Our vision

Scotland’s canals are here for everyone in Scotland to enjoy and our vision is to operate a vibrant canal network with boating at its heart. By providing a great customer experience, we can bring animation to the canal corridor which not only supports wider regeneration and tourism activity but generates income that can be reinvested in caring for the assets.

How Scotland’s canals have benefited our communities

Over the past 20 years the renaissance of Scotland’s canals, particularly in the Lowlands, has delivered significant economic value with more than £1.5 billion of investment; over 8,400 new jobs; and the construction of more than 9,000 houses.  Scottish Canals has also created tourism destinations in Falkirk, Fort Augustus, Bowling and Ardrishaig, bringing renewed vibrancy to local communities, contributing substantially to the local economy, and generating income that can be reinvested in Scotland’s canals.

Our inland waterways attract 2,800 transiting boats per year from as far afield as Argentina and Japan, with the Lowlands boasting over 250 long-term berth holders. Since they were re-opened by the Millennium Link in 2002, they have also attracted an average of 80 transits per year, largely from the UK.

Facing the facts and why we asked for your input

It costs circa £7.1m per year to operate and maintain Scotland’s canals with boating income generating £1.3m a year. In the Lowlands, this gap is even bigger, with expenditure at circa £2.1m and income levels at just over £100k per annum.

We want to encourage busy, vibrant canals that welcome as many boats as possible onto the water but it is no longer financially viable to continue providing on-demand access to services all day, seven-days per week. We have to change in order to become more sustainable and this means directing our resources to the areas of biggest need and to activities our customers want most. We would like your help in deciding how we do this.

Why are we making these changes?

Over the last two years we have been piloting new systems that maximise the resources across the Lowland Canals. This has enabled us to invest more staff time on the maintenance of the canal infrastructure that we all love so much.

In 2018/19 we ran a trial offering reduced operational hours on set days at key locations along the Lowland Canals. This allowed us to alter employee rotas so that staff could concentrate on boat movements during peak times and move to weed-cutting, vegetation management, maintenance and asset works during quieter times.

Following the trial, customers told us they didn’t like the restrictions that had been placed on boaters wanting to enter and exit the canal at sea locks as the new operational hours did not always coincide with the times of the tide. We listened to customers and in 2019/20 changed the operational hours to fit in with the tide.

What does this mean now?

Our proposals will mean some limitations to how and when you might access some services on the Lowland Canals at certain locations, and while some users may not welcome these changes, we believe we can improve the experience for the vast majority of our customers. And importantly, do so sustainably. However, our proposals also outline some ideas where we can reduce our operating costs and allow us to invest in direct improvements of the canal system.

By putting in place an operating model that provides diesel and pump out at set times, and sea lock access that coincides with the tides, we can focus staff on important maintenance tasks at other times, ensuring our canals are there to be enjoyed by boaters now and into the future.

Consultation results and next steps

From 18th October 2019 – 20th January 2020 we held a public consultation seeking the views of our boating customers on the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals. The consultation questions related to the following areas:

  • User and remote operations
  • Diesel and pump out
  • Aquatic weed control
  • Dredging
  • Channel clearance
  • Canal opening times and scheduling
  • Online booking
  • Customer communications

The consultation was co-ordinated by Target Applications, an independent research company, who developed the survey and gathered responses on Scottish Canals’ behalf. In addition to sharing communications with customers via email, on Scottish Canals’ website and via social media channels, we engaged with the Royal Yachting Association Scotland, British Marine and marinas around the country.

We also hosted a series of information evenings during the consultation period to ensure that as many people as possible had a chance to get involved. These meetings were held in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Falkirk and Bowling between December 2019 and January 2020, and offered customers the opportunity to find out more about the consultation and to ask questions of our leadership team and representatives from Target Applications.

The consultation was open for 12 weeks and closed for responses on Monday 20th January 2020. The results have since been evaluated by Target Applications and shared with Scottish Canals.

Read the results

Read our Lowland Canals Consultation Report
Target Applications: Full findings

Contact us

Navigation issues If you spot any navigation issues on and around the canal network, please email reportanavissue@scottishcanals.co.uk.

Moorings For queries or issues related to moorings, please email Moorings@scottishcanals.co.uk

Additional information

Consultation format

In line with Scottish Government guidelines, the consultation will be open for 12 weeks from the date of publication. The consultation will take the form of a series of questions that will be split into the key areas of activity and will be delivered by Scottish Canals in partnership with Target Applications Ltd, an online survey company.

Scottish Canals held public meetings in December 2019 and January 2020 in Edinburgh, Falkirk, Glasgow and Bowling to discuss the consultation with key canal users.


Consultation timing

The consultation results will be published in February 2020 with Scottish Canals’ response also published that month setting out how we plan to implement the decisions which the majority of respondents voted for. This will be shared will all long-term berthing customers, boating organisations, partners and stakeholders as well as the media.

Responses will be published, along with the final proposal in February 2020, with the outcomes of this consultation introduced from 1st April 2020.