This strategy sets out how Scottish Canals will manage canal heritage and may be used as a guide for others with responsibility for, or an interest in, aspects of that heritage. Our charitable arm, the Scottish Waterways Trust is our main delivery partner and implementing this strategy will also help to achieve its strategic aims.

The heritage strategy has been informed by Scottish Government’s policy for Scottish Canals and our corporate Vision. The strategy is complemented by our internal policy for heritage which includes our structures, processes and relationships to deliver positive heritage management. The five-year plan, which forms Part 2 of the strategy, sits below these documents, as a functional or operational plan or programme.

Our ambitions for the future of the canal network are described in the Vision for Scottish Canals. This future includes maintaining and enhancing access and harnessing development and commercial opportunities. Whilst canal heritage may be maintained and enhanced by maintenance and development programmes and by the Scottish Waterways Trust and partner initiatives, the heritage strategy deliberately focuses on specific, significant cultural and natural heritage which might not otherwise be prioritised.


The heritage strategy will help to shape our future as we celebrate our 250-year legacy and seek to sustain it for the next generation, engage new audiences, widen participation and harness the socio-economic benefits positive heritage management can bring."

Steve Dunlop, CEO, Scottish Canals


This strategy includes all types of cultural and natural heritage associated with Scottish Canals. As well as engineering structures and buildings, our estate includes archaeological sites, historical documents and artefacts. Natural heritage encompasses those aspects of canals that are significant geologically, provide wildlife habitats or have scenic value. We also wish to safeguard and promote natural and cultural heritage that is not physical, including traditions, craft skills, language, literature, knowledge and associations with past events and people. The five-year plan has a greater emphasis on cultural rather than natural heritage however. This is partly in response to the Issues and Opportunities that have been identified, but an early objective of the plan is to review these for natural heritage. This strategy is a live document and so can be adapted at any stage.

Scottish Canals began working on a long-term heritage strategy in June 2011 and explored potential issues and opportunities through internal workshops involving colleagues representing all functions and the Scottish Waterways Trust in October 2011 and February 2012. Through this process scope, format and priority actions were also considered.

We then began the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) process and submitted a screening report to the consultation authorities (Historic Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency) in May 2012. More information about the SEA’s development and its findings is available in the Environmental Report. The Post-Adoption SEA Statement explains how the assessment influenced the strategy.

The Draft Heritage Strategy was published for nine weeks for public consultation between 19 November 2012 and 21 January 2013. It was accompanied by the Environmental Report. 38 written responses were received and two well-attended consultation events were held. The final strategy was published on 6 May 2013.

The SEA Determination, Draft Heritage Strategy, Environmental Report, Consultation Report and Post-Adoption Statement are available to download from Related Information.