Lossiemouth’s iconic East Beach is one of eight that have been condemned in a report by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) – resulting in environmentalists branding the ‘Keep Scotland Beautiful’ (KSB) awards as “worthless”.
Politicians have also branded the KSB awards as “embarrassing” after the SEPA analysis of 20 beaches in Scotland resulted in their being classed as ‘poor’ as they failed to meet recently set European pollution limits.
Lossiemouth’s East Beach is among those judged in the report as suffering from contamination from toxic bacteria from overflowing sewers or animal waste washed off the land.
Labour’s environment spokeswoman, Claire Baker MSP, criticised the KSB awards saying that they had to be more than a ‘PR exercise’.
She said: “We have to ensure that these awards are more than just PR exercises and that the seaside award benchmarks are robust enough to reflect what the public expect from our award-winning beaches,” she said.
“Considering the number of beaches across Scotland that will continue to pass SEPA’s tougher testing, the minister’s decision to launch the awards at a beach that will currently fail to meet the standard is embarrassing for the government.”
KSB say that it costs £300 to apply for a ‘rural’ seaside award and £400 for a ‘resort’ – with 46 rural and 15 resort awards this year KSB had an income of £19,800.
Defending their awards, a KSB Spokeswoman said: “The Scottish seaside awards are given by a jury on the basis of 28 criteria, of which water quality is only one.
“The criteria are designed to reflect the whole visitor experience and they also recognise excellence in beach management, on-site facilities, benefits to local people and the tourism economy of the area.”
However, KSB acknowledged that water standards used by them that were set in 1976 were no longer valid. She said: “On water quality standards, KSB is guided by SEPA and no award would be made if measured water quality fell below the current EU directive standard.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The KSB awards consider many aspects when assessing and allocating seaside awards.
“We welcome the recognition these awards provide to many aspects of what makes our beaches worthy of recognition and visiting.”
SEPA meanwhile stressed that its ratings on bathing waters were projections based on the previous four years and could change. A spokesman said: “It is encouraging that already more than 75% of our existing bathing waters would be sufficient, good or excellent under the revised directive classifications.”