With effect from 2nd July 2012, Scottish Canals has responsibilities under the Public Service Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 for reporting certain expenditure.

  • Payments in excess of £25k  - £ 23,777,042.14
  • Public Relations/Marketing  -  £ 361,184.43
  • Overseas Travel  -  £ 1,499.89
  • External Consultancy  -  £ 835,544.31


•           Advertising

•           Social media

•           Design work

•           Training

•           Subscriptions

•           Event management

•           In-house staff costs

•           Any other promotional activity

Does not include receipt of pension, voluntary severance compromise agreements or redundancy payments

No. of individuals: none

Scottish Canals is committed to delivering increased value through improvements in the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of its functions. As part of the Efficient Government Programme, Scottish Canals had a cumulative target of achieving £400,000 [£500,000 in 2021-22] efficiency savings by the end of the 2022/23 financial year. 


By the end of this financial year, Scottish Canals had achieved savings of £169,094 [£599,290 in 2021-22] through the implementation of projects which have reduced expenditure and increased efficiency across the organisation, delivered by cumulative efficiencies achieved across a range of projects. 


As a significant portion of the spend that these came from was third party funding, these are not all cash savings. A lot of them have resulted in us delivering more than was originally scoped by the project.

In 2023 Scottish Canals set out the five key pillars of our sustainability ambition. In this and future years, we will report our progress against each of these core areas as well as further defining and developing the goals within each pillar, together with the metrics with which we will define and track progress.


Climate Positive Canals

Our greenhouse gas emissions for the 2021/22 reporting year (as defined by the Climate Change (Duties of Public Bodies Reporting Requirements) (Scotland) Order 2015 (as amended)) was 994 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. This represents a decrease of 19 tonnes from 2020/21 and a fall of 605 tonnes from 2015/16. This fall in emissions is particularly significant, as this year we have expanded the scope of our reporting to include 91 tonnes arising from water supply and treatment, impacting our reportable scope 3 emissions. Scope 1 emissions have fallen 109 tonnes compared to the previous year, reflecting the impacts of emissions reduction projects such as the switchover to electric fleet and the installation of solar PV and heat pump technology at the Falkirk Wheel. The consequence of this is an increase in electricity usage and scope 2 emissions have fallen by only a small amount (15 tonnes), largely reflecting decarbonisation of the grid. 


We completed our first every Net Zero Routemap published after the year-end in November 2023, building on our commitment to reach zero direct greenhouse gas emissions from our operations by 2030. The Routemap represents the culmination of two years of work to create a more comprehensive baseline of our greenhouse gas emissions and energy usage patterns, better understand the opportunities existing to reduce emissions and improve energy efficiency, and outlines which of these opportunities we will enact and timelines for doing so. The Routemap also provides a transparent set of targets against which we will report in the years between now and 2030. 


The Net Zero Routemap is one of a suite of existing and forthcoming documents which will inform both the Scottish Canals’ Sustainability Strategy and the Annual Business Plan going forward.

Key achievements in greenhouse gas emissions reduction in 2022/23 include;

  • The addition of further fully electric vehicles to the Scottish Canals’ fleet. These additions support a commitment to replace all vehicles using fossil fuels with electric vehicles (EVs) or other low carbon alternatives within five years where technically feasible and safe to do so.


  • A commitment to invest £250,000 in upgrading the EV charge network available for Scottish Canals’ current and future EV fleet. Charge facilities are currently limited, particularly on the Caledonian Canal where journey times are also longest. This investment will form part of a broader strategy towards EV rollout that includes increasing charge facilities for both staff and customers, and we are examining various financial models to achieve this with the aim of generating additional revenue from our landholdings whilst offering affordable charging for those that need it.


  • We are trialling the use of hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) as a low carbon replacement for diesel fuel on our aquatic weed harvesting vessels. We will assess the success of this trial and gain a fuller understanding of the long-term sustainability credentials of HVO fuel, before deciding on further rollout. We are also now offering HVO to our boating customers at Auchinstarry on the Forth & Clyde Canal and Broxburn on the Union Canal.


  • We are actively exploring opportunities to work in partnership with both public and private sector organisations to realise the potential of the canal as an energy distribution network. Constraints on the national electricity grid are one of the principal barriers to many proposed renewable energy initiatives and the use of local distribution networks represent a means to ease this, with Scotland’s canals offering ready-made routes into Glasgow, Edinburgh, and numerous other key population centres.


Leaders in Water and Biodiversity Stewardship

We fully recognise that water is an ever more precious resource, and our responsibilities in managing 7,766 megalitres of water held in the canals and 18,304 litres held in reservoirs under our care. To meet this responsibility, we’re adopting a stakeholder-driven stewardship approach to water management. We’ll listen to the views of all relevant canal users and other stakeholders, identify the key opportunities and challenges presented by the water abstracted and held within the canal network, and form coherent but flexible plans to maximise opportunity and address challenge. This work has commenced in 2022/23 with the preparation of a pilot water stewardship plan for the Crinan Canal, making use of water stewardship best practice including benchmarks such as the Alliance for Water Stewardship Standard.

