Heritage strategy to promote and conserve canals across Scotland

Scottish Canals unveils 25-year plan to protect waterways which attract millions of visitors a year.

Union Canal at Ratho.
Eileen Henderson

Plans to preserve and improve Scotland's historic canal network have been revealed.

Scottish Canals has launched a heritage strategy for the nation's five canals, which stretch 137 miles from coast to coast and attract millions of visitors each year.

The public body, set up to promote and conserve the waterways, has outlined how the canals, as well as the buildings, bridges, aqueducts and wildlife habitats along their banks, will be looked after over the next 25 years.

Steve Dunlop, chief executive of Scottish Canals, said conserving archive material such as maps and technical drawings and using the knowledge and expertise of staff was also an important part of the project.

He said: "As custodians of Scotland's canals, our rich 250-year-old heritage is vitally important, not just to those who live next to or use the inland waterways, but to Scotland as a whole.

"However, it is not just the physical infrastructure of the canals that are important, but the wealth of material in our archives and the staggering knowledge of our staff — some of whom are fourth generation canal men and women.

"If we are to safeguard the canals for future generations, we need to preserve this rich heritage in an effective, visionary and engaging way. Our bold new strategy, which sets out our approach for the next 25 years, does exactly that."

Over the next five years, Scottish Canals will carry out a survey of all its historic properties along The Forth and Clyde, Union and Monkland canals in the Lowlands, the Crinan Canal in Argyll and the Caledonian Canal in the Highlands.

The survey will look at the condition of the waterways and consider ways to improve them.

New materials such as the lime-hemp insulation at the Laggan Bothy on the Caledonian Canal will be trialed as part of an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of traditional buildings along the waterways.

A volunteering programme that records the history of the Caledonian Canal for the National Monuments Record of Scotland will also be extended to other waterways.

Scottish Canals said it will work with local authorities, Historic Scotland and the Scottish Waterways Trust on 60 key targets in the 2013 Heritage Strategy, which was put together after a consultation held last year.

The Scottish Government launched its new policy document for Scotland's waterways in April.

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