The Scottish Government manages our marine environment, recreational waters, rivers, and waterways with the guiding principle that our natural environment, its wildlife and the diversity of the industries which depend on it, must be safeguarded for future generations.
The Scottish government classifies several protected categories of waters, including bathing waters, drinking waters, and waters at risk of sewage or agricultural pollution, which are protected by bodies such as the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and Drinking Water Quality Regulator.
Where bodies of water are sensitive to the risk of sewage pollution, local potential sources are monitored and improved by the appropriate authority.
Scotland's waters are already protected by a wide variety of Nature Regulations, payments to farmers to help prevent sewage pollution, guidance for those at risk of polluting, and regular monitoring throughout the entirety of Scotland.
Since 1976 the UK has followed the EU's Bathing Water Directive (BWD), which gave member states 10 years to meet certain water quality standards in bathing areas. Friends of Earth and others say that this European pressure is what forced the UK to turn around from being the "dirty man of Europe" and improve water quality.
Scotland has the best bathing waters in the UK, with over 66% rated as "Good" or "Excellent" by the SEPA, compared to the 40% EU average. The UK Government meanwhile estimates that just 16% of England’s rivers are in good health, and independent estimates say that not one river in England is in good health.
This is possible due to the fact that Scottish water is publicly owned and invests 35% more in infrastructure improvements than equivalent private water companies in England. This is achieved even with lower bills in Scotland than England.
However, being better than others should never be all we aim for, and the Scottish Government is committed to improving the health of Scotland’s rivers, waterways, and beaches.
Scottish Water has said that it requires £650 million to completely improve the infrastructure in Scotland, and the Scottish Government has been working to deliver increasing amounts of funding to make this possible.
This figure is vastly lower than the £150-£650 billion that is needed in England to achieve similar results. Despite this, the UK Government has refused to intervene and either unlock more funding or force action.