Scottish Canals launches new Asset Management Strategy

Scottish Canals has launched a new strategy setting out how the organisation will manage, care for, and prioritise works on the infrastructure of the nation’s 250-year-old waterways between now and 2030 in the face of a £70 million repair backlog.

The strategy, launched today (Thursday 21st June), details how Scottish Canals will use its limited resources to manage the reservoirs, canals, lock gates and bridges in its care, prioritising works that ensure the safety of the public and bring the widest possible benefits for all the people of Scotland.

Scottish Canals receives Grant-In-Aid of around £11 million each year from the Scottish Government for the management of 140 miles of inland waterway and more than 4,100 individual assets ranging from the 200-year-old engineering structures of the Avon Aqueduct and Ness Weir to modern tourism icons like The Falkirk Wheel and The Kelpies.

The renaissance of these assets over the past 20 years has delivered more than £870 million of investment; created over 5,000 jobs; and resulted in the construction of more than 5,000 houses.[1] In that time, Scottish Canals has also created key income-generating tourism destinations in Falkirk, Fort Augustus, Bowling and Ardrishaig, bringing renewed vibrancy to the communities, contributing substantially to the local economy, and generating income that can be reinvested in Scotland’s canals.

However, each one of these varied assets requires considerable investment to maintain and, despite the organisation working to generate its own income[2] to reinvest in caring for the assets, ageing infrastructure, the growing impact of climate change, and increasing pressure on public finances means that Scotland’s canals now face a repair backlog in excess of £70 million.

The organisation estimates that Scotland’s canals require additional investment of between £6 million and £9 million each year – and have done for a number of years. The Asset Management Strategy sets out a rationale for prioritising which projects and infrastructure Scottish Canals invests its limited resources in to ensure the safety of the public and the long-term sustainability of the nation’s inland waterways.

“The launch of our Asset Management Strategy is an important moment for Scottish Canals. With ageing infrastructure, the growing impact of climate change, and increasing pressure on public finances, it's never been more vital to ensure we manage these 250-year old assets responsibly, competently and for the benefit of the many as well as the few.

“Our Asset Management Strategy sets out a clear rationale for where and when we invest our limited resources between now and 2030, prioritising our works in order to ensure the safety of the public and deliver projects that bring the widest possible benefits for all the people of Scotland.

“Without additional investment, we will continue to see asset decline and asset failures - some of which may be substantial. We simply do not have the resources to do all that we would like to do, and this means we will have to make some hard decisions.”

Catherine Topley, Interim Chief Executive Officer at Scottish Canals

To ensure the decision making process is as transparent as possible, a new ‘Managing our Assets’ section has been created on the Scottish Canals website. The section features a downloadable version of the Asset Management Strategy as well as information about the projects Scottish Canals is prioritising for 2018/19 and works that have been carried out to-date. The hub can be viewed at

“With present funding levels, Scottish Canals is having to take hard decisions. Earlier this year, we were forced, as a result of safety concerns, to temporarily suspend boat transits through a number of bridges on the Forth & Clyde Canal. The restrictions on the bridges eliminated any risk to the public and will remain in place until we can source the additional funding required to bring them back into use to ensure the continued vibrancy of the waterspace. We are actively pursuing all options.

“At the same time, our engineers worked to reinforce the Thomas Telford-designed Ness Weir on the Caledonian Canal, which raises the level of Loch Ness by over a metre and holds back around 100,000,000m3 of water from the city of Inverness. Due to the potential risk to the public should the weir fail, and the tourism and economic benefits Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal bring to Scotland, the £2 million Ness Weir works were prioritised. This is just an example of the challenges and competing demands that face this diverse portfolio of historic assets that continues to deliver for the people of Scotland.”

Richard Millar, Director of Infrastructure at Scottish Canals

More information on Scottish Canals’ Asset Management Strategy can be found at    

[1] Scottish Canals Monitoring Report.

[2] Scottish Canals now generates around 55% of its own income.


Notes to Editors

  • Scottish Canals is responsible to the Scottish Government for the management and development of five Scottish canals as well as the surrounding estate and The Falkirk Wheel. See or follow @ScottishCanals for more information
  • 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 140 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
  • 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 22million visits per year. See for more information.

For further information, please contact:

Chris McDonald at Scottish Canals, on 07917 217 608 or email

Nicola Sturgeon at Scottish Canals on 07767 383 557 or email

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