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Visit Scotland | Alba

We spoke to Barry Fisher, CEO of Keep Scotland Beautiful, who told us about his connection to our coasts and water.

He also shared details of the campaigns and projects Keep Scotland Beautiful created to align with the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21.

Where did your interest in keeping Scotland’s coasts and waters beautiful come from?

My passion for looking after our environment goes back to my school days on the island of Arran. It was an extraordinary place to grow up and connect to nature while cycling, sailing or walking.

From the age of 16, I had the great privilege of sailing extensively around Scotland’s west coast and islands. Thus, I developed an innate sense of the scale of the beauty that it offers.

Adventures around Scotland’s coast and inland waters continue to be an important part of my relationship with the country. We are so fortunate to have these landscapes so close to us.

This is why I’m delighted that Keep Scotland Beautiful supported the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21.

Why did your organisation decide to get involved with Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21?

The Year of Coasts and Waters resonated strongly across all our activities.

We are a charity with a vision for a clean, green and sustainable country. Thus, Keep Scotland Beautiful has supported the Themed Years since the Homecoming year, 2014.

We work to combat climate change, to tackle litter and waste and to help people protect and enhance the places they love.

We recognise the importance of appreciating and respecting our aquatic environments. This is particularly true as we face the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Almost everyone has a water-based memory - whether visiting the seaside, a loch, canal, river or burn, or just standing in the smirry rain.

It is water that keeps Scotland beautiful, and it is a key natural product that supports and provides the backdrop to all tourism in our country.

West Bay Beach, North Berwick

Part of what we do as a charity is to provide educational and learning opportunities for young people.

We recognise success through our audit and award schemes. Also, we support community engagement through our campaigns.

What are the main things you created around the Themed Year?

We made opportunities to reconnect people with their local waterways, lochs, and coastal areas in the following key areas.

1. Climate change

We run the international Eco-Schools programme. This addresses environmental issues that contribute to climate change. We invite schools to take part in the pocket garden design competition.

This included a Themed Year link, where children from as young as three were asked to design a colourful and sustainable garden. Next, we created a national gardening show where these gardens were displayed.

2. Protecting and enhancing place

It’s Your Neighbourhood and Beautiful Scotland were two projects aimed at making improvements to the places people love. They were delivered in collaboration with the RHS, support community groups, and local authorities.

Both projects had the Year of Coasts and Waters as a theme in 2020 - 21 and saw plenty of planted up old boats in coastal towns as the summer arrived.

For more than 25 years, we have recognised the best managed sea and sand with Scotland’s beach awards.

The award connects visitors and locals and provides a framework to ensure that our beaches are well managed and kept beautiful.

The Themed Years logo linked to the award scheme on all award flags flying at the successful beaches.

3. Tackling litter

We know that our marine and aquatic environments are clogging up with litter, particularly plastic litter. As a result, our wildlife is suffering.

Hence, we focussed efforts to support communities to survey and remove litter through our Clean Up Scotland campaign.

In 2019, we saw a 90% increase in litter picks registered with us near a river, canal, or beach – helping to stop litter getting into the sea.

in 2020 we invited people to pledge a few minutes to help us with our big summer clean.

We also built on the success of our award-winning upstream battle campaign in the River Clyde catchment. This prevents land-based litter entering the sea by expanding the catchment to new areas.

The My Beach, Your Beach campaign ran again in 2021 at a number of sites across Scotland. This helped people care for their local beaches and bathing waters.

What did you do in 2021?

We encouraged people to carry out citizen science surveys of litter from source to sea. This was part of our plans to expand the Upstream Battle campaign from west to east. We also celebrated the following:

  • award winning beaches
  • the best pocket garden designs on an online platform
  • communities that clean and green up the places they care for

Before the summer, we also aimed to launch a new classroom resource and competition as part of My Beach Your Beach.

This was to support young people to report on and celebrate their local beach. Part of this required considering the environmental problems and solutions linked to the Themed Year.

Earlier this year we declared a climate emergency and signed up to Tourism Declares. This initiative supports travel organisations, companies, and professionals in declaring a climate emergency.

It calls for these groups to take purposeful action to reduce carbon emissions.

We're Scotland’s national operator for green key. This is an international eco-label for tourism and hospitality establishments. We strongly support Tourism Declares and all efforts toward a more sustainable tourism sector.

Volunteers ‘fish’ for litter on a recycled plastic fishing punt as part of the Upstream Battle campaign to tackle litter from source to sea


Going forward we will continue to support people, young and old, to respect and look after our country’s environment. In particular, our focus is on our burns, rivers, canals, beaches, and lochs.

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