Alison Johnstone: Beaches clearly a massive asset

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SUMMER is upon us, and one of the great things about living in Edinburgh is that on sunny days we’re spoiled for choice with many great beaches within easy reach. Our beaches aren’t just a great environmental resource; they’re a

huge economic asset, supporting our coastal communities. So it’s in everyone’s interest that our beaches are in first-class condition.

There’s a risk our confidence takes a bit of a knock when we see the predictions of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. The new, stricter standards on water quality due to come into force in two years’ time are a welcome update on legislation almost 40 years old. That legislation undeniably drove huge improvements but we must not be complacent. The new standards suggest the likes of Portobello and Fisherrow need some care and attention.

And if we add to that the various blue flags, Seaside Awards and Trip Advisor recommendations we have a seaside cocktail of confusion for visitors and locals who simply want to know whether they’re getting clean sand, clean water and decent facilities.

I have urged the tourism minister to address this issue.

Meantime, I can see a role for local communities being empowered to make any improvements needed. I regularly lend a hand at beach cleans at Cramond, and the amount of plastic rubbish that needs removed never ceases to amaze me. And just last weekend, the Fisherrow Waterfront Group organised a family fun day at what are known as Musselburgh’s “back sands”. Initiatives like these remind us of the great resources we have nearby, and encourage a sense of pride. I also note from Scottish Water’s business plan that investigations are planned into the water quality of River Esk, which could be a factor in the water quality at Fisherrow sands, and that funds are earmarked should improvements be required to Scottish Water’s infrastructure.

It’s tempting to gloss over the small number of worrying results and talk about the bigger picture and Scotland’s great reputation for fine shorelines. But if we did that we’d be doing communities like Portobello and Musselburgh a disservice, so let’s understand what the experts are telling us could be coming, let’s provide the public and tourists with clarity and confidence, and let’s make the case for investment to protect these valuable natural assets.

• Alison Johnstone is the Green MSP for Lothian region, and is a member of Holyrood’s economy and tourism committee