I recently described my job at Scottish Canals as “one of the most wonderful jobs in Scotland today”. Was this just hyperbole? If you are thinking of applying to join the board of Scottish Canals next spring, and especially if you are interested in becoming the chair, you will want to know if it was.
Scotland’s canals were demerged from those in England and Wales in 2012, and when I arrived in 2014 the instruction that I was given by Scottish Ministers was quite simply to “make the most of Scotland’s canals”. The instruction remains the same. There are not many jobs with that much potential and latitude.
These waterways and towpaths comprise some of the finest natural and cultural heritage in the country. They have huge recreational and tourism potential which we have only begun to tap. They provide the core ingredient for place driven regeneration that we are beginning to see in places like North Glasgow, Falkirk, Edinburgh and Inverness.
But making the most of them also offers up other less obvious opportunities. In Glasgow we are beginning to understand more fully their role in mitigating the impact of extreme weather events. We suspect that there may be renewable energy potential to be exploited given the huge amount of water that flows through the system.
And of course there will be all sorts of ways in which we can make more of Scotland’s canals that we have not yet thought about. If you decide to lead the organisation you will be lucky enough to inherit a highly creative and committed workforce. Travelling around the country and talking to them individually is one of things that I have enjoyed most about the role.
Equally rewarding have been the countless conversations that I have enjoyed with canal users. They come in all forms – boaters, paddlers, fishers, magnet fishers, cyclists, walkers, runners, swimmers and more – and they almost always welcome a chat. Many is the insight that I have had from people met while I have been out on my bicycle, kayak or paddle board.
I have been lucky enough to have had a varied and interesting career. This has been one of the highlights. Would others find it as rewarding? Undoubtedly many would. Whether you are one of them only you can judge…
Chair of Scottish Canals