World Canals Conference comes to Scotland

Over 300 experts from around the globe have arrived in Scotland as the prestigious World Canals Conference gets underway in Inverness, the gateway to the majestic Caledonian Canal.

Hosted by Scottish Canals and opened today (19th September) by Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, the four-day conference will see business leaders and professionals from more than a dozen nations celebrate innovative thinking and cutting-edge delivery in a range of disciplines including sustainable tourism development, regeneration, heritage management, climate change, and engineering within the iconic landscape of the Scottish Highlands.

Returning to Scotland for the first time in over a decade, the conference will also showcase the many attractions of Scotland’s rejuvenated 137-mile canal network to a global audience, from the incredible Kelpies – the largest equine sculptures on the planet – and The Falkirk Wheel, to innovative projects underway in surface water management, asset monitoring and placemaking.

Featuring more than 50 presentations and plenary sessions, the conference will offer attendees the chance to hear from world-renowned speakers such as Roland Lewis, President and CEO of the New York Waterfront Alliance; Pete Grannis, former Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; and Daniel Fabrega, Panama’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, said:

“Scotland is developing its ‘canal culture’ and in doing so contributing to our economy through new tourist attractions as well as promoting regeneration. This conference presents the perfect opportunity to showcase the exciting developments Scottish Canals has achieved in partnership with other organisations while also outlining their future vision.

“It is also a platform to stimulate cooperation and share know-how among specialists, not just from Scotland but further afield, at a time when the importance of inland waterways is increasingly recognised.  Conference delegates will also experience the warm Scottish hospitality and the many attractions of Inverness and the Great Glen, something we hope will make them want to return for future visits.”

The arrival of the World Canals Conference in Inverness marks the culmination of a year-long programme of events counting down to the conference and celebrating everything that makes Scotland’s historic inland waterways unique. #CanalMagic, organised by Scottish Canals and supported by the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, featured everything from Red Bull Neptune Steps – the world’s only uphill swimming race – and the creation of a Willy Wonka-inspired chocolate scale model of The Falkirk Wheel for Cake Fest Scotland, to community canal festivals held in the heart of both Edinburgh and Inverness.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to host the World Canals Conference in Inverness. Scotland’s canals are in the midst of a renaissance and there couldn’t be a better time to welcome the world to their banks and showcase the innovative projects, iconic attractions and incomparable experiences of the nation’s waterways."

Steve Dunlop, Scottish Canals' Chief Executive

Steve Dunlop, Chief Executive of Scottish Canals, said:

“Canals continue to play an increasingly vital role all over the globe, bringing positive transformational change to the communities on their banks and driving innovation in a huge number of areas. The World Canals Conference will celebrate those achievements, highlighting pioneering work in everything from water management and regeneration to climate change and engineering.

“As well as the incredible canal-related projects underway around the globe, the conference will also celebrate everything that makes Scotland such an incredible place to visit. From the myth and majesty of our scenery and iconic landmarks to our world-famous food, drink and hospitality, the World Canals Conference will showcase Scotland and its historic waterways at their very best.”

Once the transport arteries that stoked the fires of the industrial revolution before falling into decline in the mid-1960s, today Scotland’s canals are home to cyclists and social enterprises rather than coal scows and Clydesdale horses. Passing through some of Scotland’s most beautiful landscapes and the bustling cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness, the 250-year-old waterways are increasingly vital venues for business, leisure and tourism that attract more than 22 million visits a year.

Andy Dalrymple, Managing Director of Mackenzie Construction, headline sponsor of the World Canals Conference, said:

“Mackenzie Construction is delighted to support Scottish Canals in hosting this year’s World Canals Conference.

“Our partnership has delivered a huge number of innovative projects on and along Scotland’s canals. From the creation of a new water play park at The Falkirk Wheel, to the construction of Pinkston Watersports – Scotland’s first urban watersports centre – and the ongoing transformation of Bowling Basin, the gateway to the Forth & Clyde Canal, it’s a success story founded on true collaboration and something we look forwarded to celebrating at the World Canals Conference.”

Notes to Editors

About Scottish Canals

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 251 bridges, 212 buildings, 256 locks, The Falkirk Wheel, The Kelpies and 19 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, Scotland’s canals are now recognised as Scheduled Monuments and attract 22million visits per year.

For more information, visit or follow @ScottishCanals on Twitter

About the World Canals Conference

The biggest event in the international waterways calendar, Inverness joins an illustrious list of past World Canals Conference hosts including the Grand Canal in China, Montreal in Canada and New York in the USA. As well as innovative projects from around the globe, the 2016 World Canals Conference will also celebrate developments along Scotland’s 137-mile waterway network, from the creation of The Kelpies – the largest equine sculptures on the planet – to The Falkirk Wheel’s role as the world’s only rotating boat lift and an iconic tourism destination.

Over 300 business leaders from more than a dozen countries will attend the four-day conference from the 19th – 22nd September, hearing from keynote speakers including Dr Jonathan Chambers, Team Leader in Geophysical Tomography at the British Geographical Survey; Riccardo Marini, Director of Gehl Architects; and Daniel Fabrega, Panama’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom. More than 50 presentations and plenary sessions will also be held over the course of the conference.

As well as a range of high profile speakers, the event has also attracted sponsors and partners from around the globe. Red Bull; KLM; Air France; VisitScotland; the Scottish Government; the Year of Innovation, Architecture & Design; Sustrans; Linssen Yachts; AECOM; Visit Inverness Loch Ness; Peter Brett Associates; Highland Council; the Inverness Common Good Fund; Scottish Waterways Trust; Rabbie’s Trail Burners; Scottish Segway Centre; Loch Ness Centre; Pickering’s Gin; and the Inverness Business Improvement District have also offered their support for the conference.

More information on the conference can be found at

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