AGM Reports

Lowland Canals Association

Notes of AGM Held in Southbank Marina, Kirkintilloch on 27th November 2023

The meeting was attended by the following: – Christine Cameron, Pierre Potel, Neil Kitchener, Bev Schofield, Sean McNamara, Ania Neisser, Elspeth Soutar, Christine McKay, Scott Castel, Chris Ludlow and Janice Mackay.
Apologies for absence were received from: – Gordon Daly, Colin Robertson, Eric Weightman, Jonathan Mosse and Robin Fryer
Convenor’s Report
Dear Member,  
Welcome to this year’s annual report from the Convenor. Another year and it’s hard to believe how quickly the time has passed. As usual, the committee has continued to meet formally once a month as well as sending out a regular newsletter. Communication between the committee and members is well managed. We continue to leaflet each year and do an annual phone around of all our members which is much appreciated. This has been a very useful tool for picking up on issues and concerns along different parts of the lowland canals and suggestions collected from the phone calls were submitted to Scottish Canals for information and action where appropriate.   My heartfelt thanks go to all the committee who give of their time and skills so generously. We have lost Don Williams, whose substantial input and advice were much appreciated. However, we have gained Elspeth who is proving invaluable on the Safety and Navigation committee. Firsthand experience of the difficulties can give an added dimension.
The treasurer’s report is attached showing a healthy balance. We have prudently managed our expenditure and acknowledge the financial assistance from Scottish Canals to help with the expenses for the Flotilla of Light. We greatly appreciate the long-term service of Bev Schofield as our treasurer for the past six years.
We submitted a complaint to Trading Standards for an opinion about the Rovers Ticket but have not yet received a reply. We still await the result of the complaint to the Ombudsman re Auchinstarry being a basin or marina. There has been no or little progress about other issues like the customer charter, maintenance facilities, planned preventative maintenance, security, continuous cruising and communication issues. We will continue to pursue these concerns. We are members of SWFA and now we also send a representative to the Parliamentary Crossparty Group on Recreational Boating and Marine Tourism. In addition, 3 of our members attended a meeting organised by the IWA and offered support in their quest to lobby for additional funds for the canals in England and Wales. The knowledge gained can be used to transfer the skills to the canals in Scotland.
We successfully got SC to agree to change the format of the User Group Meetings by reducing the length of their presentations. After the shortened presentations from SC, Sean McNamara of the LCA took over as chairman and the audience were split into small groups to discuss their concerns. Their three most important items were then presented to the meeting by the leader of each group. This allowed the most significant issues to be discussed and actions attributed to the appropriate person. Minutes were then agreed before they went on the SC website. Prior to the recent meeting, we undertook a survey of our members’ concerns which was a useful tool to highlight difficult issues. Weeding, dredging and poor communication were the three most problematic areas.
In spite of promising comments from SC last spring when they forecast that substantial dredging would be carried out on the Union Canal, they reneged and there has been no significant dredging carried out on either canal this year.   Lack of weedcutting has caused significant issues with navigation this year caused by shortage of staff and breakdowns affecting all four of the Berky cutters. Despite constant requests, SC failed to issue a programme for weedcutting. We submitted a Freedom of Information Request for details of the operation of the cutters and although they responded to most of the questions there are a number still unresolved. We are still taking them to task to try to ensure that the operation next year starts earlier in the spring and sufficient, adequately trained staff are employed to ensure that the weed can be managed better next year. The mantra of no staff, no cash will only lead to further deterioration of the canal itself. It appears as if an Elastoplast is being applied when the solution requires a complete overhaul followed by regular maintenance of the equipment. Falling transit figures reflect the growing decline in the use of the canals as a water highway caused by uncertainty about the state of the canal and ability to navigate safely between Grangemouth and Bowling.
Scottish Canals have recently released their new website. We are assessing its value as a tool to help and inform boaters about issues on the canal but the jury is still out. We have regularly complained about the quality of SC communications to boaters, particularly in relation to restrictions to navigation and failure to inform boaters about changes.
LCA committee members meet with Scottish Canals staff every two months to address navigation and safety issues raised by boaters. The tracker is updated for each meeting and new items are added and completed items removed. The findings are fed into the SWFA meetings, so the sharing of information brings concerns to a wider number of people. There is a degree of frustration that some issues have been on the tracker for some time and SC’s excuse is lack of resource, both financial and staff but we will persevere until things are resolved. Replacement of the wooden decking with GRP on the pontoons has progressed well this year which is a positive improvement. Closure of the canal due to damaged or leaking lock gates has been a serious issue this year and SC are developing a rolling programme for their replacement over the coming years.
However, the jewel in the crown of the LCA is the Ronnie Rusack Flotilla of Light which seems to go from strength to strength. This year, 15 boats took part in the procession along with a small fleet of model boats. The crowds are growing and we even got a mention on the TV news. We are extremely grateful for all the help we receive, in particular from Scottish Canals who made a donation so that we were able to make a small contribution to help defray the expenses for the individual boaters who participated in the event. A huge thank you must go to the blue haired mermaid that is often seen along the canal at this time of year, along with his wonderful team of helpers and volunteers.
One of the comprehensive reports that we undertook this year was the article on Ghost Ships which expressed serious concerns over the lack of care taken by Scottish Canals with boats they own such as the John Hume. These boats are deteriorating and rather than earning money, they cost money for maintenance. They also occupy moorings which could be used to earn money from boaters and to reduce the waiting lists for berths which are in demand. There has been limited movement so far and the article has been sent to the Ombudsman for review.
This was introduced two years ago with prizes to encourage navigation across the network after Covid and there was a good response in the first year. This year, we introduced four challenges and were extremely disappointed that there was not a single entry for any of the competitions. Lock closures and weeds were given as the main reasons given for lack of interest in the challenge this year.  
From the LCA point of view, the committee has worked hard to consult our members about issues relating specifically to them. We have collated the information and entered into a challenging dialogue with Scottish Canals teams. However, although it has been a relatively successful year there is still outstanding work that needs pursuing. We have a policy of easy access to the committee and members are welcome to attend our meetings. Lastly, but by no means least, my thanks to all the committee for their individual contributions throughout the year. I have been impressed with the range of skills and experience of the committee member. They have given their time and skills generously and without that we would not be in the excellent position we are in today. We are taking small steps, making big waves and will continue to do so. Our aim is to support Scottish Canals in our mutual desire to improve navigation across the network and prevent the degeneration of the lowland canals. Boats moving along the canal create a favourite photo opportunity for the public and we would like to send our thanks to SC bank staff who help to make the magic happen. My heartfelt thanks to you all. In conclusion, without the members we would have no money or momentum, please continue to support us and we will continue to voice your concerns, when and where we can. Wishing you Winterfest greetings. Kind regards Christine Cameron Convenor of LCA

