Boat owners “stuck” on west coast canals have called for “better strategic thinking and a bit of imagination” ahead of the official reopening in three weeks.
Operators Scottish Canals have been urged to reopen strategic locks earlier than their planned July 22 date to allow departures for essential maintenance and repair.
Navigation of boats beyond local movement will start at phase three of Scotland’s route map out of lockdown, from July 15.
Due to projects being undertaken on the Caledonian Canal at Fort Augustus and at Tomnahurich in Inverness, where a new bridge is being constructed, the canal has been closed to boat traffic for eight months.
Jeremy Cresswell, who has a boat on the Caledonian Canal at Dochgarroch, has said he recognises the extensive improvement work being carried out by Scottish Canals – but has now called on the operator to use greater imagination ahead of the reopening of the waterways.
Mr Cresswell said: “Scottish Canals have moved at glacial speed with their plans.
“We have been given a date of July 22 for the Caledonian Canal to reopen but so much more could be done before then.
“Key strategic locks along the Caledonian Canal should be opened before then. Locks at Clachnaharry and Corpach should be opened up to allow boats to move freely.
“Even at Dochgarroch, which is home to a modest number, why is there not an arrangement to operate the lock to allow use of Loch Ness?
“People are stuck along the canal and Scottish Canals seem quite content to allow that to remain the case for at least three more weeks.”
Scottish Canals have said they have around 1,300 boat movements each year on the Caledonian Canal with between 25 and 35 winter berth holders along the stretch of water.
Many more use the canal for walking, cycling and water sports.
Mr Cresswell has also said the frustration has been felt equally by commercial operators as well as leisure users.
He added: “There are chartered vessels further along the canal who cannot go anywhere even for repair or maintenance.
“They are also stuck.
“A little bit of imagination I think is needed, or imagination beyond what is being used.”
The National Association of Boat Owners has said it would welcome similar measures being introduced in Scotland as England and Wales, where those living on boats have been allowed to move for repairs and maintenance, as well as access facilities such as shops and refuse points.
A Scottish Canals spokeswoman said: “The majority of Scottish Canals’ staff were working from home during Covid-19 with a small number of staff carrying out only safety-critical tasks, in line with government advice.
“As a public body, we are now working to a four phased restart plan in line with the Scottish Government’s route map out of the crisis.
“We are bringing staff back from furlough in line with the timings set out in our restart plan and opening the canals to navigation beyond local boat movements falls within phase three in line with Scottish Government’s plan to get Scotland’s tourism industry back up and running from July 15 2020.”
The Crinan Canal is to reopen on Friday July 17 before the Caledonian and Lowland Canals open from Wednesday July 22.