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Reservoirs Bill gets qualified go-ahead

20 January 2011

A committee of MSPs has expressed its support for the Scottish Government's Reservoirs (Scotland) Bill ,w while seeking further clarity on certain aspects, in its stage 1 report published today.

The Rural Affairs and Environment Committee supports the general principles of the bill to improve reservoir safety by modernising the current regulatory regime. However, it also believes the Government should clarify the financial implications of the bill, particularly on private reservoir owners who will become subject to regulation for the first time.

The committee noted that there had been little pre-introduction consultation on the part of the bill dealing with restoration or remediation of the water environment compared with that on the main aim, reservoir safety, but accepted that there had been a consultation on the former subject in the relatively recent past and that ministers would consult on any proposed regulations.

Overall, the committee welcomes the bill’s main proposal to lower the volume threshold for reservoir registration on grounds of public safety. However, it also expresses concern that this could potentially create difficulties for a small number of reservoir managers with limited resources. For example, small businesses like angling clubs might be unable to afford the high cost of decommissioning the reservoir but might not be able to afford compliance costs under the bill either, leading to a “Catch 22" situation for the reservoir managers.

Committee convener Maureen Watt MSP said: “The Government has tentatively suggested it would be open to providing some sort of assistance for the, admittedly quite small, number of people who will find themselves in difficulties following implementation of the bill. We welcome this offer but look forward to more details as to what this might mean in practice.”

The report also makes further recommendations, including:

  • Support for SEPA’s enhanced role in regulating reservoirs. However the committee calls for SEPA’s role to be as “smart, cost-effective and light touch as possible,” in order to cut costs and bureaucracy for reservoir managers.
  • Further dialogue between the Government and the Institution of Civil Engineers on important technical issues, such as whether risk assessment for reservoirs should focus only on the consequences of dam failure or should include assessment of the probability of failure. It notes a current disagreement between ministers and the ICE as to whether it is possible to assess the risk of a reservoir failing by examining its structure and level of maintenance.

Click here to view the committee's report.

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