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Alexandra MacKenzie reports
"For many the reopening of the canal was the realisation of a 30-year dream"
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Saturday, 26 May, 2001, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Canal re-opens after 40 years
Fish-shaped boat
Hundreds lined the banks of the canal at Falkirk
The Forth and Clyde Canal, which links the east and west coasts of Scotland, has re-opened after almost 40 years.

Hundreds watched the reopening of the 56-kilometre canal, which was celebrated with a spectacular flotilla and a huge children's parade in Falkirk.

The reconnection of the North Sea to the Atlantic through Scotland's oldest canal follows an innovative regeneration project aimed at breathing new life into waterways.

The reopening, which will allow boats to travel between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde, marks the completion of the first stage of the 78m Millennium Link.

This is a momentous day in the regeneration of Scotland's canals with the reopening of the Forth and Clyde Canal to through navigation after nearly 40 years.

Transport Minister Sarah Boyack
It was celebrated by hundreds of schoolchildren and spectators who lined the canal banks in Falkirk as a specially-constructed 35ft fish-shaped boat led more than 40 vessels from Falkirk west to the Firth of Clyde in the British Waterways Scotland parade.

Scottish transport minister Sarah Boyack announced additional 1.5m funding for British Waterways Scotland.

The money will be used to improve canals through extra dredging, removal of contamination, reducing leakage and enhancing canalside facilities.

The historic Leamington Lift Bridge on the Union Canal, which runs through Midlothian, West Lothian and Stirling, will also be restored to full working order.

Millennium Wheel at Falkirk
The Millennium Wheel is part of the restoration project
The reopening of the 200-year-old Forth and Clyde Canal, running from Grangemouth on the Firth of Forth to Bowling on the Firth of Clyde, is the first part of the staged opening of the Millennium Link scheme.

The project will eventually allow boats to travel from the heart of Edinburgh to Glasgow and the Clyde Estuary via the Union Canal, Forth and Clyde Canal and the Falkirk Wheel, a unique boat lift which will connect the two canals.

Ms Boyack said: "This is a momentous day in the regeneration of Scotland's canals with the reopening of the Forth and Clyde Canal to through navigation after nearly 40 years.

"Canals have been a much under-utilised resource in recent times and British Waterways Scotland have got a huge task on their hands in bringing the canals up to scratch and encouraging their use.

"I am therefore delighted to announce today an extra 1.5 million grant for BW Scotland in recognition of the financial pressure they face. This funding will be used to help encourage the public to make greater use of our canal network.

"Canals can contribute greatly to Scotland's urban regeneration and provide new opportunities for recreation and tourism. I encourage all those involved to continue to work together to ensure that the enormous potential of the Millennium Link will be realised."

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