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Scotland Leading in Beach Standards

Anna Kedge explores how environmental initiatives and campaigns are maintaining beach quality in Scotland.

Photo by Ajda ATZ

As a much-loved destination for anyone looking for a change of scenery to either urban or rural landscapes, to release pent-up emotion and to partake in calmer leisurely activity, it is important to understand that how we spend our time on the beaches will have a direct impact on beach health.

In the same way that natural erosion and climate change can create lasting damage to beaches, our own pastimes, from engaging in fishing, sailing and even walking along the sea front can disrupt and threaten the life found on the beach.

Seaside Wellbeing

Since the easing of lockdown restrictions back in the spring of 2021, the natural urge to return to the remote areas of the country that promised peace, natural beauty and a sense of freedom once again was felt by most of the population. As we recover from the tumultuous changes brought about by an airborne virus, it is down to us to ensure that other harmful chemicals and gases within the air are not transported into the seas through the many activities that are engaged in by tourists and visitors to the seas.

During the summer of 2020, as many as 30 beaches were polluted due to heavy rainfall, meaning that overflowing sewers washed subjects of contamination, such as animal faeces, into the seas, risking the health of those who approached the waters. Having to adapt to the pandemic restrictions, more and more individuals frequented the beaches while indoor swimming pools were closed.

The Scottish seas cover the equivalent of roughly six times the UK's land area size, providing a promising supply of fresh air for residents and tourists of the country. However, they are also home to some of the most beautiful places in the world.

Peter Ross argues that four of the five reasons for Scotland’s reputation as the most beautiful country in the world (according to a Rough Guides poll conducted in 2017) were the bodies of water, highlighting Rannoch Moor and Glencoe, the Whaligoe steps on the Caithness coast, Loch Coruisk, and Calgary Bay for their depth and tone, drawing tourists to the rich natural history that the country has to offer.

Campaigns and Initiatives in Scotland

Whilst many seaside economies encourage the visitors to utilise the sites as much as possible, Scotland prefers to maintain the care and attention placed on their beaches.

With a £10 million investment, Scotland set themselves an important task, requiring the efforts of the public as well as new initiatives; the Environmental Standards Scotland (ESS), for example, was established in October 2021 to ensure that the UK’s exit from the European Union did not affect the environmental standards of Scotland or detract from the progress made by Scotland.

A 16% increase in people checking water quality when visiting the beaches has been reported following the 2018 launch of the My Beach, Your Beach campaign, encouraging beach stewardship and communicating with the public through surveys and messaging via online channels throughout the lockdowns.

“Scotland’s bathing waters are so important to our environment and to people's health and well-being and it is great to see hard work and investment delivering results.” – Environment Minister Mairi McAllan

According to the European Environment Agency’s ‘Dobris Assessment’ in 2016, the environmental impact of the tourism industry on coastal areas is a result of the heightened use of water and land for leisure pursuits at certain times of the year. Many of these coastal destinations are also standardised for the benefit of the tourists, satisfying their needs and their expectations of a holiday by recreating the attractions of an international holiday destination in Scotland.

So, where to go this year? Perhaps, by investing in the UK’s seaside economies and beach conservation initiatives, we can create lasting memories and experiences whilst saving both our wallets and the planet along the way.


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