The number of spills of sewage into Scottish waterways increased across 20 local authority areas in a year, figures show.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have accused the Scottish Government of “not lifting a finger” to deal with the issues in rivers, coastlines and lochs.

The party’s analysis of official Scottish Water data showed just nine council areas did not record an increase in spills between 2022 and 2023.

Fife experienced the biggest percentage increase – 244.1% – with spills increasing from 213 to 733 in a year.

Meanwhile, spills in Moray increased by 117.5% from 40 to 87.

However, the true scale of the figures cannot be fully known as monitoring does not take place in Dundee, East Dunbartonshire and Edinburgh and, in 10 authorities, just one or two sites were recorded.

The analysis also found in South Lanarkshire that sewage was dumped a total of 3,111 times, lasting 27,682 hours in 2023, while Dumfries and Galloway had 2,397 spills lasting 24,682 hours.

Figures previously released by Scottish Water showed a total of 21,660 discharges were logged across the country in 2023, up 10% from 19,676 in the previous year.

Scottish Water has said it is committed to installing monitors on every combined sewer overflow by 2024.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Communities across Scotland will be alarmed by such big upticks in sewage dumps.

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“SNP and Green ministers haven’t lifted a finger to address this scandal. Instead, they sit idle while our rivers, coastlines and waterways take a battering.

“The true scale of the problem is likely a lot worse because very few sewage pipes are properly monitored.

“While ministers hide the dirtier reality, the government-owned water company is hiking its prices for customers and rewarding its executives with bumper bonuses.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton went on to demand ministers to “clamp down” on discharges.

The party wants to see a Clean Water Act implemented which would upgrade the sewage network and ensure all spills were recorded and published with binding targets to reduce them.

Professor Simon Parsons, director of environment, planning and assurance at Scottish Water, said 87% of waterbodies were rated good or better and said the increase in overflows was because of higher rainfall.

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He said: “Around 99% of these overflows is rainwater, surface water, road run-off, grey water, infiltration of groundwater and trade effluent.

“More than half of the overflows we report are at locations (settled storm sewer overflows/SSSOs) where there has been treatment of the flows, such as primary settlement and screening.

“We recognise releasing waste water, even occasionally, into Scotland’s rivers and seas is a concern to people and we are playing our part in fully informing the public, as well as improving infrastructure, alongside our regulator Sepa.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is important to note that overflows from sewers are wastewater which has been highly diluted by rainwater, and which normally consists of less than 1% toilet waste.

“Sepa assesses 87% of waterbodies in Scotland as having ‘high’ or ‘good’ water quality, up from 82% six years ago. This means our rivers and coastal waters are overall in good ecological condition, but we are not complacent, and continue to work closely with Sep and Scottish Water to monitor and improve water quality.

“Scottish Water is taking action and is committing up to £500 million to improve water quality, increase monitoring of the highest priority waters and tackle debris and spills. This includes a commitment to install at least 1000 new monitors on the network by the end of 2024 – good progress is being made, with around 800 having already been installed by the end of March.

“Scottish Water is also working with Sepa to identify and develop solutions for 108 high priority overflows impacting water quality or causing sewage related debris problems.”

Nathan Critchlow-Watton, head of water and planning at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), said: “More than 87% of watercourses are rated as good or better for water quality and we have a record-breaking number of bathing waters rated as ‘excellent’.

“Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) are an integral part of Scotland’s sewerage system, designed to discharge at times of high rainfall to prevent sewage backing up and flooding houses. Sepa regulate discharges to the water environment and assess Sewer Network Licences, with particular focus on unsatisfactory compliance, as these can discharge sewage litter and impact on people’s enjoyment of the environment.

“Climate change is leading to an increased frequency of high-intensity rainfall events, affecting the number of overflow events. We’re clear in our regulatory role in ensuring Scottish Water delivers against the Urban Waters Route Map, prioritising investment where it will have the most benefit for the environment and communities.

“Scottish Water have committed to installing monitors on every CSO discharging to a bathing or shellfish water by the end of 2024, with near real-time monitoring published for all monitored CSOs by the end 2024. Sepa will ensure this commitment is delivered.”