Scotland’s Canals Generate £1.53bn of Economic Value

Scottish Canals today (15 November) announced the results of an economic study showing £1.53 billion pound of investment in the canal corridors across Scotland since the re-opening of the Lowland inland waterways in 2002.

The recently commissioned study by Peter Brett Associates (now part of Stantec) found that the regeneration of Scotland’s canals has acted as a catalyst for an extraordinary £1.53 billion of investment on and around their banks, contributing to the creation of thousands of new houses and jobs.

The study, which was announced at a Marine Tourism symposium held at the Scottish Parliament, showed the revitalisation of Scotland’s canals has attracted a multi-million pound investment windfall in regeneration, tourism and infrastructure projects across the Highland and Lowland canals which has seen 9,078 housing units being built and the creation of 8,415 FTE jobs and 9,218 temporary construction jobs since 2010.

The latest report, which tracks the economic performance of Scotland’s canals between January 2016 and June 2019, reveals that the pace of change is accelerating with a 250% increase in investment both in the last three years compared to the previous period (2010-2015). The last three years alone have seen the creation over 2,100 FTE roles and 4,400 construction jobs – up 6.5% on the previous period.

Between January 2016 and June 2019, the Highland canal network, which includes the Caledonian and Crinan Canals, benefitted from an impressive £61.1 million investment – a 176% increase on the previous period (2010-2015). This saw the creation of a record 626 temporary construction job and the building of 468 new houses.

“Scotland’s canals have always been a catalyst for economic growth and now, more than ever before, our canals are helping to reduce social inequalities, redevelop and reconnect communities – alongside being successful leisure destinations in their own right.

“The continued innovation by Scottish Canals has been a big part of this success story, and although there are undoubtedly challenges in maintaining these historic assets, I welcome this latest report which confirms the importance they play in creating new jobs, to new homes and wider regeneration.

“To secure the future of the network, we increased Scottish Canals funding to record levels in the budget for 2019/20, in recognition of the challenges faced in maintaining our historic waterways – but also with the knowledge about what our canals have already delivered for Scotland and will continue to do so in the years ahead.”

Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity

During the same period, the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals on the Lowlands saw the creation of over 2,000 FTE jobs in addition to 3,784 construction jobs and over 3,000 new homes built, thanks to an estimated £568 million investment.

Catherine Topley, Chief Executive of Scottish Canals, said: “Scotland’s canals have played a vital role in the country’s economic prosperity for over two hundred years, driving wealth creation during the industrial revolution to being major tourist attractions and leisure destinations today which attract over 20 million visits a year from walkers, cyclists, paddlers and boaters.

“This economic report demonstrates what we have known for some time; that our canals are just as important in meeting the challenges of the twenty-first century, whether it is helping tackle climate change and health inequalities or delivering against the Government’s agenda for new homes, jobs and tourist spend.”

She added: “As custodians of these valuable heritage assets, at Scottish Canals we are committed to using our inland waterways in new and innovative ways that benefit everyone in Scotland.”

The results were unveiled at a workshop for the next phase of the Marine Tourism Strategy which will run from 2020-25. Business leaders, tourism experts and industry figures taking part in the event, heard from multiple partners, including Scottish Canals, on how increased vibrancy on and along the water creates jobs and attracts investment.

Notes to Editors

  • Scottish Canals is responsible to the Scottish Government for the management and development of the Forth & Clyde, Union, Monlands, Caledonian and Crinan Canals as well as the surrounding estate and The Falkirk Wheel. See or follow @ScottishCanals for more information
  • Built two hundred years ago to fire the Industrial Revolution, today the canals contribute to the Scottish Government agenda of developing a Greener; Healthier; Smarter; Safer and Stronger; and Wealthier and Fairer Scotland by acting as a catalyst for sustainable economic development, regeneration and tourism
  • Today Scottish Canals is utilising these 18th century assets along with innovative technology to tackle modern problems. Through working with partners to create pioneering systems, Scottish Canals is helping to combat flooding and driving positive transformation in some of Scotland’s most disadvantaged areas
  • The Forth & Clyde, Union, Monkland, Caledonian and Crinan canals are recognised as Scheduled Monuments and attract 22 million visits per year. See  for more information


For further information, please contact:

Lisa Clark at Scottish Canals on 07341777356 or email

Nicola Sturgeon at Scottish Canals on 07767 383 557 or email

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