AGM Reports

Lowland Canals Association

Notes of AGM Held on Zoom on 9th November 2020

AttendeesAction
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
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

WORK CARRIED FORWARD
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.

MEETINGS SAFETY AND NAVIGATION MEETING
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.

SCOTTISH WATERWAYS FOR ALL MEETINGS
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.

WEEDING MEETINGS
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.

YEAR OF COASTS AND WATERS 2020 
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.

CROSS PARTY GROUP ON RECREATIONAL BOATING AND MARINE TOURISM
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.

OTHER ISSUES.
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.

BUY AND SELL AND FORUM
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.  

BUDGET
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.

WELFARE
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.

SUMMARY
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.   
Committee 
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 
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.   

LOWLAND CANALS ASSOCIATION – AGM 3rd Dec 2019

(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

SUMMARY

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. https://www.waterways.org.uk/swfa/swfa