Scotland’s canals set for rejuvenation project

Spiers Wharf at the Port Dundas turning basin on the link between the Forth and Clyde canal system in Glasgow. Picture: TSPL
Spiers Wharf at the Port Dundas turning basin on the link between the Forth and Clyde canal system in Glasgow. Picture: TSPL
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A NEW ”canal beer” is part of plans to accelerate the development of Scotland’s canals under a new ten-year blueprint.

• Scottish canals to undergo major rejuvenation as ten-year blueprint for major waterways announced

• Greater recreation, tourism and sport use proposed for newly-devolved canals

• Holiday cottages and hydro-electric schemes also planned

Holiday cottages and hydro-electric schemes are also in the pipeline following transfer of the five canals to Scottish control following the break up of British Waterways last year.

Scottish Canals chief executive Steve Dunlop said the beer would be brewed in the former Rosebank distillery, beside the Forth & Clyde canal in Falkirk,

He said many breweries once adjoined canals, while the beer would be modelled on one created at the Gota canal in Sweden, in whose construction Scottish engineer Thomas Telford played a key role.

Mr Dunlop said switching control of canals to the Scottish Government would mean income from pubs and other waterway businesses it owned staying in Scotland for the first time.

He said Scottish Canals earned £1 million a year alone from the use of its towpaths to carry fibre optic cables.

Other plans include using canals to reduce flooding in Glasgow, and its Port Dundas basin being part of the 2018 Youth Olympics if they come to the city.

Hydro-electric schemes are about to be launched on the Caledonian and Crinan canals, while more canalside cottages will be restored and other accommodation created for boaters and other visitors.

A total of 25 million visits a year are already made to the network - up 300 per cent since 2005 - which also include the Union and Monkland canals.

Mr Dunlop said: “We want to accelerate things to a much greater scale than before.”

Scottish Canals chairman Dr Jon Hargreaves said: “We plan to develop them in ways our forebears would never have imagined.

“As custodians for the canals, we want to safeguard their heritage for generations to come and do so by helping to build stronger communities along the canal corridors, attract new customers and income and work with empowered and motivated people.”

Transport minister Keith Brown, who published the new strategy yesterday, said the canals would be transformed into “bustling centres of activity”, returning them to being “at the heart of Scotland’s economic prosperity”.

He said canal use by boats could be increased by improving access from the sea and promoting the waterways as short cuts across the country.

He said: “Scotland’s canals are a great national asset and their revival offers real opportunities, not only for recreation and regeneration, but for the wider economy as well.

“This significant milestone means that we now have a board appointed by Scottish ministers and that the policies and activities of Scottish Canals are determined solely by Scottish considerations.

“It allows us to look forward to an exciting period of continued revival of our canals which will not only see them become bustling centres of activity for recreation, tourism and sport - for example, through use of the towpaths for cycling and walking, but also an opportunity for wider regeneration.”

The British Waterways network south of the Border is now run by the Canal and River Trust, but Mr Brown said switching Scotland’s canals to a charity would not have been in its best interests.