November 29, 2018 Media

Tackle climate change to cut flooding risk

29th November 2018

By Claudia Beamish MSP, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform  

Winter is here. And in Scotland, for 108,000 households, winter means the threat of flooding. The threat is increasing, with climate change meaning that the risk of flood may be doubled in some areas in Scotland before the end of this century and a further 60,000 households under threat.

The risk of floods can never be fully eliminated, but it is so important that Scotland has effective surface water management flood warnings and other policies, because the human cost is so high. If we get it wrong, people in Scotland could lose their homes, their livelihoods, even their lives.

In 2009 the Scottish Government introduced a new Flood Risk Management Act, emphasising the key role such collaborative actions and partnership working has on protecting people and places from flooding. This was followed in 2015 by SEPA’s publication of 14 Local Flood Risk Management Strategies, covering the whole of Scotland.

There are currently 42 formal flood protection schemes due to come into force throughout Scotland by 2021. SEPA has also committed to producing the second national flood risk assessment this year.

Flooding has direct and indirect consequences on businesses and communities, and is closely tied to inequality and economic disadvantage.

However there are several simple initiatives which can help. Some Scottish schools are constructing raingardens which make the most of rain in the most creative ways you can. Put simply, a rain garden is a shallow area of ground or dip which receives run-off from roofs and other hard surfaces. It is planted with plants that can stand waterlogging for up to 48 hours at a time.

In my region of South Scotland, the Tweed Forum is a stellar example of partnership working and sustainable flood prevention. With its membership of public bodies, local stakeholders and non-governmental organisations, the forum has enhanced and protected the natural, built and cultural heritage of the River Tweed and its tributaries, using catchment management with its two interlinked strategic aims.

There have been some initiatives set out by the Scottish Government in the programme for government to combat the effects of flooding in Scotland, including some extra funding for the Scottish Flood Forum and a promise to update the National Flood Risk Assessment.

These are both admirable initiatives and I welcome them as far as they go, but I am concerned that we are not doing enough to stop the root causes of flooding, and that the situation will only get worse as the planet warms still further.

Only Scottish Labour has promised to halt the worst effects of climate change by pledging to amend the government’s climate change bill to tie Scotland to net zero Co2 emissions by 2050. That will help to prevent flooding, and protect peoples homes by tackling the root cause.