Why are so few, if any, homes flooding in Scotland?

Image: Sam Whyte

Despite 30 flood warnings and 7 severe flood warning, Scotland’s media have no images or reports of flooded homes to be blamed by local Tory MSPs on failures by the SNP Government to prevent them.

If they had them, we’d see them. BBC Scotland’s headline report has ‘disruption’ on the roads but not one image of a flooded house.

Maybe I’m tempting fate, but we’ve been here before, in 2016, as major flooding of homes in England was desperately linked by ‘our’ media to a few cases in Scotland and supposed SNP failures.

Why are homes not flooding despite a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours?

As far back as 2006, researchers at the English College of Estates Management, whose patron was HRH Prince of Wales, made a number of highly encouraging comments about the achievements of the Labour-run Scottish Executive, SEPA and the Local Authorities:

As far as flood protection is concerned, unlike in England, the 1 in 200-year standard of protection is ‘universal’ for all new buildings, with a 1,000-year standard for such vulnerable uses as old people’s homes, schools, hospitals etc. In addition, construction in flood hazard areas has almost completely ended. Crichton (2003: 26) estimates that “the active flood management programme currently in progress will result in almost all high-risk properties being protected against the 200-year flood within the next three years, taking climate change into account.” It is also interesting to note that the Scottish Executive grants for flood defences have never been refused on the grounds of budget restraints and there is no rationing of flood defence spending.

It is clear, however, that the more stringent building standards which are applied in Scotland ensure that severe storms result in much less property damage than comparable events in England. Also, the level of flood protection and the commitment of funding to achieve flood protection are higher in Scotland than in England.’

College of Estates Management at: https://www.cem.ac.uk/media/28193/flooding.pdf

More recently, with SNP leadership, the favourable comparison still seems to hold. Published research from the esteemed Joseph Rowntree Foundation, in 2012, seems to support my first impressions quite strongly:

‘Where English planning regulations permit building in flood plains where there is no alternative, Scottish Planning Policy does not permit building in areas in which ‘the flood risk exceeds the 200-year return period’, i.e. where in any year there is a greater than 0.5 per cent probability of flooding. Scotland has stronger regulations governing the capacity of sewage and drainage systems for new building. It also has stronger minimum standards for flood defences. Building regulations ensuring flood resilience in the housing stock are more developed. Scottish planners, through Flood Liaison and Advice Groups, are engaged with local communities, the emergency services, insurers and other interested parties in drawing up flood plans. The differences in regulatory regimes between England and Scotland are reflected in the number of households that are at risk of flooding, and the resilience of communities in responding to those risks.’

The level of investment will be one factor in these differences. In recent years, spending in England and Wales has declined seriously after significant increases under Labour in 1997 to 2010, as revealed in a UK Parliament Briefing Paper from 2015:

‘Central Government spending on flood defence in 2010-11 was cut soon after the Coalition Government was formed. Spending was reduced in one year by £30 million or 5%. In the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review (2011-12 to 2014-15), a total of £2.17 billion in central government funding was provided for flood and coastal defence. This represented “a six percent fall in central government funding”, The Committee on Climate Change calculated that this represented a real term cut of around 20% compared to the previous spending period.’

In sharp contrast, for Scotland, we see in a Scottish Parliament Committee Paper for 2014-2015, evidence of increasing investment:

‘With regard to flood protection and alleviation, the Committee welcomes the cash terms increases in the funding available to SEPA, and to the Natural Assets and Flooding  budget, both of which sit in the RAE portfolio. The Committee believes that, due to climate change, severe weather events will become increasingly likely in Scotland in years to come, and it is therefore essential that flood forecasting and warning systems be as accurate and robust as possible. The Committee welcomes the increased funding for flood forecasting and warning in the RAE portfolio and recommends that the Scottish Government continue to ensure sufficient funding is available to improve flood forecasting and warning systems, to ensure greater consistency across the whole of Scotland.’

As for more recent evidence of superiority in the Scottish system, see this at the Scottish government site and little (surprise, surprise) MSM coverage of it at the time:

‘£42 million a year plan over the next decade.

