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Every Scots beach in guide passes water quality tests

EVERY Scottish beach entered in a prestigious guide has passed its rigorous quality standards for the first time in almost 30 years.

SEASIDE FUN: Charlie Morrison, six, and Hannah, eight, from Bearsden enjoy the start of the spring weather on the beach at North Berwick yesterday. Picture: Gordon Terris
SEASIDE FUN: Charlie Morrison, six, and Hannah, eight, from Bearsden enjoy the start of the spring weather on the beach at North Berwick yesterday. Picture: Gordon Terris

The boost for the country's shorelines comes in the annual Good Beach Guide, launched online today, as thousands of families flock to Scotland's coastline for the Easter holidays.

There's also good news for swimmers as the highest percentage of beaches in the publication's 27-year history have been recommended for their excellent water quality.

From Coldingham on the Berwickshire coast, to the Shetland island of Yell, Achmelvich in Sutherland and Southerness in Dumfries and Galloway, the guide paints an improving picture of the nation's bathing water.

According to the guide, produced by the Marine Conservation Society [MCS], 54 out of 95 (56.8%) of Scottish beaches tested last summer obtained the MCS's highest standard - 12 more than the previous year.

The MCS says bathers and beachgoers north of the Border should vote with their feet by bathing only at beaches recommended in the guide to maintain pressure on Scottish Water, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and local councils to tackle the sources of bathing water pollution.

The remainder of the Scottish entries, all achieved the mandatory minimum standards, compared to the four failures in last year's guide, which included Stonehaven. It has now passed.

In England there were six fails, four in Wales, one in Guernsey and three on the Isle of Man.

The improving picture was achieved following one of Scotland's driest summers although there was more rainfall north of the border, than some other parts of the UK last summer. But things are going to get tougher.

By the end of the 2015 bathing season, all designated bathing waters must meet the new minimum 'Sufficient' standard due to the revised EU Bathing Water Directive. This will be around twice as stringent as the current minimum standard.

According to the MCS this means that some beaches will need to do more to make the grade in the future from reducing pollution from sewage discharges and agricultural run-off to helping dog owners clean up after their pets. Beaches which don't meet the 'Sufficient' standard at the end of 2015 will have to display signs warning against bathing in the sea from the start of the bathing season in 2016.

Calum Duncan MCS's Scotland Programme Manager says he hopes the latest figures will be a boost to Scottish tourism after several wet summers which led to a drop in bathing water quality from pollution running into the sea from rural and urban areas and overloaded sewers. He said most people didn't realise what a big impact the weather could have on bathing water quality, but this had really been highlighted in the last few years.

According to the Met Office, 2008, 2009 and 2012 were amongst the wettest summers on record since 1910, leading to less Scottish bathing waters meeting minimum and higher water quality.

Mr Duncan added: "It's great news that for the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup year we are able to recommend more beaches than ever, showing just how good water quality at Scotland's beaches can be.

"The main challenge now is maintaining these standards, whatever the weather.

"It is the first time no Scottish beach in the guide has failed, although we are not necessarily comparing like with like."

This because those designated by SEPA as bathing water, can change. The guide is published in support of the MCS Campaign for Clean Seas and Beaches.

It is promoted as the only independent, comprehensive guide to bathing water quality around the whole of the UK.

It does not include every beach in Scotland, and has the designated beaches and those tested by the Highland Council and Shetland Islands Council.

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