As part of our stewardship work, we’re also focussing in on the short- and long-term impacts of climate change, both on our network and physical assets as well as broader socio-economic impacts on Scottish Canals and our stakeholders. Climate change awareness is already being built into our asset management and annual maintenance works, but awareness of climate change issues will form a key component of our water stewardship plans, with this knowledge drawn together to form a Scottish Canals’ Climate Change Resilience Plan.

Our stewardship approach will encompass our goal to both protect and enhance the biodiversity of the canal network. The introduction of invasive non-native invasive species (INNS) remains a key concern in this respect, and we therefore took an active role in the annual Invasive Species Week 15th-21st May, promoting our three step Check-Clean-Dry approach for all canal users, and culminating in volunteer sessions on the Forth & Clyde Canal at Bowling to remove Himalayan Balsam, one of several INNS impacting our waterways, towpaths, and landholdings. Our innovation project to control New Zealand Pigmyweed on the Caledonian Canal, supported by the CAN-DO Innovation Challenge, and using non-chemical techniques which can potentially be applied to a variety of other water bodies where this INNS presents a threat to native biodiversity.

Whilst the Caledonian, Union and Forth & Clyde canals are the only waters in Scotland to be designated for Cyprinid (coarse) fish, the canals are not a habitat in which our native salmonids thrive. We’ve therefore continued our work to maximise the safe passage of salmon smolts down those rivers with which the canals interact. Key focus this year has been on the Union Canal feeder where, working alongside Forth Rivers Consulting and the Forth Rivers Trust, we established daily trapping and monitoring for the duration of the smolt run. In 2023/24 we’ll establish options for a permanent solution for the Union feeder as well as areas of the Caledonian Canal which interact with the River Ness system and the North Calder Water which feeds into the Monkland Canal.


Connecting People and Communities 

The Treehouse project, located between the Carse Industrial estate and Caledonian Canal in Inverness, is an exemplar for our ambition to connect our communities with our sustainability vision. The two-storey building is highly energy efficient by design whilst also incorporating heat pump technology, a green roof and electric vehicle charging. The project also included enhancements to the canal towpath, allowing ready access to the Treehouse by cyclists and pedestrians, also linking the site with the adjacent Merkinch Local Nature Reserve. Our dedicated Volunteer Co-Ordinator has been developing a full programme of activities which will benefit the communities of South Kessock, Merkinch, Scorguie and Dalneigh as well as those further afield.

In addition to our own drive to net zero, we continue to support Scotland’s wider-scale journey towards a decarbonised future, something nowhere more apparent than in our support for pumped storage hydro projects in the Highlands. We celebrated a landmark moment in December when the Caledonian Canal carried freight once again, provisioning exploratory works to inform the final design of Scottish and Southern Energy’s Coire Glas project on Loch Lochy. Coire Glas aims to be the first large-scale pumped storage development in the UK for more than forty years with a 1500MW capacity and fast response to provide essential balancing services to a future fully decarbonised national grid.

Loch Ness also presents significant potential to support future pumped storage hydro projects of a lesser, but still significant scale. Scottish Canals exercises some water control on the loch via our weir at Dochgarroch and we remain active in exploring this potential in a responsible manner that’s also mindful of the unique natural features of Loch Ness and the communities of the Great Glen.

Sustainability is built into the tender and contract activity of Scottish Canals. Materials and processes that reduce raw material use and encourage recycling are actively considered in a proportionate manner to the contract value and complexity. Where possible local food is sourced and sold in our destinations, timber used in lock gates is chosen for its long lifespan and sustainable characteristics. Community Benefits are embedded into all major construction contracts and encouraged within smaller contracts.

The use of video conferencing and the promotion of hybrid working continue to be actively encouraged for supplier meetings and contract management activity to promote the reduction of carbon emissions caused by site-to-site travel.

(in accordance with the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010)

  • Payments in excess of £25k – £19,653k
  • Public Relations/Marketing – £121k
  • Overseas Travel – £2k
  • External Consultancy – £67k


  • Advertising
  • Social media
  • Design work
  • Training
  • Subscriptions
  • Event management
  • In-house staff costs
  • Any other promotional activity
Members or employees who received remuneration of excess of £150k


Does not include receipt of pension, voluntary severance compromise agreements or redundancy payments

No. of individuals: none

Scottish Canals is committed to delivering increased value through improvements in the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of its functions. As part of the Efficient Government Programme, Scottish Canals had a cumulative target of achieving £396k of efficiency savings by the end of the 2018/19 financial year. By the end of this financial year, Scottish Canals had achieved savings of £441k through the implementation of projects which have reduced expenditure and increased efficiency across the organisation, delivered by cumulative efficiencies achieved across a range of projects, specifically contract savings through the use of collaborative contracts as well as bespoke contracts for planned and reactive property maintenance, diving services, and a number of engineering and construction works.

The canals of Scotland are part of a working, living waterway network, used for navigation, regeneration, tourism and general recreation. Scottish Canals is committed to integrating the needs of those who visit and use the network with the actions needed to protect and enhance the canal environment and while complying with legislation and regulation, Scottish Canals aims to consistently achieve good practice and continually improve its environmental performance.