More than 10,000 families are to benefit from a ten year strategy to protect homes in many of Scotland’s most flood-prone communities. The plan is the result of grant funding totalling £420 million and follows an agreement reached between the Scottish Government and COSLA. The cash will be used to deliver 40 new flood protection projects and support local flood risk management plans. More than 130 flood protection studies will be carried out to help find potential solutions for another 26,000 residential properties currently at risk. The announcement came as the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, fulfilled her pledge to return to Newton Stewart following an earlier visit in the aftermath of flooding at Hogmanay.’

So, unlike the UK Government, the Scottish Government has maintained or bettered the investment and the sophistication in flood prevention here. Had I been writing in 2006, the Labour-controlled Scottish Executive would have rightly claimed any credit for performance north of the border. In 2016, the SNP-controlled Scottish Parliament can do the same. Will BBC Scotland allow them to do it? They clearly didn’t in the run-up to General Election in 2016 so I doubt it.

There you have it, my attempt to shore up our defence plans against a flood of BBC bias (See what I did there, again, again?) as we approach the UK Monsoon season.





College of Estates Management at:https://www.cem.ac.uk/media/28193/flooding.pdf

UK Parliament Briefing Paper at: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:tGK3kUO-iKEJ:www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/sn05755.pdf+&cd=4&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk

Scottish Parliament Paper at:http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/70875.aspx

Scottish Act on Control of Flood water at:http://www.gov.scot/Resource/Doc/1057/0094052.pdf

WWF Report at: http://nationalfloodforum.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/floodplanner_web.pdf


8 thoughts on “Why are so few, if any, homes flooding in Scotland?

  1. I read that Granton road shown in the photo will be closed for a while. It should be drained, via those water pumping vehicles? It’s quite an important route and to keep it closed will cause really bad traffic disruption especially, with a major hospital just nearby. Traffic disruption seems a common everyday occurrence in Edinburgh since the Tory/Labour council took over with their coalition. Try getting anywhere on a bus, well actually don’t bother, they have reduced services and, on top of them blocking major roads with minor holes dug in, and bollards everywhere, for no reason whatsoever, it’s not worth trying to get anywhere. Apparently bus use is down to 80% (since Covid I presume) so they reduced the number of buses, so now they are really packed full especially at more busy times but nearly all of the time, that’s if your bus arrives and is actually taking you to your destination, not ‘part route’.

    If I was being paranoid I’d think the council were trying to wreck transport in Edinburgh especially the publicly owned bus service.
    The bus service was excellent, until recently, I smell a rat, have spoken to others who are in despair at how it’s gone downhill, no pun intended lol.

    Rant over, soon off to get a taxi to the main Edinburgh hospital for my son’s appointment, a PFI hospital that Labour had built as far out of the city as they could manage. The Labour party (branch office in Scotland) dreadful legacy of d and neglect isn’t over yet.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Not to take anything away from your central point on the standards applied in Scotland, a note of caution on the standards applied.

    The 1/200 year storm was defined at a time when we had quite different rainfall patterns to what have been recorded in recent times.
    The storm over Angus in the last few days for example –
    eg – Locals in Marykirk are well used to the North Esk periodically flooding and cutting off two low lying roads after prolonged heavy rains, but what they’ve experienced in the last few days has been unprecedented.

    For England’s flatter gradients and houses built even on the fringes of flood plains, the effects of such a storm would devastating.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Reporting Scotland on Friday night had a report on the flooding which included a couple of instances where homes had been flooded. I think the homes were in Brechin. Not badly flooded but any water damage is really difficult and expensive to fix

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s been all over my Facebook page from friends in the area, with videos and stills galore from Edzell, Brechin, Marykirk, Northwaterbridge, etc..
      Prize shot was of the A90 southbound shut down entirely because some muppet in a BMW couldn’t wait and blew his motor in the “passable with caution” lane…🙄

      Liked by 1 person

    2. On the ‘news where you are’ after the NATIONAL news on the BBC last night, there were pictures from Brechin of flooding in some houses. Most of the houses shown had actually been protected by actions people had taken, but, we got a long section of a house which was being refurbished which had, at most, a foot of water, with sections of wood floating.


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