THEY are among Scotland’s best-known tourist landmarks and transport hubs

– crucial to the country’s ability to keep residents moving and draw millions of visitors to its shores every year.

But as famous as the Forth Bridge and the Kelpies sculptures near Falkirk have become, scientists fear they are at risk of being flooded and destroyed by rising sea levels as the effect of climate change accelerates.

The environmental shifts taking place are so rapid that catastrophe could hit in just 30 years unless urgent action is taken, it has been claimed.

Among the tourist sites most at risk north of the Border is the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh, which welcomes more than 390,000 visitors a year from all over the world.

And it isn’t only individual structures and sites that are under threat from sea water which is expanding as its temperature rises – scientists are warning entire towns and urban districts could be submerged.

These include Clydebank and Dumbarton, in West Dunbartonshire, and neighbourhoods Partick and Govan in Glasgow, along with Glasgow airport.

To the east of the country, Grangemouth, near Falkirk, and areas near the Clackmannanshire Bridge were identified as being at risk.

Meanwhile, Leith in Edinburgh and North Queensbury could also be flooded, according to a map produced by Climate Central, an independent organisation of leading scientists.

The map predicts the impact climate change would have by 2050.

And a report produced alongside it warns that sea defences could be rendered useless within the lifetimes of most people alive today.

Climate Central’s report read: “Sea level rise is one of the best known of climate change’s many dangers.

“As humanity pollutes the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, the planet warms.

“And as it does, warming sea water expands, increasing the volume of the world’s oceans.

“The consequences range from near-term increases in coastal flooding that can damage infrastructure and crops to the permanent displacement of coastal communities.

“Areas shaded red reflect places that are lower than the selected local sea-level and/or coastal flood projection.

“Over the course of the 21st Century, global sea levels are projected to rise between about two and seven feet, and possibly more.”

Other notable sites around the UK that could be submerged include London’s Tower Bridge and the Palace of Westminster, the Palace Pier in Brighton, Liverpool’s Royal Albert Dock and Lindisfarne tidal island in Northumbria.

The report added: “Despite these existing defences, increasing ocean flooding, permanent submergence, and coastal defence costs are likely to deliver profound humanitarian, economic, and political consequences.

“This will happen not just in the distant future, but also within the lifetimes of most people alive today.”

Warnings of the catastrophic impact of rising sea levels on Scotland’s urban communities, tourist landmarks and transport infrastructure come after Italy’s government declared a state of emergency in flood-ravaged Venice.

In a present-day example of the kind of destruction Scotland could face, the historic city was engulfed by 6ft high water levels, flooding its historic basilica and cutting power to homes.

More than 80 per cent of the city, a Unesco world heritage site, was under water when tides were at their highest.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte described the flooding as “a blow to the heart of our country”.

He said the government would

now act quickly to provide funds and resources.

Last month, Historic Environment Scotland (HES) hosted the launch of a new network calling on arts, culture and heritage organisations to take urgent action against climate change.

The Climate Heritage Network will provide a platform for the sector to unite to address the challenges faced by iconic historic locations such as Skara Brae on Orkney, HES experts said.