Treasurers Report
  The report was approved by the members and the treasurer was thanked for her work. 
Election of Office Bearers 
All existing committee members agreed to continue in post and no nominations from other members to join the committee were received so the committee is as follows: –   Chairperson                                                        Christine Cameron Treasurer                                                             Bev Schofield Secretary                                                             Pierre Potel Navigation and Safety Committee                 Neil Kitchener and Seppi Soutar Commercial Reps                                               Sean McNamara SWfA Representative                                        Neil Kitchener Minute Secretary                                               Neil Kitchener Ordinary Member                                              Ania Neisser Associate Member (Glasgow Branch)            Colin Robertson Thanks were proposed to all for their inputs. It was noted that if there was any other interested party in the year this option would be considered. 
Any Other Competent Business 
User Group Meeting 
In the discussion that took place, it was agreed that the current format worked well, provided SC are properly represented, and it gave boaters the opportunity to raise issues of concern. The LCA sent round a survey before the meeting to ascertain the major concerns so that the discussion could focus on them. Gordon Daly’s suggestion of a change of time, possibly at a weekend, was put forward as a possible improvement. The chair should write to SC to consider options for the next meeting.CC 
Flotilla Funding 
During the discussion, it was stated that as the event is getting bigger perhaps, we need to explore corporate funding. A letter of thanks had already been sent to SC for their £700 donation this year. Volunteers on the towpath collected donations of £78. It was suggested that we could put QR Codes on the collecting tins next year so people could make electronic donations. The proposal to increase funding/sponsorship will be added to the agenda for the next committee meeting. In addition, it was suggested that the LCA write to Millennium Trust again for possible assistance and clarification of the Trusts current status.CC CC 
Flotilla Photograph Competition 
Over 80 photos have been received and it is proposed that the competition will be held in early January, date and judges to be confirmed. Photos to be sent to Pierre. When the video of the flotilla is finished, a link will be put on the website and newsletter.CC NK NK 
Trophy Donation 
Eric Weightman has donated a trophy which had been used for canal activities in the past. Various suggestions were made about a possible use, including an annual competition for a Poet Laureat. However, no firm decision was made and it was agreed to carry it over for further discussions to the next committee meeting. 
Weeding and Dredging 
The trial to use trained boaters to operate the Truxors was abandoned after an unfortunate incident during training. However, SC are allowing volunteers to use some of their workboats for things like tree cutting. The question was raised about why the litter picking machine has been sitting in the marina unused for over a year. Neil to raise it through the Safety and Navigation meeting in JanuaryNK 
Continuous Cruising 
Jonathan Mosse has issued a document summarising a view of the legal the status of continuous cruising which will be forwarded to interested parties. Item to added to agenda for the next committee meeting.CC 
Customer Charter 
Despite constant requests, SC have not yet issued a draft of the Customer Charter for review. Christine to chase SC for the document so it can be reviewed, updated if necessary and issued. At the user group meeting, there was considerable concern that the lack of opportunity for navigation caused by lack of weeding and damaged infrastructure. Some boaters, particularly those at the Kelpies and Bowling are seeking compensation such as a reduction in their navigation licence. Avenues for seeking legal advice to be considered. Subject to be added to the agenda for the next committee meeting.CC CC 
The chair thanked everyone for attending and agreed to write and thank the Forth and Clyde for their allowing us to use their facilities and providing tea, coffee and biscuits. The date of the next committee meeting will be on 22nd January on the Navies barge now moored in Spiers Wharf. A light snack will be supplied as usual. Members are reminded that they are welcome to attend.   The Chair wished everyone a very good New Year and Winterfest celebrations. 

