added: “We are trying to do as much as we can to enhance the network of warning systems to give as detailed and as timely information to residents of Dumfries and Galloway and other regions as possible.”
Mr Wheelhouse, who visited the the Whitesands area of Dumfries last week to see the impact of the flooding, praised the authorities there, saying they had “reacted swiftly to minimise the impact of rising water level”.
He said: “I was extremely impressed by how well prepared all the authorities were, aided by the timely and accurate flood forecast from the Scottish flood forecasting service run by Sepa and the Met Office.”
He stressed that flood risk management was “a priority for the Scottish Government” with funding for Sepa maintained and protected, and £42 million a year being provided for flood prevention in partnership with the local government body Cosla.