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Stonehaven and Highland flood defence scheme costs spiral

Bridges are being installed as part of the Stonehaven flood defence scheme.

The SNP is accused of being “all at sea” with flood defence schemes – including a £7 million over-budget project in Stonehaven.

The Scottish Government identified a total of 42 flood protection schemes for delivery between 2015 and 2021.

But it can be revealed just six of the schemes are under construction and a further 25 are still at the development stage.

Figures revealed through parliamentary questions show cost overruns in almost every project.

The Stonehaven scheme increased from an initial cost of £19.9m to an estimated final cost of £27.5m – an increase of £7.6m.

Fireman walk through floodwater on the high street in Stonehaven, near Aberdeen, after heavy flooding.

Contractors McLaughlin and Harvey started construction on the flood protection scheme in March 2019, which will protect 376 properties when complete in 2023, but had to down tools for a period over lockdown.

The figures also show the cost of the scheme in Drumnadrochit, on the western shores of Loch Ness, which does not yet have a completion date, has increased from £3.4m to £5.7m.

Meanwhile the cost of the planned Caol and Lochyside scheme in Fort William has almost doubled from £8.4m to £15.7m.

‘Costs going through the roof’

Beatrice Wishart, Scottish Liberal Democrat rural affairs spokeswoman, said the figures show the “Scottish Government is all at sea when it comes to building up our flood defences”.

The Shetland MSP added: “From Aberdeenshire to the Borders, communities are facing the devastating prospect of floods, while Storm Arwen showed just how vulnerable Scotland has become to major weather events.

“When it comes to flood defences, prevention is always better than having to repair after the damage is done.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart.

“Our climate has changed dramatically in the past few years so simply bobbing along is no longer an option in the face of more extreme weather.

“Not only are more than half of their prospective projects unfinished, the costs are also going through the roof.

“The Scottish Government needs to scale up flood protection measures and make sure that local authorities have the resources they need to protect our communities and ensure that these projects are delivered.”

‘No national strategy’

Aberdeenshire West MSP Alexander Burnett, accused the Scottish Government of having “no national strategy to support communities at risk”.

He added: “And the SNP’s attempts have been unacceptable. The much-lauded £42million ring-fenced cash to tackle flooding has not increased since 2008, so has been cut in real terms.

Alexander Burnett lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament.
Alexander Burnett lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament.

“The problem is, without any flood defence funding from the SNP government, it will only take another Storm Arwen to cause really big problems.

“Coastal and riverside communities all over the UK will have similar issues and we need to explore ways in which towns and villages can access funding to help combat the problem of erosion and protect residents and businesses.”

Costs ‘revised over time’

Final scheme costs are the latest estimates provided by local authorities.

The parliamentary answer by Environment Secretary Mairi McAllan said “differences between these latest estimates and initial cost estimates arise because flood protection schemes are put forward for prioritisation at various stages of their development”.

Costs are revised over time as designs are finalised and more detailed investigations are carried out at the site.

Outcomes from community engagement and changes to price and supply of materials may also require revisions to cost estimates.

It is estimated that 284,000 homes and premises are already at risk of flooding in Scotland, with an additional 110,000 properties at risk by 2080.

Flood risk management

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Local authorities are responsible for commissioning and delivering flood protection schemes which, like all infrastructure projects, can take many years to progress from option appraisal to completion.

“New flood protection schemes impact on individuals, communities and the environment, and require careful and thorough planning to ensure that they reasonably balance the interests of the whole community.

“Since 2007, a minimum of £42 million per year has been distributed from the Scottish Government to Local Authorities to support investment in flood protection schemes.

“In 2020 we committed to go even further, investing an extra £150 million in flood risk management over the next five year which  represents a 70% increase in the flooding budget. We also provide £195,000 annually to support the Scottish Flood Forum to build flood resilience within communities.”

Aberdeenshire Council declined to comment.

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