Lowland Canals Association

Notes of AGM Held on Zoom on 24th October 2022

The meeting was attended by the following: – Christine Cameron, Pierre Potel, Don Williams, Gordon Daly, Neil Kitchener, Christine McKay, Eric Weightman and Charles Bird (RYA Scotland). 
Apologies for absence were received from: – Bev Schofield, Sean McNamara, Ania Neisser and Colin Robertson. 
Convenor’s Report 
Another year has passed and with the lifting of restrictions there have been blessings and backlogs to deal with. Fortunately, the LCA have continued their monthly meetings throughout the period as well as sending out a regular newsletter. As usual the LCA would not be able to operate without the input of the committee members who give their time freely and share their life and boating experiences. I am very grateful for their contributions which have enriched discussions and helped us reach important decisions. The contributions cover all aspects of work as well as the knowledge from their specialist fields. The website, annual phone round and hardship fund has allowed us to contact all members and solicit their concerns. The suggestions collected from the phone calls were submitted to Scottish Canals for information and action.
BUDGET The treasurer’s report is attached and shows that the funds are healthy and in the black. My thanks to the treasurer for the financial report and to the committee who have reined in my hopes for spending.
WORK UNDERTAKEN The directory of services is updated regularly and any new and relevant information has been added to the Boaters Information section of our website. This year, for the first time, we made an 8-minute-long film of last year’s Flotilla of Lights which has been highly commended by many viewers. This year the Flotilla is on 5th November and prizes for the competition for the best photograph will again be offered.
QUESTIONS RAISED BY BOATERS We have been raising questions with Scottish canals about issues that boaters have raised. The allocation of moorings has always been problematic for boaters and there does not seem to be easy access to policies or procedures. Two members met with Jo Spriggs, the new moorings director, and a useful networking exercise took place. In addition, the committee has sent Freedom of Information requests about staffing numbers, continuous cruising and access rights and responsibilities for paddle boarders and canoeists. The questions and answers are put on the website and will give greater details. There have been questions that had limited information for which we have asked for more clarification. Other questions asked were in relation to Scottish Canals’ staffing levels. Ground and sessional staff have been in short supply for the past three years and the cumulative shortfall in completed work has impacted on boaters’ lives and opportunities for navigation. Ongoing problems that have been making work harder has been poor communication from Scottish Canals with boaters and this has been an ongoing long-term problem.
SECURITY ISSUES This year there appears to have been an increase in vandalism and crimes against boaters. The LCA committee contacted our representatives, visited every site along the canal and compiled an extensive report covering every mooring which was submitted to Scottish Canals. Although a new CCTV system was installed at Auchinstarry and Bowling, the overall response from Scottish Canals has been disappointing as we frequently receive replies like, no staff, no money or it’s on a waiting list pending finance. We will however continue to raise the matter.
ENERGY BILL SUPPORT SCHEME Our thanks go to Jonathan Mosse for his advice on ensuring that residential boaters and those living off grid receive the £400 grant from the government towards the excessive cost of energy. The committee followed this up and the government have now agreed to make the payment but the details have not been clarified. Anyone with fuel saving tips or information about grants for solar panels please send then to us to pass along the water telegraph.
PRICING REVIEW This has now been implemented. However, we are in dispute about whether Auchinstarry is a marina or a basin. Our complaint has been sent to the Ombudsman and we await a response. There is a financial implication for the boaters. As part of the pricing review, Scottish Canals proposed to issue a Customer Charter identifying what boaters should expect regarding facilities and navigation as well as what recompense they should receive if they are not provided or are substandard. No news yet.
SAFETY AND NAVIGATION LCA committee members meet with Scottish Canals staff every two months to address navigation and safety issues raised by boaters and there is a good rapport between the members. The tracker is updated for each meeting and new items are added and completed items removed. The findings are fed into the SWFA meetings, so the sharing of information brings concerns to a wider number of people. This aspect of the LCA work has been very productive and I would like to extend my thanks to the team who work with us. Some notable successes have been the repair of the Elsan sluice at Auchinstarry, the ongoing replacement of timber decking on pontoons across the network and the removal of underwater hazards to navigation. Forward planning for the replacement of the gates to all the locks on the system which are now over 22 years old will be a significant issue for the future.
WEEDING AND DREDGING It is still the case that there is no program of weeding, spot weeding is the present preferred option. At present the 2 new weed-cutters have broken down and in addition, there are often no staff to operate the machines. Weed barges and weed rafts form and sink to the bottom of the canal causing gunge which requires dredging. Perhaps a preventative approach would work better. There has been a sonar survey of the canal to identify any high spots which should be used to establish the need for dredging but again there appear to be financial constraints and canal maintenance is suffering although the was a significant volume of silt removed at Ratho.
USER OPERATION OF LOCKS AND BRIDGES The LCA, in conjunction with Tommy Thompson, are arranging a training program this month for user operation of a limited number of locks. The Glasgow boaters have been trained to operate the bridges at Applecross St and Garscube but it is unlikely that this will be extended to other bridges in the foreseeable future.
CRUISING CHALLENGE Following the success of last year’s inaugural challenge to increase movement along the canals when four boats submitted details of their trips to the four extremities of the lowland network. Morag Brown was the first to complete the challenge and received her free navigation licence. The three other competitors received vouchers for a meal at a local restaurant. They all agreed that it was an enjoyable and worthwhile event. This year, 4 different challenges have been set with a closing date at the end of November.
SUMMARY In many ways the LCA perform a watchdog function along the lowland canals, there is however always a limit to what can be done. We feel we have worked hard to bring matters of concern to Scottish Canals’ attention. There is nevertheless no time for complacency. There are still areas of congoing concerns. These we will bring forward into next year plans namely 1 Maintenance facilities for the needs of boaters and Scottish Canals own boats ie John Hume which is an SC owned boat in urgent need of attention. 2 The slow deterioration of the canal and the potential for it to become a residual canal with little movement. 3 Is there enough funding available to allow the Forth and Clyde canal to continue to attract coast to coast transits?
LAST BUT BY NO MEANS LEAST The LCA committee would like to express a huge thank you for all the volunteers who cover many aspects of work from litter picking, opening locks, tree removal and other tasks too many to name. They are unsung heroes and heroines. Thank you. Can I conclude by also thanking Scottish Canals’ staff who keep the boats moving, they come out in all weathers and we offer a huge thank you for them as well as the volunteers who can be seen cycling between the locks as you make your way along the canal. Next year will see huge challenges (a favourite buzz word) due to the backlog of work across the canals. Lastly, a heartfelt thank you to our members because, without you, we would not be able to operate and offer Scottish Canals the support that we do.  

