The future of flood risk management in Scotland

On 13th February 2008, the Scottish Government launched a Flooding Bill Consultation aiming to modernise the flood risk management system in Scotland. The broad objective in promoting new legislation is to provide the framework to ensure that a fully sustainable approach to flood risk management is in place across Scotland and to simplify radically the focus through which local authorities promote prevention measures.

Chapter 4 of the bill deals with reservoir safety and provides for the duties and powers given to local authorities, except those relevant to local authorities' functions as reservoir undertakers, to be transferred to one single body with responsibility for the following:-

  • Maintaining a register of reservoirs (and making this information available to the public),
  • Ensuring that the Undertaker has appointed a Supervising Engineer,
  • Ensuring that the Undertaker commissions regular inspections of the dam by an Inspecting Engineer,
  • Enforcing the Reservoirs Act 1975 by influencing, warning, cautioning and ultimately prosecuting non-compliant Undertakers,
  • Commissioning essential works required in the 'Interests of Safety' in the event of non-compliance and recouping full costs incurred from the Undertaker,
  • Producing a Biennial Report for submission to the Scottish Government,
  • Acting in an emergency if the Undertaker cannot be found or identified.

Currently, the enforcement of the Act in Scotland is the responsibility of the 32 Scottish local authorities. The biennial reports they submit indicate varying staffing and financial resource allocation to reservoir responsibilities amongst these authorities. This can be attributed partly, to geography and topography; for example Highland Council has some 125 reservoirs which fall within the ambit of the Act, whilst Glasgow City Council has only 2. However the enforcement role is considered an onerous burden which is disproportionate to the reservoirs located within many local authority areas.

The Bill does not yet specify who the single enforcement authority should be but the consultation questions on the subject of reservoir safety give an indication of the expected outcome:

  • Do you believe enforcement responsibilities under the Reservoirs Act 1975 should be transferred to a single national body?
  • If so, should it be SEPA or another as yet unidentified body?
  • Are you content with the proposals for dealing with reservoir flood maps under the provisions of the Floods Directive, or do you think that there should be a statutory duty on reservoir undertakers to prepare reservoir inundation maps and plans, similar to the duty in the 2003 Water Act for England and Wales?
  • Do agree that enforcement powers be extended and post incident reporting included as an additional requirement?

The Scottish Government are seeking responses to the consultation by 23rd April 2008 - go to for the full consultation bill and online response form. 

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