Scottish Canals marks 1st anniversary of Muiravonside breach on the Union Canal

A year after The Union Canal breached at Muiravonside near Falkirk Scottish Canals has launched a new video celebrating the role that canals play in tackling climate change.

The breach at Muiravonside near Polmont was the result of a one in 240-year storm which saw a huge volume of water flow into the Union Canal from upstream before washing over the embankment and down the towpath to the fields and railway track below. The incident left the 200-year-old waterway unnavigable and the adjacent towpath closed to walkers and cyclists. Scottish Canals and our contractor were onsite within the hour, leading an emergency response to stop the flow of water and rescue over 11,000 displaced fish.

The event was recorded by Historic Environment Scotland for its historic significance, highlighting the danger and far reaching effects of climate change. Following comprehensive embankment strengthening works in winter 2021, the canal was re-watered in April 2021, with the waterway and towpath reopening to walkers, cyclists, and boaters ahead of the summer season.

The embankment reinstatement and strengthening works were made possible with funding from the Scottish Government, along with wider resilience measures in other key locations to reduce the risk of similar breaches elsewhere along the Lowland Canals and to combat the effects of climate change. Scottish Canals has marked the first anniversary of the incident with the release of a video which recognises how Scotland’s canals help tackle climate change.

“As we recognise the last year and the work that has gone into reinstating the Union Canal at the breach site near Muiravonside, we need to pause and think about the ongoing effects of climate change on our heritage structures as well as how they can be part of the solution.

“The breach that took place a year ago serves as a reminder of the vulnerability of our historic assets. Historic and future land use combined with an increasingly changing climate suggests that we face more intense periods of rainfall in the future and this presents a significant threat to the integrity of the canal infrastructure.

“Scottish Canals and partners have improved our understanding from what happened at Muiravonside and carried out a number of climate change resilience works that were informed by our Asset Management Strategy which will future proof the canal for generations to come.”

Scottish Canals' Chief Operating Officer, Richard Millar

Scotland’s canals are recognised for offering low-carbon, traffic-free sustainable travel routes but there are numerous ways which these inland waterways can contribute to the battle against climate change.

Embankment works on The Union Canal included upgrading overflowing weirs, culverts under the canal, emergency stop plank installations and monitoring equipment which will assist in remote sensing and notification of significant events.

At the beginning of August, Scottish Canals announced plans to achieve net zero by 2030 with a programme of climate works at the world’s only rotating boat lift – The Falkirk Wheel – that will see £250,000 of green investment deliver 85 new solar panels and a new air source heat pumps to assist the gradual phasing out of gas fired boilers at the popular tourist destination.

The launch of the #CanalsDoNetZero marketing campaign will celebrate the range of climate adaptation and mitigation innovations currently being planned in the year of COP26 and beyond.


Notes to Editors

For further information, please contact:

Eden Morrison at Scottish Canals on 07976555241 or email

Scott Lamond at Scottish Canals on 07976524446 or email

For all the latest updates on the Union Canal breach please follow @scottishcanals

Scottish Canals’ notes to the editor:

  • Scottish Canals is responsible to the Scottish Government for the management and development of the Forth & Clyde, Union, Monklands, Caledonian and Crinan Canals as well as the surrounding estate, The Kelpies and The Falkirk Wheel. See or follow @ScottishCanals for more information.
  • Mackenzie Construction Limited is a Civil Engineering and Structural Repairs Contractor. Please see for more information.
  • Scottish Canals has a diverse portfolio of 4100 assets that include 137 miles of canal, 19 reservoirs, 227 canal embankments and 253 bridges, with a rigorous inspection programme that takes place daily, weekly, monthly and yearly to ensure a clear understanding of the condition of the infrastructure in our care.
  • Scottish Canals’ Environmental Strategy which sets out how we work towards delivering sustainable benefits can be found here.
  • Scottish Canals prioritises works on the canals, as set out in the 2018 Asset Management Strategy, according to the risk each asset poses. This stretch of the Union Canal was not identified as a high-risk asset.
  • 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.

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