Treasurers Report

Safety and Navigation
Regular meetings are held with Scottish Canals every 2 months and the Action Tracker is updated after each meeting. The number of outstanding issues is not reducing and a large percentage of them are being held up by lack of resources, both financial and staff.
All existing committee members agreed to continue in post and no nominations from other members to join the committee were received so the committee is as follows:-  
Chairperson                          Christine Cameron
Treasurer                                                             Bev Schofield

Secretary                                                             Pierre Potel
Navigation and Safety Committee                 Don Williams and Neil Kitchener
Commercial Reps                                               Sean McNamara SWfA
Representative                                        Neil Kitchener
Minute Secretary                                               Neil Kitchener
Ordinary Member                                              Ania Neisser
Associate Member (Glasgow Branch)            Colin Robertson
Ordinary Member                                              Len Stevens  
Thanks were proposed to all for their inputs
A O C B 
Hire Boat Charges 
The hire boats pay Scottish Canals a navigation fee like all boaters to allow them to travel on the water. However, in addition to the hire charge, the hire fleet also charge customers a Roaming fee of £25 for use of the waterways. During the 25 week trading period this could amount to an income of £12,500 over and above the cost of hire, fuel etc. The questioner asked if that is a fair practice to charge twice for the same thing. The item will be added to the agenda for the next LCA meeting. 
Cruising Challenges 
In spite of the success of last years event, there have been no submissions yet for this year’s challenges although the closing date is the end of November. 
Transit Numbers 
Another enquiry was made about how many boats had transited the lowland canals this year. It would be interesting to look at the figures for the last 10 years to look at usage on the lowland canals. We were reminded that a Finnish boat had been stuck at the kelpies for 6 weeks due to problems with the locks and lack of water it and has still not reached Bowling. There is ongoing concern that the Lowland canals will deteriorate to remainder status. This item will be added to the agenda for the next LCA meeting. 
Maintenance of the Canals 
Weeds, lack of maintenance and dredging of the lowland canals has been a recurring problem for all boateers. Scottish Canals have stated that they have insufficient staff and financial resources. Furthermore, 2 of the Birky weed cutters have broken down with hydraulics and spare part issues. It was noted that Scottish Canals had recently undertaken a staff satisfaction survey which was completed by 66% of staff and showed a satisfaction level of 58%, a sad indictment of the organisation. It was also noted that Scottish Canals were predicting a £70 million backlog in terms of maintenance spending. A discussion took place about wages and staffing with the collective view being there are too many high level staff and not enough staff on the ground. This item will be added to the agenda for the LCA’s next meeting. 
In conclusion, it was agreed that the LCA would continue to respond to boaters’ issues. To that effect an in-person meeting will be arranged in January next year with a 2 fold agenda. Firstly, to review all the work undertaken by the LCA and to look at any ongoing unresolved matters or recurring problem areas. The second part of the meeting will be to brainstorm for ways forward. This will allow us to focus on some of the wider issues like sea to sea transits. However, it was agreed that in addition we would offer individual boaters our support with specific concerns that they raise. If you wish to make a contribution to the brainstorming exercise please put your point on the LCA website or discuss with any of the handsome, clever and distinguished committee members. Laurie Piper has been tasked with producing a customer charter and Jo Spragg has made a very positive start by engaging with many of the boaters. Thank you for your continuing membership for without you we could not offer the service we do. Let’s look forward to a brighter future with no lockdowns and an open, inviting canal for all to enjoy starry nights and sparkling days.   

Lowland Canals Association

Notes of AGM Held on Zoom on 20th December 2021

The meeting was attended by the following: – Christine Cameron Pierre Potel, Bev Schofield, Don Williams, Sean McNamara, Ania Neisser, Gordon Daly, Neil Kitchener, Richard Davies, Colin Robertson, Christine McKay, Davie Brown and Les Mitchell-Hynd.    
Apologies for absence were received from: – Robin Fryer   
Chairperson’s Report 
This has been a year with many challenges. Governmental edicts and recommendations have had an impact on all aspects of our lives. Zoom meetings, with their obvious limitations, have become an inevitable part of the way we do business. The LCA continues with its monthly meetings and gives high priority to the safety and navigation action tracker that is posted on our website along with relevant minutes.   The first point I would like to make is to thank from the bottom of my heart all the committee members for their individual contributions to the success of the LCA. This year we have expanded our remit using many of the specific skills or special interests that members and committee members have. One very positive way forward was the suggestion that we try to get a representative in all the marinas across the Lowland Canals network. This has been very positive in terms of information gathering and allowing us to take a holistic view of issues affecting boaters.   Our newsletter, twice-yearly phone around and the hardship fund have also allowed us to keep in touch with our members and gauge any concerns.  
WORK UNDERTAKEN The Directory of Services has been updated and there have been a number of new reports added to the Boaters Information Section of the website. One of the articles is about how to black your boat to keep it waterproofed. This was timed to fit in with a period when boaters could get their boats out of the water to work on them. As usual, all boaters identified the need for a boat yard with facilities to undertake all kinds of work on boats, particularly those below the waterline. Scottish Canals are looking at providing a facility in their proposed headquarters at Lock 16 in Falkirk but there is no proper plan or funding identified yet.   Paddleboarders have been making good use of the canals. The LCA have been liaising with them and have drawn up a highway code for all water users. This is also on our website.   This year, we arranged the Ronnie Rusack Flotilla of Light which was a great success and appreciated by hundreds of onlookers who filled the tow path in Edinburgh and enjoyed scrabbling for sweets thrown from the boats. The event is growing year by year and becoming a winter fest of light and colour with music. Judging of the photo competition will take place on 9th January.   We also organised the Millennium Link Challenge to encourage boaters to visit the four ends of the network by offering prizes to all participants who completed the event. This was a great success despite difficulties with locks and weed and we hope to run the challenge again next year.  
PRICING REVIEW Scottish Canals are currently undertaking a pricing review for all boaters. Members of LCA have visited all marinas to review and check what is included in the Facilities Matrix. This will allow us to bring up to date information to any discussion about the actual facilities which are provided at each mooring site. Further details can be found in the latest newsletter. Even at this early stage, there is evidence of deterioration of facilities and concerns that price hikes will force some boaters off the canal.   Neil Kitchener is the chair of the SWfA working party involved in the pricing review and has asked that SC allow them access to the contractors carrying out the review and permit them to comment on a draft report prior to it’s finalisation. Other significant issues which should be taken into account are the lack of security, deliveries of post and limited opportunities for navigation.  
SAFETY AND NAVIGATION ISSUES. We continue to meet with Scottish Canal staff through Zoom on a bi-monthly basis. There is a tracker system to record progress in resolving issues which appears on the website. We are looking at training for boaters to deal with the weeds. However, Scottish Canals require a helmsman’s certificate before this can take place but unfortunately, in spite of requests from LCA members this has not taken place yet. One success has been the Elsan sluice in Auchinstarry. One of our members identified the problem as a design fault. Scottish Canals put down a camera and have now confirmed that there was a design fault which caused it to block frequently. The matter has not yet been resolved but is being carefully monitored by the Safety and Navigation committee. The safety issues are regularly reviewed. The next meeting will be on 17th January 2022.  
SCOTTISH WATERWAYS FOR ALL MEETINGS Three of our members attend these bi-monthly meetings. They have a wider agenda as members include those involved in charity boats, social enterprises, Scottish Canals staff and those with other relevant skills. Initially Scottish Canals had intimated that they would work with the LCA on the pricing review as we had been heavily involved in the previous one. However, there was a change of mind on the part of Scottish Canals who preferred to deal with SWfA. An emergency meeting was convened on the 9th December 2021 to look at the pricing review, the outcome of which was that SWFA have set up a sub-group to deal specifically with the issue. The sub-committee is chaired by an LCA committee member and representatives from the Union, Crinan and the Caledonian Canals. We will feed back any relevant information as it become available.  
NETWORKING We have also joined the Inland Waterways Association as well as the Residential Boaters Association to widen our information field.  
BUDGET The treasurer’s report is included and shows a healthy level of funding.  
SUMMARY This has been a complex year with some positive steps and some difficult hurdles. We are a group who want to see boats moving on the canal and provide a healthy environment to live and play in. One overriding aim is to ensure the world’s first sea to sea canal can be handed over to the next generation, well maintained and in good working order. Special thanks also go to those staff of Scottish Canals who keep the boats moving and to the many volunteers whose contribution is also invaluable.   Let’s make the canals a vibrant and moving landscape with boats and birds adding colour to the environment and a place for all to share and preserve.  

