Page last updated at 17:59 GMT, Sunday, 22 November 2009

Scottish flooding 'to get worse'

The clean-up in Dumfries
The clean-up is underway in Dumfries after the worst floods since 1990

Tough decisions about how to protect Scotland from worsening floods must be taken by politicians, a climate change expert has warned.

Dumfries and Galloway has just seen some of its worst ever flooding, and much of the country has been on the alert after record rainfalls.

Professor James Curran of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) fears flooding is going to increase.

He told BBC Scotland it is impossible to protect everywhere from flooding.

Prof Curran said the problem was simply down to climate change.

He said: "Globally the temperature has risen by almost one degree celsius over the past century so that actually means there is no natural weather left.

Cairn Valley floods
The Cairn Valley was one of the affacted areas. Picture by Lesley Gibb

"The weather outside your window at the moment is man-made and we don't seem to be doing a very good job of it, do we?"

He added: "Technically it's very, very hard to protect everything.

"The flooding is going to get more frequent and more extreme, so you go on building bigger and bigger protection against those kind of eventualities and there comes a point when it costs more to protect than the value you get out of it.

"So these judgements have to be made in the political arena and are being made now."

Holyrood Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham, also appearing on BBC Scotland's Politics Show, conceded there are weather related challenges ahead for the people of Scotland.

"It is never going to be possible to prevent every single household from ever being flooded regardless of the weather event and I think we have to understand that," she said.

"But what we also have to do is to take what steps we can to minimise the likelihood of it happening and to minimise the impact when it does happen.

"That means there's a responsibility on everybody - householders, business premises, local authorities, government all the involved agencies - every single one of us has got a responsibility to be part of that solution."

Prof Curran said flooding could mean people might eventually need to leave their homes and that new ways of managing the problem need to be found.

River Nith
The River Nith flooded onto the Whitesands

He said: "You can for example try to allow rivers to behave more naturally which reduces the amount of flooding, you can build flood defences and hopefully do those in a sensitive way that actually protects the environment too.

"Ultimately, if it becomes too expensive, you have to look at withdrawing from some flood prone areas and that's been done in other parts of the world."

Meanwhile, on Sunday evening Sepa had 16 flood watches and four flood warnings in place as the clean-up from Friday's floods continued.

A flood warning means flooding which will affect homes, businesses and main roads is expected and that immediate preventative action is needed.

The Met Office said rainfall at its Eskdalemuir observatory in the 24-hour period to 0900 GMT on Friday had exceeded the previous highest total, set in 1931.

Many businesses on the Whitesands suffered from flooding as the River Nith in Dumfries overflowed.

Several homes were flooded in Ettrick and Yarrow in the Borders as water levels rose on Friday.

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