Planning an event with Scottish Canals is an exciting endeavour that promises a unique and unforgettable experience. From corporate gatherings to community celebrations, the enchanting waterways and historic surroundings provide a remarkable backdrop. With careful coordination, attention to detail, and collaboration with Scottish Canals' team, you can create a memorable event that showcases the beauty, heritage, and sustainability of these captivating locations.

In order to help you, this guide is useful when planning an event on Scottish Canals’ property. The headings used may also be helpful as a checklist. You will need to decide which parts are relevant to your particular event.


Step 1 - First things first


Identify the aims of the event, and the activity your participants are to enjoy. Consider any specialist provider or supervision that may be required, for example, for abseiling or paddle sports.


Chose a venue suitable for your activity, considering issues such as parking needs, outdoor space and indoor facilities. Consider site conditions and existing hazards, such as level / uneven surfaces and proximity to water. Top Tip! Also consider the location of wildlife habitats.


Consider the time of year and ensure your plan covers extreme weather conditions, especially at an outdoor event. The time of day and day of the week will also have an effect on your helpers and participants.


Consider who you are targeting - estimate the number of participants and any expected audience. Will they need any particular facilities?

Step 2: How to make it all happen?

Special permissions

These may be required, depending on the activities you plan to include, e.g. a live music performance would require a public entertainment licence from the local authority. Top Tip! Do any activities require specialist equipment or professional staff? If so, do they have the required certification?


Events require public liability insurance appropriate for the activity and participants. Any contractors and performers will have their own public liability cover, and you should obtain copies of this.


Set out the proposed timescale and give yourself as much time as possible to organise the event. You may need as much as 9 to 12 months planning. Top Tip! Consider advance registration for participants.

Welfare arrangements

These requirements are based on the number of attendees and the duration of the event. Consider the need for toilets, a lost children point, refreshments for helpers and participants and a first aid point. Top Tip! Organisations such as the Red Cross or St John’s Ambulance can give advice regarding first aid cover.

Disabled Access

Consider how accessible your event is for someone with a disability

Emergency procedure

Consider what should be done in an emergency. Who will initiate and implement the procedure? How will you contact the local police, fire brigade, or ambulance service?

Event plan

Create a formal record of all your plans. This should be continuously reviewed and updated throughout the planning process. You might find it helpful to appoint assistants to help with your event planning. Identify specific responsibilities for each assistant – these may include safety, stewarding and first aid.

Step 3: Event site planning

Site plan

Draw up a site plan identifying the position of all the intended attractions and facilities, remembering to check for any underground or overhead cables. Plan and designate the entrance and exit points, circulation routes, vehicle access and emergency evacuation paths. Consider canal structures such as locks or swing / lift bridges – be alert for hazards such as unprotected drops, moving equipment and uneven surfaces. 

Temporary structures

Some events will require temporary structures such as staging, tents, marquees or stalls. Decide where this equipment is to be obtained, who will erect it and what safety checks will be required. Consider whether barriers will be required to protect the public against specific hazards such as moving machinery, barbecues, vehicles or any other hazards. 


Consider the hard standing area access for trailers, and ensure there is space for a queue. Catering providers should provide relevant certification, such as food hygiene certificates, catering licence and gas certificate. Top Tip! Consider litter and recycling bins by catering providers. 

Stewards / marshals

The number of stewards will be determined by your risk assessment. Stewards at larger events should be briefed on all aspects of the event, especially crowd control and emergency procedures. Written instructions, site plans and checklists / contacts should be provided to allow communication between marshals, supervisors, the person responsible for health and safety, and the event manager. It is important that stewards can be easily identified by the public. Top Tip! High visibility arm bands or vests may be helpful. 

Crowd control

The type of event and the numbers attending will determine any measures required to maintain safety. Consider the number and positioning of barriers – particularly close to the water’s edge – and provision of a public address system. 

Provision for the disabled

Specific arrangements should be made to ensure disabled visitors have adequate facilities to safely enjoy the event. This could include parking and viewing areas


Requirements will depend on the type of event, and should also be considered for equipment on site overnight, cash handling, and parked vehicles. On-site traffic - Vehicles belonging to contractors and/or performers should be segregated from pedestrians. This would usually mean marshalled access before and after the public are on site. Ensure there is emergency vehicle access at all times. 

Off-site traffic

Adequate signs and directions should be provided in prominent positions on the approaches to the entrances. The police should be contacted about on-road marshalling. 

Car parking

Consider the size of your event, and if you need to provide a car park. This might be required for participants, event staff or contractors. Consider whether different users require parking in different locations for ease of access to the event. Marshals should be on hand to control car parking. Top Tip! Consider providing parking permits. 


Public transport to the event should be encouraged wherever practical.


Ask contractors for a copy of their safety policy and risk assessments, and satisfy yourself that they will perform the task safely. Always ask to see their public liability insurance certificate. (It is suggested that a limit of indemnity be of at least £5 million.) Provide contractors with a copy of the event plan and arrange site meetings to ensure they will work within your event requirements. The contractors’ risk assessment should be used as an attachment to the event risk assessment or plan. 


All performers should have their own insurance and carry out their own risk assessments (as with contractors). Where amateur performers are being used, discuss your detailed requirements with them and ensure they will comply with your health and safety rules and event plan. 

Working with children or vulnerable groups

All those working with such groups should have appropriate certification. (For example, a Disclosure Scotland or PVG Scheme membership.) 

Water, gas and electric

Where electricity, gas or water is used, detailed arrangements must be made to ensure the facilities are safe. All portable electrical appliances, including extension leads, should be tested for electrical safety and recorded. Any hired equipment should come with a certificate of electrical safety. Outdoor electrical equipment must have residual current circuit breakers and if possible the power supply stepped down to 110volts. All cables must be channelled to eliminate any electrical and tripping hazards. All portable supplies, i.e. gas, fuels and generators, should be kept to a minimum, in designated areas away from the general public. These items should be suitably fenced or barriered to prevent public contact. 

Contingency plans

Consider the implications of anything not going as planned, for example, extreme weather conditions. Could the event location be changed at short notice? How will the event be cancelled?

Emergency procedure

It is important to identify who makes the decision and how that is communicated to the event marshals and public. 

Clearing up

Arrangements will be required for waste disposal and rubbish clearance, both during and after the event. Scottish Canals encourage recycling wherever possible.

Download our Event planning and safety document