Treasurers Report


Safety and Navigation
Regular meetings are held with Scottish Canals every 2 months and the Action Tracker is updated after each meeting. The number of outstanding issues is not reducing and a large percentage of them are being held up by COVID issues and lack of resources.   At the next meeting on 11th January we will try to prioritise the important issues. We are pushing SC for further information on staff numbers.  
Scottish Waterways for All (SWfA)
The structure of the organisation changed during the past year with the formation of a management committee of 12 people with working parties involving interested people set up for specific tasks. The new streamlined structure does seem to be producing some positive results.   With the passing of Ronnie Rusack, Pat Bowie has taken over as Chairperson with Neil Kitchener as the Vice Chair. There may well be further changes to the management team over the coming year.  
During the year, Chrissie Southgate resigned from the committee. Her place on the Navigation and Safety Committee is now covered by Neil Kitchener. Robin Fryer resigned from the committee after serving as Vice Chairman and Events Officer. All other existing committee members agreed to continue in post and no nominations from other members to join the committee were received so the committee is as follows:-   Chairperson                                                        Christine Cameron
Treasurer                                                             Bev Schofield
Secretary                                                             Pierre Potel
Navigation and Safety Committee                 Don Williams and Neil Kitchener
Commercial Reps                                               Sean McNamara
SWfA Representatives                                      Don Williams and Neil Kitchener
Minute Secretary                                               Neil Kitchener
Associate Member (Glasgow Branch)            Colin Robertson
Ordinary Members                                            Len Stevens  and Ania Neisser
A O C B 
Lowland Canals User Forum 
We submitted 12 questions to SC prior to the Forum which were not discussed at the time. It took over 10 weeks to get a written response from them. 
Proposed Change of Titles 
Gordon Daly proposed that the title of Chairperson should be changed to Convenor. This will be discussed at the next committee meeting on 24th January. 
Communications from SC have been problematic for some time. Colin Robertson is the chair and Don Williams is a member of the SWfA working party dealing with SC communications issues. 

Lowland Canals Association

Notes of AGM Held on Zoom on 9th November 2020

The meeting was attended by the following: – Christine Cameron Pierre Potel, Bev Schofield, Chrisy Southgate, Robin Fryer, Don Williams, Sean McNamara, Ania Neisser, Gordon Daly, Neil Kitchener, Richard Davies, Eric Weightman, Colin Robertson, Alastair Martin Christine McKay and Elspeth Soutar.  
Apologies for absence were received from: – Dan McCole  
Chairman’s Report
2020 has been a very disruptive year due to the impact of the corona virus on everyone’s lives. The Lowland Canal Association has had to move rapidly with the times. Instead of meeting every month at Loch 16, we now have our meetings online. The committee meets monthly for 11 months of the year but does not meet in December. However, there is always a lot of work going on in the background between meetings. As usual, we have an agenda which is updated every month. The minutes of the meetings and the safety and navigation action tracker are posted on our website shortly after the meetings. We welcome the responses received from the members and would welcome any offers of help, especially if you know a free lawyer. I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart the committee members for their individual contributions to making the LCA work as well as it does. I have made a personal financial saving on chocolate expenditure. I used to supply chocolates to the committee members to keep them sweet. It has been interesting to watch our small association gain in experience as we undertake work on behalf of our members

Last year the Directory of Services and Nautoroute navigation tool were valuable additions to our website, not just for experienced boaters, but also useful for new boaters on the lowland canals. The Directory of Services is constantly being updated and this year we have been researching adding waste disposal sites to it. We are also talking to some of the suppliers on the Services List with a view to offering our members a discount in exchange for free advertising. This has been an incredibly detailed and time-consuming piece of work and we are very grateful for the work undertaken.

We continue to meet with Scottish Canal staff on a bimonthly basis and report issues as soon as possible. We have a tracker system and there is a more detailed report attached. We have established a good rapport with SC staff and one example of positive co-working with Scottish Canals was training for members. We put out a survey asking if any members wished to take part in being trained for lock operation, pump-out and operating some of the bridges. We received replies from the survey and are at present working with Tommy Thomson from Scottish Canals to prepare a programme and confirm dates for the training. This should made living and working on the canal easier for boaters and free up Scottish Canals’ staff for other duties. The plan is to see how the pilot scheme works next year. Then we will review and assess the results. We are very grateful to the committee members for their input.

