Scotland’s rate of accidental drowning is almost double the UK average

Scotland carries a disproportionate rate of accidental drowning fatalities in comparison to other areas within the UK. This will come as little to surprise given that the country has an estimated 30,000 freshwater lochs and a huge coastline, giving residents and visitors considerable access to water.

Yet even with this in mind, it is alarming that Scotland’s rate of accidental drowning is almost double the UK average – according to statistics collected by the Water Incident Database (WAID), there were 46 accidental drowning fatalities in Scotland and a further 26 water related suicides in 2017.

Tragically, in 4 in 10 of Scotland’s accidental drownings, the person had no intention of entering the water. Instead they were participating in healthy and beneficial everyday activities such as walking, running or cycling.

This is a state of affairs that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is determined to change though collaboration with other water safety organisations and our partners in Scottish local government.

Delivering the Scottish Drowning Prevention Strategy

In early April of this year, a workshop was organised by RoSPA and RNLI to discuss the management of water safety in Scotland’s local authorities. Representatives from Perth and Kinross Council, RoSPA and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) led workshop sessions at the water safety summit at the RNLI’s headquarters in Perth.   The event was supported by the Scottish Community Safety Network and Water Safety Scotland and aimed to help local authorities gain a better understanding of water safety policies and their benefits.

During the day, there were opportunities  to allow for in-depth discussions about water safety and to share best practice for accident prevention near and on water. During these talks, local authorities were encouraged to move towards developing their own policy on water safety and identify any barriers to doing so. This is a key objective of the Scottish Drowning Prevention Strategy 2018-2026. Scotland’s 32 Local authorities are in a strong position to recognise dangerous sites and put in place preventative processes to reduce the risk of fatal drowning instances.

Commenting on the water safety meeting, Michael Avril, RNLI community safety partner for Scotland, said: “The RNLI is delighted to have been able to facilitate the meeting with RoSPA and our partners in Scottish local government. I am confident we will all go forward with a renewed sense of common purpose and be united in our efforts to prevent serious accidents and death and on Scotland’s coast and inland waters.”

The meeting follows the November release of a RoSPA report entitled Local Authority Approaches to Managing Water Safety which recommends that councils should share good practice and successes in water safety by joining Water Safety Scotland, a group of organisations from across the country dedicated to tackling drowning.

We need a consistent approach to water safety in Scotland which combines clear and targeted safety messages with practical measures.

RoSPA is determined to play its part, and we hope that others will too.

Carlene McAvoy, community safety development manager at RoSPA Scotland