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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 23/04/2021

Scotland’s coasts and waters provide some of our most valuable natural assets, and a number of organisations have used the Themed Year to showcase their work, inspiring and educating visitors and locals alike about how best to look after our natural environment.

We spoke to Barry Fisher, CEO of Keep Scotland Beautiful (KSB) to find out more about his connection to our coasts and waters and to learn about the campaigns and projects Keep Scotland Beautiful has created to align with the Year of Coasts and Waters (YCW20/21).  

Keeping Scotland’s coasts and waters beautiful

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 and 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 is supporting the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21.

Why did your organisation decide to get involved with Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21 and have you been involved with Themed Years previously?

As a charity with a vision for a clean, green and sustainable country, Keep Scotland Beautiful has supported Themed Years, previously, aligning our activities closely since 2014 and the Homecoming year.

We work to combat climate change, to tackle litter and waste and to help people protect and enhance the places they love. Part of what we do as a charity is to provide educational and learning opportunities for young people, to recognise success through our audit and award schemes and to support community engagement through our campaigns. 

The Year of Coasts and Waters resonates strongly across all our activities as we recognise the importance of appreciating and respecting our aquatic environments, particularly at this time, when local spaces and nature play such an important role in the coping strategies for us as we face the ongoing challenges of the Covid 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.

Volunteers carrying out a litter pick by the River Clyde, Glasgow. Credit: Keep Scotland Beautiful

What are the main activities, content or campaigns you’ve created around the Themed Year?

For YCW20/21 we embedded the opportunity to reconnect people with their local waterways, lochs and coastal areas through our main areas of work as outlined below:  

Climate Change

We run the international Eco-Schools programme, which addresses environmental issues that contribute to climate change. One of the engaging activities we invite schools to take part in is the Pocket Garden design competition. This is our sixth competition, all which have included a Themed Year link, where children, from as young as three, are challenged to design a colourful and sustainable garden, which are then created and displayed at a national gardening show, or this year an online showcase gallery.

2019 Pocket Garden winner fromBun Sgoil Staffinn. Credit: Keep Scotland Beautiful

Protecting and enhancing place

Two of our initiatives, It’s Your Neighbourhood / Beautiful Scotland, which we deliver in collaboration with the RHS, support community groups and local authorities make improvements to the places they love. Both of these had the Year of Coasts and Waters as a theme last year and will continue to do so this year. Expect to see plenty of planted up old boats in coastal towns as summer arrives.

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 YCW20/21 logo links to the award scheme on all award flags flying at the successful beaches.

Tackling litter

We know that our marine and aquatic environments are clogging up with litter, particularly plastic litter, and that our wildlife is suffering. It is because of the impact that litter has on our wildlife and environment that we have focussed efforts to support communities across the country to survey and remove it 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. This summer we are inviting people to pledge a few minutes to help us with our big Summer Clean.

This year, we also plan to build on the success of our award-winning Upstream Battle campaign in the Clyde river catchment to prevent land-based litter entering the sea, by expanding it to new areas.

And the My Beach, Your Beach campaign will be running again in 2021 at a number of sites across Scotland, helping people care for their local beaches and bathing waters.

Kingsbarns Beach, Fife. Credit: Keep Scotland Beautiful

What do you have in plan for 2021?

As we continue to support YCW20/21 this year, we will celebrate award winning beaches, showcase the best Pocket Garden designs on an online platform, highlight communities which have taken the theme on board as they clean and green up the places they care for, and we will encourage people to carry out citizen science surveys of litter from source to sea as part of our plans to expand the Upstream Battle campaign from west to east.  

Before the summer we also hope to launch a new classroom resource and competition as part of My Beach Your Beach to support young people to report on and celebrate their local beach while considering environmental problems and solutions linked to YCW20/21.

Earlier this year we declared a climate emergency and signed up to Tourism Declares, an initiative that supports travel organisations, companies and professionals in declaring a climate emergency and taking purposeful action to reduce their carbon emissions. As Scotland’s National Operator for Green Key – an international eco-label for tourism and hospitality establishments – we strongly support the Tourism Declares initiative, and all efforts toward a more sustainable tourism sector.

Whatever 2021 brings us, whatever adventures we chose to experience, water will never be far away. We will continue to support people, young and old, to respect and look after our country’s environment, in particular our burns, rivers, canals, beaches and lochs.

We ask all that we work with to join us and play a part in keeping Scotland’s coasts and waters beautiful this year too.

Sustainability – Other organisations and examples

Scottish Water got on board with the Year of Coasts and Waters, which linked in well with their own Your Water Your Life campaign. Scottish Water produced refillable bottles and co-branded them with Year of Coasts and waters to mark the year and encourage visitors and stay-cationers alike to top up from the tap.

The Marine Conservation Society has collaborated with YCW20/21 in a variety of ways, using the Themed Year and #YCW2021 hashtag to help promote their own campaigns around ocean recovery and encourage participation in projects such as the Great British Beach Clean. The 2020 Great British Beach Clean saw 459 litter picks take place, with over 2,100 volunteers getting involved to remove over three tonnes of litter from our environment.

To help encourage tourism business to think about ways in which we can all do our bit to look after our amazing natural assets during the Year of Coasts and Waters, VisitScotland partnered with Green Tourism, the sustainable tourism certification programme, to create 20 Green Tips. This guide has lots of ideas of how businesses can take responsible actions to protect Scotland’s beautiful natural environment as part of their day-to-day operations.

The Year of Coasts and Waters supported events programme was placed on hold in March 2020 due to Covid-19, but it is now being rescoped and reshaped for 2021 and all events involved in the programme need to think about different ways of incorporating sustainability into their event planning. One event which was able to go ahead in January 2020 was STORM, a ten-metre tall puppet created by Vision Mechanics who walked from the River Clyde to Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall to help launch Celtic Connections. STORM is a mythical goddess of the sea, created entirely from recycled materials, and as she continues her journey in 2021 she will look to share a message of caring for our coastlines and putting the environment first with communities in Scotland. More recently, RSPB Scotland’s DolphinFest went online in April 2021 and a strong theme of sustainability and looking after our oceans and marine wildlife was evident throughout the programme.

RSPB Scotland Dophinwatch. Credit: Fiona Emslie