Two of our committee members attend and contribute to the SWFA meetings and we were praised by the Scottish Waterways for All (SWfA) for the work undertaken by the LCA safety and navigation team. They agreed that Don would report the issues raised at each meeting. The beauty of the LCA is that is totally independent of Scottish Canals and provides an arena for the boaters to deal with issues that affect them. SWfA is an organisation that has members of the Scottish Canals and is useful in terms of information sharing. All of the minutes from each SWfA meeting are published on the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) website.

Our proposal for boaters to help with weeding was presented to Scottish Canals last year but it was not taken up. The proposal stated that science has proved that turbidity keeps weeds down The LCA suggested that if Scottish Canals paid boaters to use their boats this would increase the turbidity of the water and deter weed growth. The boaters would then be part of the solution to improve the navigation by reducing the weeds This proposal was in addition to other work undertaken by Scottish Canals in relation to weeding and dredging. This year, due to the reduction in boat movements and the lack of weed cutting during the early part of the summer, the weeds have been choking parts of the canal. Weeds have a serious negative impact on boats, either by blocking cooling systems of some engines or choking propellers. Our proposal is still on the table but there has been no definitive agreement. To date, Richard Millar has agreed to discuss with Mat Smith to set up a meeting next year with L.CA. Unfortunately, no specific date has been set and we will continue to pursue the issue. SC have advised that they are purchasing another weed cutter for delivery in the spring.

Our Vice President is our representative on the steering committee of the Lowland Canals contribution to the year of coast and waters 2020. The objective was to spotlight, celebrate and promote opportunities to experience and enjoy Scotland’s unrivalled “Coasts and Waters”, encouraging responsible engagement and participation from the people of Scotland and our many visitors. Unfortunately, due to the corona virus, the event has been postponed until 2021.

We have a member who attends these meetings. The CPG on Recreational Boating and Marine Tourism, chaired by Stuart McMillan MSP, meets to discuss the merits and opportunities in taking forward the strategy for the nationally growing market of Marine Tourism in Scotland.

Storage or lack of storage has been another long running issue for several residential boaters which we tried to resolve. It was felt that it was unfair that some people were given good storage facilities while others had nothing. Following the negative response from Scottish Canals, the committee made a formal complaint to the ombudsman. Due to furlough, the matter has not yet been dealt with by the ombudsman.

The LCA continue to research information about boaters’ rights and procedures about evictions. Committee members have also attended meetings in relation to the construction of new bridges and the positive and negative impact they have on boaters’ lives. This has led to a linking on bigger issues with the Glasgow boaters in the central region.

Sadly, we have had to cancel the Edinburgh Flotilla of Light event in November this year but we are keeping it under review for next year. It is proposed that the LCA will participate in Glasgow’s Canal Festival next year if things go back to a more workable normality and we are considering organising a Flotilla to Glasgow to coincide with the Summer Solstice.

This year we updated our leaflet which we will use in a recruiting campaign next year. As we are a relatively new association, having been formed in 2018, we took the decision to become associate members of the Inland Waterways Association (IWA). It was formed in 1947 and has a wealth of expertise that we can and will call upon. They are also researching future changes such as solar power and green issues which are also of interest to some of our members. The boaters based in Glasgow have formed a group called the Glasgow Branch to deal with local issues. They have decided to affiliate with the LCA on issues covering the whole canal network. Colin Robertson is their representative and the LCA is already co-working with them on Stockingfield Bridge issues.

The website has been up and running for some time and there have been 2 new features. Boaters can use the site to buy and sell items including boats. Although movement on the canals has been slow, the buy and sell facility is being utilised not just for boating items. The second update has been a Forum section and we have made available an article for discussion or debate. The subjects are very varied and of interest, last month we added a child’s view of last year’s Flotilla of Light and there was an article about barrack boats in the first war.  

The treasurers report is included later and the budget is healthy. We made a small loss this year, largely because of expenditure on upgrading our website. We received a large donation from an individual and are very grateful for that.

Lastly and more importantly, this year the impact of the virus has moved the priorities to the welfare of boaters. The LCA committee contacted every member by telephone to see if they required assistance. This led to two developments, some residential boaters who were shielding wanted more warning notices in their specific areas. We contacted Scottish Canals who agreed to put up more signs and to give priority to people shielding in the use of the toilet facilities. In addition, we set up a hardship fund to help people who required financial help. This service has been utilised. Scottish Canals did not agree to our proposal to cancel mooring fees for 3 months at the start of the lockdown They did agree that there would be a 3 month deferment. They also agreed that no boater would be evicted from their mooring if payment could not be made due to the impact of the virus. Scottish Canals did agree to suspend charges for the navigation license for 3 months. We arranged for boaters to be given training so that they can operate the equipment for pump out themselves to minimise contact with the virus.

This has been a difficult year due to the impact that the virus has had on the functioning of the canals and the impact particularly on residential boaters who are shielding. One overriding aim is to ensure that the world’s first sea to sea ship canal can be handed to the next generation of boaters in good working order. Our thanks go to the Scottish Canal staff and volunteers who do the magic at the locks and keep the boats moving. Barges travelling along the canal are not window dressing but an essential part of our heritage. Let us keep the boats moving and add colour to the waterways.  
Event Officers Report
It all looked so promising back in early March.

Planning was well underway for the proposed Inaugural Annual ‘Scottish Boat Rally’ due to be held at TFW over the Spring Bank Holiday. We, and the other canal organisations were working with SC to ensure a more ‘boater-friendly’ event than last year’s Canal Carnival.  

We were in discussions with the organisers of both the Glasgow & Kirkintilloch Canal Festivals to ensure an LCA presence at these events with plans to increase our participation in future years.  

