FLOATING villages could be created on Scotland's waterways following a multimillion-pound investment in the country's canal network.
It is hoped around 80 jobs could be created with the announcement of a Scottish Government spending package worth £4.6m.
The money will help bring forward a number of major projects – including new floating villages, a paddle-sports centre, footbridges and canoe trails.
It is hoped the project will boost tourism, regeneration, sport and living on the water.
The investment is in addition to previously announced grant-in-aid for Scottish Canals of £10m for 2012-13.
As a result, residential moorings and the formulation of floating communities at Firhill and Grangemouth, and other locations across Lowland canals, are being developed through the Living on the Water Initiative.
Other projects that stand to benefit from the extra funding –with £1.33m in 2012-13 and £3.3m in 2013-14 – are the regeneration of the Pinkston Basin on the Forth and Clyde and the creation of a paddle-sports centre.
At Bowling Harbour in West Dunbartonshire the plan is to upgrade a former railway bridge for a walking and cycling link.
Hopes of encouraging a cafe culture at Speirs Wharf in Port Dundas, Glasgow, will be given a lift with the help a new footbridge.
There are also overnight canoe rest-stops planned along the Great Glen Canoe Trail to encourage responsible camping, with further facilities for camping for the Caledonian Canal.
Transport Minister Keith Brown said: "Scotland's canals provide a stunning setting for water-based leisure activity– supporting tourism, educational opportunities and the economy.
"Our canals are of historic significance, and are an asset we place great value on.
"Excellent progress has been made over the past decade in revitalising the network, and we are now keen to deliver a wider public benefit. A fine start has been made, but much more remains to be done and this funding will allow continued progress.
"Our canals organisation Scottish Canals has shown ambitious vision and effective partnership working – whether with the public sector, third sector or private sector – to realise the benefits from our canals. As well as driving forward the regeneration of both urban and rural canal-side communities, it is active in the tourism market.
"Continued investment in the canals has led to communities gaining pride in their canals.
"The canals in Scotland have helped to generate a three-fold return on investment for the Scottish Government over the past 10 years."
Steve Dunlop, chief executive of Scottish Canals, said: "This major investment by Scottish Government gives us an exciting opportunity to make a positive impact on the local communities where we operate, attract significant tourism into Scotland, create jobs and stimulate business growth that will benefit the wider Scottish economy.
"This funding will be used to advance a wide range of highly ambitious, yet achievable, projects that will take Scotland's canals forward into a bright new future."
Bailie Liz Cameron, Executive Member for Jobs and the Economy at Glasgow City Council, said the investment "will add to the regeneration efforts of the council and our partners on the Forth and Clyde Canal.
"The past few years have seen new life brought to the canal in Glasgow, with new homes and leisure and cultural uses. We will work with our partners in the future to make the most of the canal in the city."