Canal Boat – July 2018

(Barré) #1

12 July 2018 Canal Boat

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he Scottish Lowland canals were
seen as one of the great success
stories of the waterway restoration
movement – and in terms of mileage
and cost, the greatest achievement of the
‘Millennium Boom’ series of waterway
openings. The Forth & Clyde Canal had been
abandoned in the 1960s when the
inconvenience of all the opening bridges was
felt to outweigh its usefulness for getting
small sea-going vessels from coast to coast
(and inland pleasure boating had yet to catch
on), while the Union Canal’s link to Edinburgh
had been severed even earlier by the
demolition of the connecting flight of locks
near Falkirk. Following many years of
campaigning and local revivals and

reopenings by groups such as the Linlithgow
Union Canal Society and the Forth & Clyde
Canal Society, both canals were completed –
including new road crossings, reinstatement
of filled-in sections, and diversions around
obstructions – at a cost of the best part of
£100m, thanks to the Millennium Fund,
European and Scottish funding. The crowning
achievement was the opening in 2002 of the
remarkable Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only
rotating boat lift and a new Scottish icon, at
the heart of a reborn canal system which
connected the country’s two greatest cities to
its East and West coasts – and looked to have
a bright future.
But just 16 years on, Scottish and UK
waterways organisations are portraying a

very different picture – of a canal system
starved of cash by Scottish Canals (the
Scottish Government body which took
responsibility when English and Welsh
waterways transferred to the Canal & River
Trust), with numerous closures caused by
failures of locks and bridges, uncontrolled
weed growth and rubbish deterring boats,
staff cuts severely limiting opening times (as
all locks are operated by SC), and fears that
the canals are slipping back towards the
dereliction of the previous 40 years.
Is this an accurate summary of the state of
the canals? There have certainly been some
problems with them recently. Earlier this year
the Inland Waterways Association
highlighted two indefinite closures of power




Waterways campaigners and boating groups fear that the Union and Forth &

Clyde canals could be slipping back into dereliction - but Scottish Canals

says it’s working towards a sustainable future. So who’s right?

Canal supporters fear that the closures are
damaging waterside and hireboat businesses
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