Four priorities steer the strategy: ‘transform our canals’, ‘create new opportunities’, ‘excel at what we do’ and ‘respond to global challenges’.
The organisation said that a crucial part of this is ensuring the 200-year-old waterways can continue to thrive in the future, through careful maintenance and improvements. The canals also need to adapt to challenges such as climate change.
The corporate plan aims to build on a recent economic impact study, which showed the canals have generated £1.53bn of investment on and around their banks since 2002. This will be achieved by creating an ‘Open for Business’ guide for potential partner organisations, strengthening existing relationships and creating new partnerships with public, private and third sector organisations, specialising in areas from environmental issues to global tourism.
In 2020, a partnership with Glasgow City Council and Scottish Water will see Scottish Canals commission Glasgow’s Smart Canal, which will integrate predictive weather and sensor technology with the historic Forth & Clyde Canal to manage surface water. This will allow for up to 3,000 new homes to be built in the area, whilst reducing the city’s carbon footprint.
Scottish Canals’ Environment Strategy 2015-25 is also a key element in the delivery of the three-year plan. This includes steps such as reducing Scottish Canals’ own carbon emissions through increasing the proportion of electric vehicles, tackling the invasion of non-native species on the canal and encouraging lo- carbon travel along towpaths.
The core purpose of the plan focuses on maximising navigation, accessibility and value of the canal network. In addition, the 2020-23 plan includes a commitment to preserve the integrity of Scottish Canals’ portfolio of 4,100 assets through continued delivery against the Asset Management strategy 2018-30.
“By doing all we can to maximise the public value of these incredible working heritage assets, use them imaginatively to benefit everyone in Scotland, play our part in addressing the climate emergency and ensuring that we continue to focus on good governance and financial sustainability,” said Andrew Thin, chair of Scottish Canals. “A vital part in achieving this is continuing to deliver our pioneering Asset Management Strategy 2018-30, taking an agile approach to how we use the canals and being able to demonstrate the broad public value that Scotland’s canals deliver for us all.”
Catherine Topley, chief executive of Scottish Canals said: “From investing in the canal infrastructure, our tourist attractions and rural destinations to showing how they help tackle health inequalities in some of our most disadvantaged communities, we can ensure that our canals continue to deliver great public value for the people of Scotland.
“Whilst our plan launches in uncertain times for all, at Scottish Canals we are confident we can achieve our ambition to ensure Scotland’s inland waterways continue to thrive, providing places to play, work, study and live for many years to come.”