Call for urgent repairs
Tourism businesses suffer as canals remain shut
Lost opportunity: canal closure is impacting on businesses
Closure of the Glasgow-to-Edinburgh canal link is undermining tourism business along the route, according to new research.
Two bridges along the Union and Forth and Clyde Canals are currently closed, with no clear plans to reopen them.
Scottish Conservatives have revealed that holiday hire companies have been forced to cancel 35 boat trips and say communities along the waterway are losing out.
Campaign group Keep Canals Alive has also raised a series of concerns about the state of both canals, and a lack of investment in maintenance.
Scottish Canals said in February that the mechanisms of the bridges at Twechar and Bonnybridge have been a cause for concern for some time but inspections showed they had reached a point where their operation “could pose a risk to public safety”.
Its chief executive Steve Dunlop will next month take up a new role as chief executive of Scottish Enterprise.
Central Scotland MSP Alison Harris said the closure of the direct link between Scotland’s two biggest cities, which was made possible by the multi-million pound construction of the Falkirk Wheel, is a huge wasted opportunity.
Mrs Harris tabled a series of Parliamentary Questions on the issue, but has yet to receive any confirmation from the Scottish government that the canal corridor will reopen in full.
She said: “The Union Canal and the Forth and Clyde Canal could be a tourism treasure trove for Scotland.
“In theory, they are supposed to be an artery joining Scotland’s two biggest cities, and a unique boating experience.
“Instead, that route has been left to rot, meaning it’s impossible to get the boat from Glasgow to Edinburgh.
“One of the driving forces behind building the Falkirk Wheel was to enable that journey, but the Scottish Government hasn’t bothered maintaining that route.
“This is a woeful missed opportunity for tourism, and a real slap in the face to communities in central Scotland who would benefit from a vibrant and active canal.”
Ronnie Rusack, of the Keep Canals Alive campaign and chairman of the Lowlands Canals Volunteers Group, added: “We have deep concern about the progressive closure of the Forth and Clyde and Union Canals, upon which so much public money was spent reopening just a few years ago.
“Scottish Canals have not maintained the canals adequately and the lack of maintenance has driven away existing users.
“The policy of pursuing property development at the expense of keeping the canals open for navigation risks losing that community spirit and co-operation.
“It risks losing the social and environmental benefits that restoration of the canals brought about.
“And in the medium future it puts at risk the investment in canal-side property.”