The Rural Affairs and Environment Committee has asked the Scottish Government for more clarity on the Reservoirs (Scotland) Bill in its Stage 1 report published today.
The committee supports the general principles of the Bill to improve reservoir safety in Scotland 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.
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. The committee is concerned that this might leave some reservoir managers in a “Catch-22 situation”, where they had neither the money to maintain the reservoir nor to decommission it.
Committee Convener Maureen Watt MSP said:
“The Rural Affairs and Environment Committee supports the Reservoir Bill’s aims to improve reservoir safety in Scotland by modernising the current regulations. The Bill is a step forward for public safety.
“However, we believe that the financial impact of the Bill to those individuals and companies, large and small, who will now be responsible for managing reservoirs, requires more explanation. 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 committee report also made 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.