Over the last 20 years, Scottish Canals have been delivering a renaissance of the nation’s inland waterways. The once disused and derelict canals have been transformed into vibrant hubs of activity, tourism and inward investment benefiting the people of Scotland in more ways than one.

The reopening of Scotland’s canals in 2001 and subsequent Scottish Government funding has been the catalyst to unlocking £1.53bn of public and private investment across Scotland, transforming canal corridors and supporting some of Scotland’s most challenged communities.

Last year a ground-breaking, global first study carried out by Glasgow Caledonian University (led by speaker Professor Sebastien Chastin) concluded that regeneration of canals can improve community health. The study, which has since been recognised by the World Health Organisation, was carried out in one of Europe’s most deprived areas along the Forth & Clyde Canal and revealed a faster rate of decline (3% between 2002-2018) in mortality rates in urban areas close to canals that have undergone major transformation and regeneration, compared to areas further away.

Like many organisations, Scottish Canals has been challenged by climate change. In 2020, torrential rain and thunderstorms resulted in the Union Canal near Muiravonside suffering a breach which resulted in over 11,000 fish having to be rescued. Scottish Canals and partner organisations immediately got to work, not only repairing the heritage structure but also carrying out a series of climate change resilience works to strengthen the canal banks and protect the structure for years to come.

Within Glasgow, Scottish Canals along with Glasgow City Council and Scottish Water formed the Metropolitan Glasgow Strategic Drainage Partnership (MGSDP). The partnership has created Europe’s first smart canal, The North Glasgow Integrated Water Management System, commonly known as the Glasgow Smart Canal. The award-winning £17m project uses a predictive weather management system for advanced warning of heavy rainfall which will automatically trigger a lowering of the canal water level to create capacity for surface water run-off. The digital surface water drainage system unlocks 110 hectares across the north of the city for investment, regeneration and development, paving the way for more than 3,000 new homes.