SCOTLAND is not prepared for the risks of coastal erosion which is likely to cause far more than the £400m worth of damage to communities first predicted, experts have warned.

A Dynamic Coast project looking into the effects on the nation from climate change predicted three years ago that over a fifth of Scotland's coastline - over 2000 miles - was at risk of erosion through sea level rises, with threats from flooding to infrastructure, including roads and railways worth £400m by 2050.

And Prof Jim Hansom, the principle researcher of the Dynamic Coast project, who is finishing off an updated examination of the threat to Scotland, has warned the nation is not doing enough to tackle the issue, saying it is a more immediate threat than climate change.

The National Coastal Change Assessment projected that 30,000 buildings are sited close to potentially erodible coasts, and that as the deterioration rates continue in the future, by 2050, residential and non-residential buildings, along with railway lines and roads are expected to be directly affected by coastal erosion.

Scientists and experts reviewing future effects on UK coasts for the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) have said that NCCA numbers are "likely to be underestimates as erosion rates are expected to increase in future due primarily as a result of increases in the rate of sea level rise".

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At the time of the first NCCA, environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said it was “vital that local authorities, transport agencies and other planning bodies investigate how they can work together to manage coastal change before it’s too late”.

She then warned that more than 9,000 buildings, 500 kilometres of road, 60 kilometres of rail track, 300 kilometres of water supply lines and vital airport runways, such as Islay, which are protected by natural defences already face serious damage.

And Prof Hansom, who warned three years ago in launching the study that there was the "clock was ticking" and that the nation needed to adapt to "avoid unnecessary costs" has now warned that not enough is being done to deal with the threats from rising sea levels.

"Are we dealing with the issue properly? The bottom line is no, " he said. "The Dynamic Coast has demonstrated that the recent period has seen an almost 40% increase in the extent of erosion and a doubling of the rate of erosion. So things are speeding up."

But he accepted their past erosion predictions were based on past rates, and do not include future sea level change.

While an updated analysis is expected in the summer, Prof Hansom warned of the need for urgent action.

"The key thing is you hear a lot of things about climate change and reducing carbon emissions to tackle temperature increases and that is not going to help us for another 30 years," said Prof Hansom, an honorary research fellow at the University of Glasgow's School of Geographical and Earth Sciences.

"We have got an adaptational problem now that needs to be addressed, before any of these carbon emission stabilisations or reductions actually produce any effect."

He believed work is urgently required to reinforce Scotland's eroding coastline through artificial extensions of the nation's beaches to protect them from the ever-encroaching sea.

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He said Holland was leading the way in spending millions of pounds a year in using sand and sediment extracted offshore and deposited to replenish beaches and help shore the coastline up, but Scotland and the UK is lagging behind.

"There is an immediate problem that needs to be addressed now. Think about what is going to happen to your coastline before temperature stabilises," he said.


"You have to think seriously about what happens at Edinburgh seafront, what happens across the Glasgow seafront, not to mention the hundreds of wee towns along the coast like Arbroath and Stonehaven and Stornoway.

"When you think where our sewage sites are they are close to sea level, where our railways and roads that hug the coast, they are going to be jeopardised, many are going to be under threat in 30 or 40 years time. Before we begin to stabilise carbon emissions and control the temperature, we have got these sea level rises happening now, " added Prof Hansom, who also said it does not make sense to develop areas that are close to sea level.

A new MCCIP report fed into by more than 150 scientists warns that the latest UK sea-level rise projections is "higher than previous estimates, implying increased coastal-flood risk".

"The likelihood of compound effects from tidal flooding and extreme rainfall is increasing, which can greatly exacerbate flood impacts," it said.

Montrose has been cited as an example of the threat of climate change to the future of links golf in Scotland.

A separate analysis on the impact of climate change on coasts but with a focus on transport and infrastructure says that it is estimated the average erosion rates around the Scottish coastline have doubled since the 1970s to 1.0 metre per year.

READ MORE: New flood warnings as Orkney predicted to have highest water levels for 15 years

Nearly 7,500 miles of UK transport infrastructure is considered to be at risk of flooding.

The report says there are "several vulnerable stretches" of railway track including the Ayrshire Coast Line.

The 2017 Dynamic Coast project used information drawn from more than 2,000 maps and a million data points and was carried out by experts from the Scottish government, Scottish Natural Heritage and the University of Glasgow.

It was then discovered that the erosion of the coastline had doubled in speed over the previous 40 years.



Two weeks ago there were warnings of extensive coastal flooding across Scotland - as Storm Brendan battered the country.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) said that on Orkney on Tuesday at Stromness, Stronsay, Scapa, Sanday, Westray, St Margaret's Hope, Longhope and Hoy, Burray and Ayre of Cara, water levels were predicted to be the highest in the last 15 years

It warned that any properties that had been affected by coastal flooding in the past were likely to be at risk.