There are challenges to be met in keeping Scotland’s sprawling canals network up to scratch - but they’re still a success story.
That is transport secretary Michael Mathieson’s verdict on the “continued innovation” carried out by Scottish Canals, not least on his own doorstep in the crucial stretch of the Forth and Clyde which includes the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel.
Mr Mathieson, who is MSP for Falkirk West, was commenting on an economic study showing there has been an investment of £1.53bn in Scotland’s canals since the reopening of the Lowland inland waterways in 2002.
The study showed the revitalisation of Scotland’s canals has attracted a multi-million pound investment windfall in regeneration, tourism and infrastructure projects across the Highland and Lowland canals which has seen 9,078 housing units being built and the creation of 8,415 FTE jobs and 9,218 temporary construction jobs since 2010.
The latest report, which tracks the economic performance of Scotland’s canals between January 2016 and June 2019, also reveals that the pace of change is accelerating.
The last three years alone have seen the creation over 2,100 FTE roles and 4,400 construction jobs – up 6.5 per cent on the previous period.
Meanwhile the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals saw the creation of over 2,000 FTE jobs in addition to 3,784 construction jobs and over 3,000 new homes built, thanks to an estimated £568 million investment.
Mr Mathieson said: “To secure the future of the network, we increased Scottish Canals funding to record levels in the budget for 2019/20, in recognition of the challenges faced in maintaining our historic waterways – but also with the knowledge about what our canals have already delivered for Scotland and will continue to do so in the years ahead.”
Scottish Canals chief executive Catherine Topley said: “This economic report demonstrates what we have known for some time, that our canals are just as important in meeting the challenges of the twenty-first century .
She added: “As custodians of these valuable heritage assets, at Scottish Canals we are committed to using our inland waterways in new and innovative ways that benefit everyone in Scotland.”
The results were unveiled at a workshop for the next phase of the Marine Tourism Strategy which will run from 2020-25. Business leaders, tourism experts and industry figures taking part in the event, heard from multiple partners, including Scottish Canals, on how increased vibrancy on and along the water creates jobs and attracts investment.