Scots are being urged to take part in a mass protest after sewage was released into Scotland’s waters more than 14,000 times last year. 

Charity group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) want to make the outrage felt by the public clear in a series of "paddle-out" demonstrations across the UK on May 20 - including Edinburgh's Portobello beach. 

Swimmers, paddlers, surfers, canoers, kayakers, paddle-boarders, windsurfers and anyone who cares about the health of their local blue spaces are being invited to take to the water, beach or riverbank to make their demands heard.

Charlie Allanson-Oddy, 49, is one of the two local volunteers helping organise the Edinburgh event taking place at 1pm near Laing Terrace later this month.

“We hope to raise the profile of existing difficulties of an antiquated sewage system that was designed for a much smaller population, with a crumbling infrastructure and without the promised investment into it.

“Certainly as someone who’s a regular beach user at Portobello, I see so-called baby wipes washed up on the beach every time I go.

"They can only have come through our sewage system, pumped out into the Firth of Forth and then come back in on the tide."

READ MORE: Public urged to stay away from 83 beaches after sewage leaks pollute top spots

It comes after the number of recorded spills in Scotland reached 14,008 in 2022 - the highest figure since records began in 2017.

Mr Allanson-Oddy warned that only a "small proportion" of beach-goers will be aware of the extent of the pollution. 

"At my local beach, Portobello, I see literally thousands of people on a busy day, not getting in the water but being by the water on the beach walking for pleasure with children, dogs and things like that," he said.

"I think a small proportion of them will be aware, for instance, that we were doing some water quality testing the year before last during the bathing season and the Figgate Burn tested at unsafe levels for E.Coli every single week.

Scottish Water pledged to increase the number of storm drain monitors to more than 1000 by the end of 2024. 

The Herald:

However, a survey conducted by SAS showed that less than a fifth (16%) of adults were confident the body was using their money to improve services. 

The questionnaire of a nationally representative sample of 4000 adults also showed that 83% of residents in Scotland support a ban on bonuses for CEOs who fail to adhere to minimum environmental standards. 

Scotland and other parts of the UK allow untreated sewage to be released into Combined Sewer Overflows to prevent possible flooding during periods of heavy rain. 

However, the organisation has previously pointed out 143 of 'dry spills' in the UK where sewage overflows took place despite no rain for two days. 

The survey also indicated that the pollution of beaches and seas could influence voting in the future. 

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Almost a quarter of Scots said that environmental issues will be their most important factor for voting - among these people, six in ten said that water pollution was the most pressing issue.

SAS has issued demands to end sewage discharges into UK bathing waters as well as a 90% reduction of overall sewage discharges by the end of this decade.

Mr Allanson-Oddy added: "Part of the reason for the protest is to remind us what's happening, that shouldn't be happening."

Kim Travers, who is co-organising the paddle-out protest in Edinburgh, said: “We are calling for year-round water monitoring and an end to sewage pollution by 2030.” 

Currently, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) only tests the country's bathing waters between June and September, despite many using them year-round.

READ MORE: 'We were horrified.' Calls for monitoring as filthy river branded a health hazard

The poll conducted last month by Opinium also emphasized the importance of clean seas and rivers for well-being. 

More than half (56%) of Scots said that access to blue space is beneficial for their physical health while two in five went even further and said limited access to blue space is detrimental for their mental health.

Despite this, nearly two-thirds (62%) say sewage pollution puts them off going in the sea and rivers in the UK. 

Josh Harris, head of communications at SAS, said: "Water companies should not be allowed to profit from pollution, and our data shows that the public agree, with a huge majority calling for an end to industry fat cats pocketing bonuses whilst failing to meet minimum environmental standards. 

“And it’s not just the water companies that need to clean up their act. The Government and regulators should be enforcing high standards and holding water companies to account, but it’s clear to the public that they’re not doing enough.

"We’ve suffered decades of broken sewers because of our broken system, and now the public have had enough and are demanding an to end this sewage scandal.”