Responding to emerging environmental challenges, reducing our impact and enhancing the environment in its widest sense is integral to what Scottish Canals does now and to our future success. Scottish Canals’ Environment Strategy sets out how we intend to deliver sustainable benefits across a range of environmental themes in the period 2015-25 for our customers, the canal network and the wider environment. The strategy seeks to deliver on the aspirations set out in the Scottish Government National Performance Framework.

Where judgments have to be made between competing resources and conflicting activities, Scottish Canals will take the long term and strategic view. In doing so, it is presumed that this will favour the conservation of the environment.

During 2018/19, there has been continued careful management of environmental impact, including reducing the use of non-renewable resources, minimising waste, conserving water resources, promoting biodiversity and the prevention of pollution.

In support of the ambition to be acknowledged as an expert in achieving the most sustainable integration of the competing needs and uses of the waterways, Scottish Canals’ policies, procedures and systems are under regular review to ensure that environmental practices and performance reflect any changes in business circumstances, relevant legal requirements and stakeholder expectation. Scottish Canals uses the principles of environmental management systems and measures environmental performance through the aims and targets included in the ten year Environment Strategy.

Further to this, Scottish Canals’ Corporate Plan 2017-2020 confirmed our ongoing commitment to the highly ambitious Scottish Government targets for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Further details of our progress were published in January 2019, in Scottish Canals’ third statutory Climate Change Duties Report. Highlights from the report were:

Scottish Canals is included in the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme as a body responsible for the delivery of the objective ‘to understand the effects of climate change and their impacts on buildings and infrastructure networks’.

In the reporting year, Construction of Glasgow’s Smart Canal (The North Glasgow Integrated Water Management System), an innovative flood alleviation system funded by the European Regional Development Fund’s Green Infrastructure Strategic Intervention for the Canal and North Gateway site in Glasgow started and is due for completion in 2019/20. The project combines the 250-year-old Forth and Clyde Canal and 21st century technology to provide surface water drainage to support significant regeneration in the north of the city. The pioneering digital surface water drainage system is unlocking 110 hectares for investment, regeneration and development, paving the way for more than 3,000 new affordable homes. Officially named the North Glasgow Integrated Water Management System, the project to create a so-called ‘sponge city’ will see North Glasgow passively absorb, clean and use rainfall intelligently. Advanced warning of heavy rainfall will automatically trigger a lowering of the canal water level to create capacity for surface water run-off. Before periods of heavy rain, canal water will be moved safely through a network of newly created urban spaces – from sustainable urban drainage ponds to granite channels – that absorb and manage water in a controlled way, creating space for surface water run-off.

The project is being delivered by Glasgow City Council, Scottish Canals and Scottish Water under the Metropolitan Glasgow Strategic Drainage Partnership. It uses sensor and predictive weather technology to provide early warning of wet weather to proactively reduce water levels in the canal by up to 100mm, thereby creating 55,000m3 of storage before receiving runoff and excess rainfall from residential and business across a number of key regeneration sites. Preliminary estimates indicate that the project will deliver CO2 savings of ~500 tonnes per year by reducing the amount of wastewater requiring to be pumped and treated, through separating it and using the canal network for conveyance.

Scottish Canals continues to work closely with its contractors to increase the rate of recycling of our general waste. Scottish Canals was also on the steering group developing the new Code of Practice for Litter and Refuse published in May 2019. This code focuses on the value of education and prevention measures to reduce the level of littering across Scotland, including on and around our waterways.

Scottish Canals is grateful for the support from volunteers and partners to improve the value of the canal network for wildlife and to manage litter in the reporting year. Partnering with volunteers, Scottish Canals initiated its innovative Paddle Pick Up Programme in 2018 to collect water-borne litter on the Lowland Canals.

Scottish Canals is leading the development of innovative management techniques to control the spread of a pernicious non-native invasive amphibious plant New Zealand Pigmyweed (NZP) (Crassula helmsii) in and around the Caledonian Canal, Inverness. This is being supported by the Can Do Innovation Challenge Fund (CDIF), which is administered by Scottish Enterprise. NZP has been found growing on land and in the water in the canal system. It is a significant problem that threatens the native biodiversity and has the potential to clog waterways and impede navigation. This alien plant is able to spread from the smallest fragment of stem and has the potential to invade many other water bodies in Scotland.


Scottish Canals has plans to recruit four expert teams of Scotland based innovators from the marine engineering and environmental sectors to develop new management techniques to control the spread of, and where possible eradicate, NZP on their estate in 2019/20. The Proof of Concept phase of the project will run to March 2020.

There were no significant environmental pollution events on land, air or water in 2017/18 and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) assessed Scottish Canals’ water use licence compliance for 2016 as good or excellent for all five canals and our waste water treatment sites.

Sustainability criteria were applied to all relevant contracts. We sell local food and crafts at our retail outlets. Community Benefits are now being incorporated into new contracts where applicable to provide additional ways of benefitting the local area in terms of Social, Economic and Environmental improvements. Procurement recruited a Modern Apprentice to assist in the running of the department and to further the aims of developing opportunities for young people.