Comment: EU beach water ratings may spur action

File picture: Scott Louden
File picture: Scott Louden
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EVERY morning as most of us are heading to work or enjoying a cup of tea before starting on our daily business, a small group of hardy souls can be seen swimming in the sea off Portobello.

Nothing seems to put them off – not the biting cold of a Scottish winter, not the lack of shelter when they emerge from the water and not the “poor” quality of the sea water.

Perhaps those who will brave the waves of the Firth of Forth in January are not a reliable gauge for what would be tolerable for the rest of us, but their regular swims are a reminder that – whatever official rating is given to the water quality of our beaches – they are far from being toxic pools.

The poor rating given to Portobello – as well as nearby Fisherrow, in Musselburgh, and Yellowcraig, further down the East Lothian coast – does not mean the water there is dirty.

This is a reminder of a problem that has long been known about and continues to drag down what is otherwise a beautiful stretch of the Scottish coastline.

The drains in Edinburgh are no longer fit for purpose. When there is heavy rain we end up with dirty waste overflowing straight into the Forth.

Swimming on those days – for most of us average folk at least – carries the risk of leaving you with a nasty bug. It can’t be good for the wildlife either.

There is no cheap solution to this problem, but it is something that we need to face up to – and sooner rather than later.

European Union rules mean that we will soon have to display these ratings on these beaches. That’s not much of an encouragement for visitors to read on the water front that the water quality is poor.

Perhaps, though, this is just the kick up the pants that we need to finally get something done about the problem.