Implementation of the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009: report to the Scottish Parliament - 2019

Progress of work carried out in 2019 through the implementation of the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009.

1. Understanding Flood Risk

Flood risk is a measure of the likelihood that a flood event will happen and of its potential adverse consequences. The long-term aim of the Scottish Government and its partners is to reduce this risk.

Robust and reliable information on the causes and consequences of flooding are needed to promote well-informed decisions on how to tackle flood risk.

There were a number of advances and improvements in 2019 in our knowledge of flood risk and vulnerability in areas including:

  • Flood mapping
  • Flood forecasting and warning
  • Social vulnerability

1.1 National Flood Maps

SEPA continues to develop Scotland's flood mapping with ongoing advances in:

  • Flood map method development
  • Improved survey data
  • Flood modelling improvements
  • Map updates

A range of local updates across Scotland have been prepared for publication in 2020. These updates are mainly focussed on updates to SEPA's river flood maps. Further development of coastal flood maps is progressing with the outputs of the North East Coastal Study, which is the first phase of updating SEPA's Coastal Flood Hazard Maps to include wave action as a source of coastal flooding. In response to new science and data, SEPA are also preparing the project specification for a wholesale update of the surface water maps by 2023/24.

SEPA is committed to opening flood map data to wider use. In this regard, it is progressing the development of its licenses and moving towards open data. In further support of improved accessibility, the current flood map viewer is being redesigned in response to public requirements. Further developments are planned to support improved partner and stakeholder access to flood map data.

SEPA has also continued to engage with insurance industry groups as part of its focus on providing improved access and use of flood map data to support homeowners.

1.2 Flood Forecasting and Warning

There are around 300 flood warning areas across Scotland, where vulnerable communities benefit from SEPA's local early warning service. Receiving a flood warning allows people to take action including moving cars, moving possessions upstairs or installing property level protection.

The Scottish Government has invested significantly in improving, and supporting the continued development of Scotland's flood warning service. This includes funding to help SEPA and the Met Office operate a Scottish Flood Forecasting Service. This service ensures flood forecasting and warning information is made available to the public and emergency responders throughout Scotland. For example;

  • A daily Flood Guidance Statement is issued to over 800 emergency responder contacts. This provides shared understanding of current and forthcoming flood risk levels and locations, and advance notice of potential flooding situations to aid planning and coordination of appropriate emergency response.
  • Floodline's direct warning service is freely available to members of the public and sends a notification to registered customers when a regional Flood Alert or local Flood Warning is issued to help them take action and protect themselves and their property. The number of registrations to Floodline has continued to increase and reached almost 30,000 customers at the end of 2019; however many more benefit from the service through accessing regional Flood Alerts and local Warnings online and through social media.
  • The Flood Warning Development Framework (2017-2021) sets out plans to enhance the coverage and delivery of flood warning, including 14 new flood warning schemes that have been strategically identified, and prioritised, as part of the first round of flood risk management strategies.

These services, and the new developments and improvements that underpin them, are critical elements of SEPA's role in warning and informing responders and the public of flood risk, and the need to take action to prepare for flooding.

No new flood warning schemes were launched in 2019; however preparation work for new schemes to be launched in 2020 was progressed including the River Ayr and Annick Water flood warning schemes (Ayrshire), Eilean Siar coastal flood warning scheme (Western Isles) and Aberfoyle flood warning scheme (Stirlingshire). A major upgrade of the River Findhorn and Lossie flood warning schemes (Moray) was completed to take account of recent changes in these areas following the completion of Flood Protection Schemes.

The forecasting and warning systems are in constant development to expand and improve the service. Developing a new public flood forecast product for Scotland is one of the commitments in SEPA's Flood Warning Development Framework 2017-2021. Research undertaken with the help of CREW highlighted that Floodline customers find the current regional Flood Alerts too generic and confusing. Customers would like to receive further advance notice if flooding is forecast. To address this, a project has been set up to develop a new product jointly with the Met Office and SEPA under the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service partnership arrangements.

The project team is following the Scottish Government Service Design approach to develop this product based on customer feedback. In 2019, this has involved 1-2-1 interviews and workshops with emergency responders, SEPA and Met Office staff. Further engagement with the public and community flood groups at a later stage will ensure that the service is used and fully valued by the public. The aim is to launch this new service in 2021.

1.3 Understanding the Social Impacts of Flooding

The three year research project commissioned by Scottish Government, through CREW (Centre of Expertise for Waters), to better understand the long term impacts of flooding entered its third year in 2019. The outputs will help us better understand what types of support and advice people and communities need at different stages of a long-term recovery from flooding.

The University of Aberdeen and the James Hutton Institute conducted surveys and repeated face to face interviews in 3 consecutive years (2017, 2018, 2019) with residents in Ballater and Garioch who were affected by the widespread flooding in the winter of 2015/16.

The surveys and interviews show that:

  • two thirds of respondents from flooded homes were unable to return to their own homes for more than six months after the flooding
  • more than half of the respondents who used temporary accommodation moved more than once
  • the number of temporary residents increased with the length of time respondents were unable to return to their own home.
  • Some people moved residence 5 times

60% of respondents reported a deterioration in physical health.

The final report is to be published in early 2020, alongside a summary report.



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