Farming family who lost thousands after Union Canal breach told they won't get penny of £6.25 million rescue package

It’s been almost eight months since the Union Canal breached causing immense flooding damage to neighbouring farmland – and one family have just been told they will not be receiving any money for their losses.

Margaret Cook, a farmer who rents a section of land on Myrehead Farm which was ruined by Union Canal breach speaks out against the 'lack of support' from Scottish Canals.
Margaret Cook, a farmer who rents a section of land on Myrehead Farm which was ruined by Union Canal breach speaks out against the 'lack of support' from Scottish Canals.

The canal burst its banks near Muiravonside on August 12, 2020, causing thousands of litres of water to flow downhill and settle on low-lying ground rented by farmer Margaret Cook.

In January 2021, the Scotsman reported that the Cook’s, five months on, were yet to receive any compensation from Scottish Canals for the damage caused to their land and the losses they had incurred since the breach.

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Since then, promising progress had been made including land surveys proving the cause of much of the damage.

Myrehead Farm after the Union Canal ruptured in August, 2020.

The family were hopeful and say they were led to believe they were going to receive the help they so desperately needed.

However, on March 22 Mrs Cook received a ‘bombshells’ call when she was told that Scottish Canals would not be offering her family any money or support for the loss of income and damage caused to her land.

Mrs Cook said: "I couldn’t believe it, I’m so frustrated and angry and tired. They’ve made it quite clear that they are done with us now.

"We’ve really tried to work with them and this is what we get.”

Margaret Cook, a farmer who rents a section of land on Myrehead Farm which was ruined by Union Canal breach speaks out against the 'lack of support' from Scottish Canals.

Mrs Cook was told that based on advice from insurers and lawyers, the breach in the canal was not Scottish Canals fault, therefore it was not going to support the Cook’s business “in any way”.

Scottish Canals was given £6.25 million in funding from the Scottish government to repair the damage caused by the breach, but Mrs Cook felt as a small business they were ignored.

The funding was primarily used to repair the railway and the Sky Fibre Optic cable that were also damaged during the incident.

The Cook’s current claim for their losses to date and the cost of restoring their land is less than 0.1 per cent of the funding Scottish Canals received from the government.

The Scottish Government was contacted but refused to comment.

Mrs Cook said: “They got the government finding and sorted out all of the big corporate companies that have the capabilities to sustain losses like this, and the small businesses like ourselves have been abandoned.”

In response to the claims made by the Cook family, a spokesperson for Scottish Canals said: “We fully understand the concerns of the farmers in this extremely difficult and distressing situation and have been directly engaging with them on a regular basis to understand their issues in order to see how we can help.

“We have commissioned a detailed and comprehensive technical investigation into both the cause and consequences of the events of the August, 12, 2020.

"This report has clearly illustrated that the cause of the embankment failure was the rapid release of water from third party land upstream of the canal that washed over the canal eroding the embankment and causing the canal to fail.

"We are currently involved in complex legal discussions, which include exploring what provision the landowners have in their own insurance, and it would not be appropriate to comment until we have reached a resolution which can be shared with the individuals concerned.”

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