Please find below a letter and consultation link regarding Scottish Canals.

Dear Customer

Scotland’s canals contribute to the country’s social, economic and environmental prosperity in new and exciting ways, benefitting everyone who lives, works, visits and does business here. Our inland waterways attract tourism and investment, help tackle health inequalities and act as a catalyst for regeneration. This can only be achieved by having vibrant, animated water spaces that support boats, boating communities and water-based activity.

That said, the way we operate the canals has to be affordable. Currently the income we get from boating in the form of licences, mooring fees, commercial operating agreements and other charges is £1.3 million per year while operating and maintaining canals costs us £7.1 million per year.

The funding we receive from the Scottish Government combined with the money we make ourselves through The Falkirk Wheel, Caledonian Canal Centre and other income-generating activities is not enough to continue running the canals as we have done in previous years, with operations available all day, seven days per week.

If Scotland’s canals are to remain operable and fit for purpose for years to come, we need to allocate resources to the areas of biggest need. With ever increasing pressures on our budget, this means deploying staff to take boats through the canal during busy times and redeploying them to other important tasks, such as maintenance works, weed-control and repairs, when customer demand is low.

In 2018/19 we ran a trial in the Lowlands offering reduced operational hours on set days at key locations. This allowed us to change our staff rotas so that we could concentrate on boat movements during peak times and focus on weed-cutting, vegetation management, maintenance and asset works during quieter times.

Following the trial, customers told us they didn’t like the restrictions that had been placed on them as they entered and exited the canal at sea locks because the new operational hours did not always coincide with the times of the tide. We listened to this feedback and in 2019/20 we changed the operational hours to fit in with the tide.

The Lowland Canal Operations Consultation we are launching today, and runs until week commencing 20th January 2020, invites our customers and other boaters to tell us what they think of these changes. The consultation is being managed by Target Applications Ltd, an independent research company, and it will focus on the following areas:

1)    Meeting customer demand and how we operate the canals: We recognise that boaters could benefit from the opportunity to travel more freely. This consultation explores the potential of extending user and remote operations at key locations, designing operating hours around customer demand and ensuring that boaters get training where necessary to get out and about more.

2)    How we allocate our resources and address issues that matter to boaters: Tell us how we can best utilise our staff and our resources to tackle some major issues at the forefront of boaters’ concerns, such as dredging and weed control.

3)    How can boaters feedback on obstacles or issues: We want to find out how you can help us identify and tackle obstacles in the canal.

4)    Improving communication, customer experience and transparency: We’ve worked hard to improve communication with customers over the years, including establishing The Scottish Waterways for All group. However, we can do more. We would also like to hear your views on being able to book and pay for transits, licences and other services online.

To access the consultation, please visit the Customer Hub on the homepage of the Scottish Canals’ website 

You are invited to find out more about the consultation and ask questions at one of our public meetings which will be taking place in December 2019 at the following locations:

FalkirkThe Falkirk Wheel Blueprint Room, Lime Road, FK1 4RS03/12/201918:30-20:30
EdinburghEdinburgh Printmakers, Castle Mills, EH3 9FP04/12/201918:30-20:30
GlasgowRockvilla, 125 Craighall Road, G4 9TL05/12/201918:30-20:30

Please email Paula Carson to register your attendance at one of these sessions. Paula’s email address is

We are aware that some people have already given their response to the consultation. The consultation was shared prematurely by some of our boating partners, who were allowed access in order to share feedback about the appropriateness and clarity of the questions and proposals. Target Applications will be contacting those who have already taken part (assuming they left their email addresses) to ask if they want to make any further comment given the changes now made following our meeting with the Scottish Waterways For All at the beginning of November.

The results of the consultation will be implemented from 1st April 2020.

Anyone looking for more information on the consultation please email

We look forward to hearing from you now and in the future.

Best wishes

Scottish Canals