Praise for flooding prevention work

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As agencies and emergency services continue to monitor the threat of flooding across Scotland, Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse said detailed prevention work had helped to limit the impact of flooding in Scotland over the last week.

This follows news that the Met Office measured rainfall levels across Scotland as having reached a level 64% higher than the long term average for the month of December and as much as 90% higher than the average in the West of Scotland region.

Urging the public to remain vigilant Mr Wheelhouse also confirmed he will offer a statement to the Scottish Parliament next week on the response to the severe weather in Scotland over the holiday period.

SEPA’s Floodline Direct Warning Service and the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service have seen around 1,200 people receive flood alerts on the west coast and over 800 people receive alerts around the Firth of Forth and Eyemouth area.

It’s estimated less than a 1,000 properties across Scotland were affected by power outages in the past day or two and the majority reconnected within 6 hours.

Without the detailed information these services provide on the location and level of risk faced across Scotland, the local authorities, emergency services and local communities would not have been able to put in place crucial protection, such as demountable defences in Oban, which stopped flood water reaching the town, and the deployment of the mobile ‘flood pod’ in Dumfries and Galloway which was used last Monday to distribute flood protection equipment, including flood gates, to properties at risk in Dumfries and Newton Stewart.

The Firth of Forth and Tay coastal flood warning scheme, and the Comrie and Stonehaven Flood Warning Schemes are the latest in a long line of investments undertaken, through SEPA, designed to ensure that communities in those areas received more targeted, better, advance flood warnings giving them enough time to prepare and deploy property level protection for households and businesses.

The Scottish Government has continued to invest in supporting actions to reduce flood risk including protecting and maintaining SEPA’s budget at £37.5 million and increasing to £39.5 million in 2015-16. Local authorities can also apply for funding for large new flood protection schemes worth £42 million a year.

Ministers will also consider emergency financial assistance for any local authority that qualifies under the terms of the Bellwin Scheme.

Mr Wheelhouse said:

“I would like to pay a particular tribute to all those in our agencies, emergency services, local authorities and the local responders who have helped to keep Scotland safe and support local residents in preventing property damage.

“While SEPA and the Met Office continue to monitor the impact of the weather and people should remain vigilant particular around coastal areas and waterways I am pleased to say that our investment in prevention and the fast acting work of our agencies means that, while some localised impacts were suffered, Scotland has not been exposed to the same level of flooding impacts and weather damage as other parts of the UK and as have been experienced in Scotland in previous years.

“Over the Christmas and Hogmanay period, including on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, Scottish Government and our response agencies have been working and acting quickly and successfully to protect homes across the country. And given Met Office forecasts suggest unsettled weather patterns will continue for the immediate future, we will continue to monitor weather conditions closely and, with this in mind, we are already beginning preparations for the return to work on Monday morning.

“We have clearly seen the benefits of the work that the Scottish Government is doing to support a range of partners such as local authorities to reduce flood risk and to coordinate restoration of transport services or power supplies where these were affected. The fact that – despite a tough financial climate – we have managed to consistently maintain the funding to protect properties at risk of flooding, which we estimate is at a level 3 times the rate per property at risk than is the case in England – shows how important it is to this Scottish Government and our local authority partners to protect our communities from the potentially devastating impact that flooding can bring.

“I intend to provide a statement to update Parliament on the measures we have taken over the holiday period and the preparations that remain in place for the rest of the winter period.

“We always look to learn the lessons from severe weather incidents in Scotland and other parts of the UK, and I am pleased that previous experiences have helped us to deliver a strong response, protecting properties and maintaining transport links.”