Water Safety and Life-saving Equipment

Part of Petition - Road Safety Outside Wingate Primary School – in the House of Commons at 6:46 pm on 24th July 2019.

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Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 6:46 pm, 24th July 2019

I sympathise with the families of those who have lost loved ones in the York area. The circumstances that the hon. Lady describes sound absolutely awful. I agree that more needs to be done on funding for these organisations, because it feels very much to me as though a lot of this is left up to charity and the good will of local organisations or councils rather than our having a specific pot of funding.

Incidents of drowning are, fortunately, decreasing in Scotland. Water Safety Scotland noted that there were 78 water-related fatalities in Scotland in 2018, down from over 100 in 2013, but that does not mean that we should be complacent. We need to continue to ensure that people do not lose their lives in the water. I note that the Scottish Government have designated 2020 the Year of Coasts and Waters. That seems as good an opportunity as any to discuss some issues to do with water safety, as well as exploring the virtues of our coasts and waters and the wider environment.

I am grateful to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, which responds to water incidents as part of its duties. It provided statistics that revealed that it attended 79 incidents on the Clyde last year, which is an increase of 13 on the previous year. It has a 3:1 ratio of rescues to fatalities, which is heartening, but there have been a few incidents in Glasgow recently that give me pause for thought as I cross the river in the course of my day; I can see the tributes to loved ones who have been lost.

We are very fortunate in Glasgow to have not only the water safety working group, but a dedicated organisation—the Glasgow Humane Society—watching over the safety of people using our waterways. The society was founded in 1790 by members of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, which employed an officer to carry out the practical work of drowning prevention, rescue and the recovery of bodies from the river. Since then, it has sought to pursue water safety issues in Glasgow and the wider world, and it is now under the stewardship of the great George Parsonage. The Clyde runs in his blood, he having taken on the vocation of his father, Benjamin Parsonage, in the Glasgow Humane Society, and his family are very much involved in the organisation in a voluntary capacity.