Scottish Canals appoints new CEO to drive organisation forward

Scottish Canals, the custodians of Scotland’s 250-year-old inland waterways, has appointed a new Chief Executive to lead the organisation in achieving its vision of delivering long-term financial sustainability and significant public value.

Scottish Canals’ Chair Andrew Thin announced today that Catherine Topley, who has been Interim CEO since June 2018 following Steve Dunlop’s departure to Scottish Enterprise, would take the helm at the public body responsible for managing, operating and safeguarding 140 miles of Scotland’s canals.

Catherine, who has spent most of her career working in the private sector, was among more than 60 people from across the UK and beyond who applied for the high-profile post. A four-strong panel comprising a representative from the Scottish Government, two Scottish Canals’ Board members and an independent industry figure interviewed four candidates and Catherine’s appointment was unanimous.

“I am delighted that Catherine will be joining Scottish Canals as CEO in a permanent capacity. She has significant experience of the public and private sectors and brings great leadership expertise at a crucial stage in the organisation’s journey.

“Not only will she build on the innovation and creativity which has made Scottish Canals so unique in using these publicly-owned assets to deliver more for the people of Scotland, she will ensure strong governance and control in an organisation whose activities are becoming ever more complex and diverse.”

Andrew Thin, Chair of Scottish Canals

Catherine is currently Director of Corporate Services at the Scottish Prison Service but has also worked for the Scottish Police Authority as well as in private sector roles across retail, manufacturing and financial services.

Catherine Topley said: “As the recently-launched Asset Management Strategy shows, Scotland’s canals face challenging times with a £70 million repairs backlog and 200-250 year old assets that are under constant pressure from degradation, climate change and increased usage – all at a time of public spending constraints.

“However, by creating exciting new tourist destinations at Fort Augustus, Ardrishaig and Bowling and leading regeneration work in places such as North Glasgow and Falkirk, Scotland’s canals are contributing to the economy in new and imaginative ways.”

She added: “Scottish Canals is a great organisation, with an ambitious vision and a committed and highly-skilled team. I intend to build on what it has achieved so far in using these publicly-owned heritage assets to deliver wide economic, environmental, health and social benefits in new and innovative ways for many years to come.”

Notes to Editors

For further information, please contact:

Josie Saunders at Scottish Canals on 07881816283 or email


Notes to the editor:

Scottish Canals is responsible to the Scottish Government for the management and development of the Union, Monkland, Forth & Clyde, Crinan and Caledonian Canals. As well as the waterways themselves, Scottish Canals care for bridges, buildings, locks, The Falkirk Wheel, The Kelpies and water supply reservoirs in locations across Scotland. The reservoirs cover an area equivalent to 7,494 football pitches and supply the canals with the 332 million litres of water which flow through them each day

The Forth & Clyde, Union and Monkland canals in the Lowlands, the Crinan Canal in Argyll and the Caledonian Canal in the Highlands together extend over 137 miles from coast to coast, across country and into the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.

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; contributing to education, biodiversity, heritage and promoting active living and healthier lifestyles. The Forth & Clyde, Union, Monkland, Caledonian and Crinan canals are recognised as Scheduled Monuments and attract 22 million visits per year

You can follow Scottish Canals @ScottishCanals on Twitter.

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