More than £1.6m has been assigned to repair works on the Forth and Clyde Canal from the Scottish Government – fixing bridges at Bonnybridge and Twechar.
Pressure group Keep Canals Alive! welcomed the announcement and urged Scottish Canals to top up the spending with additional cash for maintenance.
The governing body caused dismay among several groups when it hinted at downgrading the status of the waterways in the recent Asset Management Strategy publication, amid suggestion some could even close in the future.
Ronnie Rusack MBE, well-known canal enthusiast and campaigner, said: “Make no mistake, a canal closed to boats will degenerate quickly, as was clearly seen in the short time after the closure to navigation of the Lowland Canals in 1963: not only the 250-year-old structures of national historic importance – the waterways themselves will fill with weed, stinking silt and rubbish. These unique and irreplaceable assets, the millions of pounds and the hours of work from individuals, voluntary organisations, local authorities and the Scottish Government itself will go down the drain.”
The Inland Waterways Association added ‘a lack of dredging and poor maintenance – together with recent closures and restrictions – will have contributed to a reduction in use.’
Its statement added: “The IWA considers that the level of use should not be a significant factor in whether or not a waterway is kept open, as a vibrant waterway is kept alive by boats using it, and this in turn brings benefits in terms of improved health and wellbeing for the local population, as well as increased income through recreation, tourism and regeneration.”
The canals were upgraded from “Remainder” to “Cruising” waterways in 2011, to maintain them for cruising vessels.