In addition, we were in discussions with the Glasgow Boaters for a separate, boater led, summer event on the Glasgow branch. There was also the increasingly popular ‘Festival of Lights’ to come at the tail of the year.  

More excitingly still, I had just received a very positive response from the organisers of the big ‘Clydebuilt’ event in September to my suggestion for a small inland flotilla to attend at the main site.  

Well, you know the rest. Now to the future.  

We are still hoping it may be possible to hold a postponed ‘Festival of Lights’ in the late winter. Watch this space.  

The contacts made with the organisers of other events remain in place; so we are ready to take the baton and run when things do restart.  

We are very glad to welcome the Glasgow Boaters as Associate members of LCA and plans are afoot for a, probably mid-summer, event in Glasgow next year if the situation allows. It is planned that this should include taking a small flotilla into Port Dundas.  

In the absence of a November ‘Festival of Lights’ we thought it might be fun if boaters could utilise their decorations to make a show this festive season at their moorings or on the cut nearby and then post photos to the LCA website. If there is a good response, we could offer prizes for the best entries.  

Let us all hope that things improve and we can look forward to celebrating life on the inland waterways properly next season.  

Treasurers Report


Safety and Navigation
LCA Nav and Safety Committee Meetings with Scottish Canals

First meeting 01/08/2017
Last meeting 07/09/2020

In the time the Nav and safety Committee have been working with SC we have:
Questions raised 91
Closed 76
Awaiting Confirmation of completion 2
Awaiting further information 11
Will always be in tracker 2

Regular meetings are held with Scottish Canals every 2 months  
Scottish Waterways for All (SWfA)

The committee agreed that useful, informative presentations on a variety of subjects including health benefits of living near the canal, invasive plant species, volunteer training, dredging, Muiravonside breach and routine operational matters had been given at the meetings. SC had confirmed that they had received significant contributions from Government and could now allocate monies from their capital budget for dredging. There are significant requirements for dredging on the Caledonian and the Crinan Canals but extra budget will be available for the Lowland canals.  

Royal Yacht Association Scotland (RYAS)
As well as formal membership of SWfA, the chairman noted the informal links with RYAS. Thanks were expressed for the benefits in terms of information received. The recent article on red diesel sparked discussion about the future of fuel supplies and LCA responded to the Consultation Paper issued by the Government. Both the RYA and the LCA undertake issues on behalf their members, primarily representing the interests of all classes of boaters on the canals. The RYA has a much wider remit as it covers all waters including coastal waters and not just the Lowland Canals. There was a short informal discussion about joining the RYA but this was deferred to the agenda for the January committee meeting.   
20 members used the survey monkey to vote but there were no nominations from ordinary members to join the committee. All existing committee members agreed to continue in post so the committee remains as follows  
Chairperson                                                        Christine Cameron
Vice Chairperson                                                Robin Fryer
Treasurer                                                             Bev Schofield
Secretary                                                             Pierre Potel
Navigation and Safety Committee                 Chrisy Southgate and Don Williams
Commercial Reps                                               Sean McNamara
SWfA Representatives                                      Don Williams and Neil Kitchener
Minute Secretary                                               Neil Kitchener
Ordinary Member                                              Ania Neisser
Associate Member (Glasgow Branch)            Colin Robertson  
A O C B 
Community Moorings Scotland 
It has been a long struggle but after nearly 4 years the legal documents between CMS and SC are almost ready for signing and the first site at narrowboat farm will become operational. CMS is run by a board of trustees and at present there are only 4 members. They would like to recruit more trustees. If interested, please contact the committee and we will forward the details.   
Lock 16 Planning Application 
A planning application has been submitted to demolish and rebuild the Four in One takeaway building behind The Union Inn at Lock 16. The new building will be of a similar size and be used as an ice cream parlour with two other business units. The main issue appears to be the provision of parking spaces for the boaters during the construction of the new premises. There is no indication of any other developments proposed on the site.   
LCA Boaters Survey 
WE received a good response to our survey on use of the canal. The results are being consolidated and will be available in due course.   
Twechar Canal Centre 
A planning application for a canal centre has been submitted to the local council. LCA are reviewing the application and will discuss it at the committee meeting in January.   
Communications from SC have been problematic for some time. There will be an extraordinary Skype committee meeting on 7th December to discuss this matter. The next full committee meeting will be 11th January.   


(Minutes can be found below the report)

Firstly, it has been a very productive year for the association, and I would like to thank the committee members for their individual contributions and say that without the help and enthusiasm of the committee the LCA would have been a less effective group.

I was appointed chair on the 15th January 2019. The post has been a real roller coaster and continues to be a learning curve. The first major change introduced was regular monthly committee meetings which took place on 4th March, 8th April, 13th May, 10th June, 15th July, 12th August,16th September and the 21st October. The minutes are available on our website.

Historically, the Boaters Group was originally formed as a reaction to the price increases imposed on boaters by Scottish Canals in 2015 but Scottish Canals were reluctant to discuss issues with them as they were described as a unconstituted group. The LCA was formed as a formally constituted body and was recognised by Scottish Canals. There were many concerns about the pricing review which were raised with Scottish Canals and the Public Service Ombudsman. He advised that he was unable to adjudicate on the matter because the complaints were out-with his remit. The LCA submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament asking for an independent water ombudsman to look at a range of concerns. England has a water ombudsman with a wide-ranging remit and powers. To date the LCA has delivered the petition to all Scottish MSPs, attended three hearings at Holyrood and is awaiting the final verdict from the committee. Even if our petition is unsuccessful, we have succeeded in raising the awareness of the many problems with Scottish Canals at the highest level of government. Further details can be found on the parliamentary website or LCA website,

A regular item on the agenda is safety and navigational issues, an action tracker is used as matters are raised and resolved at bi-monthly meetings with Scottish Canal staff.

Each month there is an update on financial and membership status.

