Swinney gives flood support assurances at Holyrood

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SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has today welcomed news that the Scottish Government will consider applications for help in flood hit areas. She has also urged the Scottish Government to learn lessons from Cumbria where recently installed flood barriers failed to keep out water.


Ms McAlpine today (Tuesday) used parliamentary questions to ask Deputy First Minister John Swinney what help was being given to areas of the south of Scotland hit by flooding.


Mr Swinney said “I chaired meetings of the Scottish Government resilience committee during the course of this event to ensure all the appropriate support was in place to mitigate potential damage.”


“I have activated the Bellwin scheme to provide support to local authorities to assist with the immediate and unforeseen costs of dealing with the flood damage.”


The South Scotland MSP questioned Deputy First Minister John Swinney in the Scottish Parliament after flood barriers south of the border failed to protect people from the devastating effects of Storm Desmond.


Ms McAlpine asked what lessons could be learned from the experience in Cumbria, where waters breached flood defence systems built to withstand water levels of up to 7.2 metres.


Responding, Mr Swinney said that part of the problem was that “the rainfall that emerged has been significantly greater than was anticipated in the planning for the flood prevention schemes.”


He said:  “Very careful planning has to be undertaken in relation to flood alleviation schemes.


“It is important in the planning of these schemes that we look at a wide variety of factors to ensure that when we are making major capital investment, we properly take into account all relevant factors to ensure the capability and capacity of flood prevention measures.”


Ms McAlpine welcomed this assurance.  Commenting she said:


“All of Scotland’s existing flood defences worked over the weekend, showing how important these investments are, however our neighbours in Cumbria were not so fortunate despite having defences that some have suggested we should emulate.


“I am pleased that the Scottish Government recognises the importance of careful planning in relation to flood alleviation schemes, and I think this will be particularly important in Dumfries, where the Council recently approved a £15 million scheme for the Whitesands. The scheme has been subject to much debate and it’s important that we ensure what we build is fit for purpose. We also need to ensure that any flood defence doesn’t simply move the water somewhere else.”


She added:


“It is important to acknowledge our emergency responders and all the volunteers who have been working round the clock to help those most in need – they showed fantastic community spirit and are to be commended.”


The Scottish Government will continue to work closely with SEPA and Transport Scotland to monitor the latest updates so local authorities and the emergency services get the support they need.


Note to editors: The full text of the exchange is available here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10256&i=94384