Falkirk Council to debate ‘threat’ to canals’ future

Canals campaigner Ronnie Rusack MBE - owner of the award-winning canal-side Bridge Inn at Ratho - says Scottish Canals is failing to meet its statutory obligations by allowing canals to deteriorate.
Canals campaigner Ronnie Rusack MBE - owner of the award-winning canal-side Bridge Inn at Ratho - says Scottish Canals is failing to meet its statutory obligations by allowing canals to deteriorate.

Falkirk Council will decide on Wednesday whether to put pressure on Scottish Canals to stop the claimed “progressive closure” of one of the area’s key assets.

Councillors will also decide whether the Millennium Link - one of Falkirk’s most iconic attractions - has lost its purpose through failure to “bring the canals back to life”.

Is this emblem of modern Falkirk at risk of losing its main purpose?

Is this emblem of modern Falkirk at risk of losing its main purpose?

The move follows an impassioned plea by Keep Canals Alive! spokesman Ronnie Rusack MBE, who says failure to maintain key stretches of the Forth and Clyde and Union Canals risks returning them to the weed-choked decay of previous decades.

He argues Scottish Canals is ploughing funds into canalside developments at the expense of maintenance, and that these projects will in any case be undermined by the steady deterioration of their setting.

However Scottish Canals argues it needs to invest in canalside schemes in order to guarantee its future financial stability, and says more people are using the canals than ever.

Now - answering Mr Rusack’s approach to Falkirk Council and other authorities - Bonnybridge and Larbert councillor Niall Coleman has framed a motion for debate on Wednesday.

Headed “Progressive Closure of the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals” it reads:

“The Council expresses its concern that Scottish Canals are closing bridges because repairs are needed which they say they cannot afford, and reducing operating times, and so gradually closing the Lowland Canals.

“The Council also expresses concern at the loss of the purpose of the Millennium Link restoration - which was to bring the canals back to life from City to City and Sea to Sea.

“The Council notes that Scottish Canal’s total grant and earned income has been rising, but the amount being spent on maintaining the canals has fallen, and is concerned that once boats stop moving through the canal, it will once again be full of weed and become a festering eyesore to the detriment of the many new housing and commercial developments that have been attracted to its banks.

“The Council supports the campaign by canal based voluntary groups to keep the canals alive and asks all those who funded the Millennium Link, including this Council and the Scottish Government, to urge the Board of Scottish Canals to meet their statutory obligations to keep the canals maintained and open for use”.