Scotland's sewage crisis 40% worse than previously thought

27 Mar 2024
Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today accused the Scottish Government of being "defenders of outdated sewage standards" as figures published by Scottish Water revealed that that there were an additional 5,668 sewage dumps in Scotland in 2022, on top of the initial 14,008 that were reported in March 2023.  

New figures from Scottish Water reveal that in addition to 14,008 sewage dumps reported to SEPA as a part of its annual report, 5,668 sewage dumps were recorded but not included in the annual report to SEPA. This means the number of sewage dumps in 2022 was 19,676, 40% higher than previously known.

SEPA licenses individual storm and emergency overflows to discharge to the water environment under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) regulations. These licenses have varying reporting requirements, and these new figures cover overflows which were not required to be included in the annual report to SEPA, but were still monitored.

Alex Cole-Hamilton said:

"People will be disgusted to learn that sewage is being dumped into our rivers and waterways more than 50 times a day.

"Yet even this new figure is still likely to be a huge underestimate, as the vast majority of overflows are simply not monitored. Scotland is way behind England where 91% of sewage outlets are monitored. Last year figures from just 4% of outlets in Scotland were reported to the environmental regulator SEPA.

"Both Scottish Water and SEPA have big questions to answer ahead of the publication of fresh statistics next month.

"It is time for the SNP to stop being the defenders of outdated sewage standards. They need to get tough with the government-owned water company whose bosses pocket bumper bonuses while dumping sewage into our rivers.

"To turn the tide on this scandal, Scottish Liberal Democrats have published plans for a Clean Water Act that would see vital updates to our sewage network and a clamp down on discharges."