Looking back over the year, in March the LCA produced a very detailed and comprehensive directory of services for boaters. Don completed this work the following month and it has proved to be very useful. The directory is on the website and monitored on a regular basis, other services are added as they become available.

The LCA agreed to facilitate boat movements for the flotilla in May from Falkirk to Kirkintilloch.

We also submitted a letter of complaint to Scottish Canals about the closure of the Glasgow branch to construct Garscube Bridge at Firhill Basin. Scottish Canals agreed to delay the work until the autumn to minimise the impact on navigation.

In April, after extensive research, the LCA presented a weeding proposal to Scottish Canals. The suggestion was that turbidity keeps the weeds down therefore if Scottish Canals paid expenses for boaters to travel along the canal then the resulting increase in turbidity would go some way to controlling the growth of the weeds. Discussions are taking place with Richard Millar and details of the proposal can be found on the website.

In the months of May and June the LCA focused on the flotilla, making leaflets and banners to increase membership, safety and navigation issues continued to be promoted, the website was updated. A nautical route finder is presently being updated and will be added to the website for use by members.

It was agreed that LCA would organise the fireworks and flotilla of lights in Edinburgh in November. In addition, there was a trip to the petition committee and a further submission from the LCA.

Earlier in the year, LCA attended meetings with Keep Canals Alive (KCA) to contribute to the discussions with Government and Scottish Canals. Scottish Waterways for All (SWfA) was established as an advisory group to work with Scottish Canals and has effectively superseded KCA. LCA were involved in establishing the constitution and proposed a code of conduct. LCA attend the SWfA meetings to represent boaters’ interests. Don will give a summary of their work later He was also the person who compiled the directory.

At the July meeting, as well as the normal business storage for residential boaters became an issue. Some residential boaters have storage and others have not. The complaints were not adequately dealt with by Scottish Canals and other options are being explored.

In August and September awaiting procedural guidelines for the weeding proposal from Scottish Canals and discussions about involvement in the canal festival were new items on the agenda.

In October concerns were raised about Scottish Canals’ use of the threat of eviction for non-compliance with their conditions. LCA formulated a letter to C Topley which is on the website.

At the November meeting, in addition to the standard items on the agenda, there was discussion about Ratho’s wave garden, the flotilla of lights and arrangements for the AGM


I have tried to give an overview of some of the work undertaken on behalf of the lowland canal boaters. It is impossible to cover everything. We see ourselves as a grassroots organization and encourage member participation. We are all volunteers who are passionate about all aspects of canals and waterways in Scotland and ensuring that the world’s first sea to sea ship canal can be handed on to our next generation as a functioning waterway. In this age of concern over climate change perhaps the canals could be revitalised to carry freight again. Food for thought!!

SWFA progress report

Scottish Waterways for All

SWfA was set up to gather all of the canal organizations together as one unit to assist Scottish Canals in the planning and execution of maintenance, projects, and operational issues.

The organization was set up as an umbrella group of the Lowland Canals Volunteer Group, using their bank account and with an amended volunteers group constitution.

LCA were successful in having a code of conduct added to the group processes.

A committee was picked and because of the time limitations, it consisted of mainly the people who had attended each meeting.

Ronnie Russack was chosen to be chair and Pat Bowie as vice chair.

The initial proposal was for the members of the group to each pick 3 priority issues they wished to be addressed. Unfortunately, this wish list came back as an extended tracker with over 40 items on it. There was no attempt made to reduce the list as per the initial agenda of the group.

Scottish Canals are represented on this group by 3 members. Richard Millar, Josie Saunders and Mark Smith. The CEO Catherine Topely has attended all meetings with exception of the last one on November 4th.

There have been 5 meetings to date.

Some positives have been achieved in that Scottish Canals have given excellent presentations on weeding and dredging and the costs involved. Also, at the last meeting, the boater’s consultation survey was presented and amended before being sent out to boaters.

Further meetings will give presentations on training, and operational staff numbers on all canals.

On a negative note, the tracker items have not decreased as the number of items is too long and no sub committees set up to address or prioritise the ones which should be worked on.

Also, the committee is too large, from its initial proposal it has never been formalized as such and the numbers around the table have actually increased.

Although this group has been given the stamp of approval by the Scottish Canals operations board, it was not given official approval by the Non-Executive Board. The Chairman of that board Mr Andrew Thin has been invited to attend and to date has not taken up that offer. A further invite to other members of that board has now been made. This did not go down well with the SWfA committee members as the initial reason for forming this group was to close the gap between, canal organisations, the SC Operations Board and the Non-Executive Board.

At the meeting on the 4th, one of the committee members informed SC that they were not in fact meeting their statutory requirements under the Scottish Government guidelines. As they cannot meet the depth of canal for coast to coast traffic and are only operating through traffic on one day of each week in each direction, this is seen by some to negate the canals cruising status. A sub committee has been set up to look into this further with the output to be presented shortly as it could affect operational hours. There is a danger, however large or small that the canals could lose cruising status if SC are found to be in breach of their statutory obligations. We all hope it does not come to that, and it is an issue that the SWfA committee and any sub group will endeavor to prevent.

In summary, the new group, although well intentioned and all working together, is not moving forward quickly enough. It gets bogged down at each meeting and very little seems to be achieved apart from receiving some good information from Scottish Canals. There is a push to have more volunteers and to have the different canal groups to raise funds. Volunteers will be trained to carry out more of the traditional staff duties. i.e. driving and operating the weed cutters. Cutting grass and some of the more menial tasks, which all require specific training to be carried out.

Waste within the SC organisation has been pointed out to SC, but is falling on deaf ears. Some of this information has been excellent and well presented by members from the Caledonian and Crinan canals.

The group was to be reviewed after 1 year of being established. And so far, if it was a teacher report, it would read as could do better.

Minutes from this group,s meetings will be available shortly on a website space provided by the IWA, through Jonathon Mosse. Once this has been completed, a link will be provided and put on the LCA website, to enable all to see group progress and issues.

Post AGM please find attached link to SWfA minutes hosted on the IWA website.