A NATIONAL plan was launched today to improve public safety when enoying open water after the deaths of four people in Loch Lomond last summer.

Members of staff at Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park were joined by Minister for Community Safety, Ash Denham MSP, on Friday to kickstart the National Water Safety Action Plan.

It follows the devastating loss of lives in Loch Lomond last year that prompted calls for everything from a specific open water swimming space on the shore to more swimming lessons in schools.

The new plan is supported by both local and national water safety groups and will see 35 actions delivered to improve water safety across Scotland.

What work is being carried out?

• Upgraded public rescue equipment;

• New 999 signage with grid ref and what3words location info;

• New hazard warning signs where necessary;

• Suite of Visitor Risk Assessments carried out at our sites;

•A programme of events this summer at hotspot areas to raise awareness of water safety risks;

•Engagement with school pupils in and around the National Park;

•Water safety campaign this summer to make visitors aware of how to stay safe around the water here.

The plan will see pupils given water safety lessons and signs around lochs and reservoirs improved to help reduce the risk of people drowning. 

It was drawn up by the Scottish Government and a range of key organisations following a spate of water-related deaths last summer.

Seven people drowned in the space of a week during July 2021 across Scotland, including four children aged nine, 11,13, and 16.

As part of the plan, new water safety promotions will be targeted at areas judged to be at a higher risk for drowning, and signs will be improved at popular locations including lochs and reservoirs.

Lesson plans on water safety have been developed for school pupils and there will be continued development of the national Learn to Swim framework delivered with local authorities.

Community Safety Minister Ash Regan, who chaired the water safety stakeholder group, said: “The Scottish Government takes water safety very seriously and this Action Plan includes a range of key steps agreed with our partners to further mitigate the risks from Scotland’s coastal and inland waters.

“Scotland’s beaches, rivers, reservoirs and lochs are amongst our finest natural resources, but beautiful as they are they can be a source of lethal danger and we continue to see the tragic consequences of that.

“The actions in the plan are targeted at creating a safer environment in Scotland. But whether it’s sailing, swimming, diving or fishing, anyone undertaking recreational activities in and around water must be fully aware of the risks and take every possible precaution.”

Other actions in the plan include training for businesses and the public on how to use rescue equipment, a review of 999 procedures, and risk assessments for beaches.

Meanwhile, Scotland’s Water Safety Code will be developed to ensure public messages on key issues including hidden hazards and cold water shock are delivered in a consistent way.

The Scottish Government has also announced additional funding of £60,000 for Water Safety Scotland to develop its co-ordination role for all organisations with an interest in water safety.

Michael Avril, chairman of Water Safety Scotland, said: “We would like to thank the minister for taking a proactive approach to the prevention of drownings in Scotland.

“The release of this action plan, created in partnership with member organisations, complements Scotland’s Drowning Prevention Strategy.

“Today, we have published the Interim Review of the strategy and we are hopeful this, combined with the Action Plan and increased collaboration from partners, will help Scotland meet its key targets to reduce accidental drowning fatalities by 50% by 2026 and contribute to reduction of water-related suicide.”

The interim review showed that the number of water-related fatalities is decreasing in Scotland.

Scotland’s Drowning Prevention Strategy had an initial average baseline of 96 fatalities (2013–2015), which has decreased over a period of five years (2016–2020) to an average of 92.

Members of the action plan group include Crown Estate Scotland, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, Police Scotland, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, HM Coastguard, RNLI and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.