“Rivers and beaches need to be protected”

Monday June 20th 2022

Colin Beattie MSP
Colin Beattie MSP, Midlothian North & Musselburgh, writes his monthly column for Midlothian View

As we embark on the summer holidays and (hopefully) some nice weather, we will all be looking to spend more time outdoors. However, it is important that we remain cautious of our surroundings.

This week marks Drowning Prevention Week 2022. Unfortunately, drowning is one of the leading causes in accidental deaths in Scotland. This week is dedicated to educating as many people as possible of the risks the water may pose and help everyone enjoy the water safely.

The Covid-19 pandemic meant many of our young people missed out on swimming lessons and water safety education. We are also very lucky to have some of the most amazing rivers, lochs and beaches in Scotland and more families than ever before are choosing to holiday in the U.K. with coastal towns being a key destination for many. Even if you plan to stay at home this summer, there are some amazing harbours and beaches locally to visit.

I would ask my constituents to be aware of the key dangers of water such as cold temperatures, hidden currents, the depth of the water, and waters where there is no lifeguard present. For more information on how to keep safe around the water this summer, visit Water Safety Scotland online.

We also need to do more to ensure Scotland’s waters are protected. Debris in water is also a risk to the human life and to the health of the water. The River Esk is a prominent feature in Midlothian. Many of my constituents know that I am chair of the Esk River Improvement Group (ERIG) where the group provides a platform for local organisations and key stakeholders to network and aims to improve the overall health of the Esk.

It is really important that the Esk, and other rivers in Scotland are protected against pollution and the impacts of climate change. This is why I have partnered with Buglife, who are leading on the protection and recovery of Scotland’s river ecosystems, to advocate for Scotland’s rivers and undertake the role of River Nature Champion this parliamentary term.

From 1 June, Scotland became the first part of the UK to implement a ban on many of the most problematic single-use plastics. Currently, around 700 million of these single-use items are currently used in Scotland every year with many of them littering our parks, beaches and rivers. I very much welcome these proposals and hope this step encourages more businesses and individuals to switch to reusable alternatives.

I am aware that single-use plastics are not the only material polluting our waters and lands and we must tackle the wider issue of littering and fly-tipping. Recently in the Scottish Parliament, I asked the Minister for Environment and Land Reform for an update on the new national litter and fly-tipping strategy for Scotland. The consultation on the new strategy closed on 31 March, and the responses are currently being analysed. Local authorities and private landowners already spend a huge amount of resource on preventable behaviour such as fly-tipping and I do hope the outcome cracks down further on these issues to prevents more individuals from littering and fly-tipping.

Rivers and beaches need to be protected and we can all play out part in preventing pollution into Scotland’s waters.

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