Scotland

Will Flotilla help Glasgow fall in love again with the Clyde?

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Media captionFeature - Flotilla on Clyde celebrates Games

As the old saying goes, Glasgow made the Clyde and the Clyde made Glasgow.

Its waters have carried all sorts of cargo: slaves, troops, tobacco, sugar, locomotives, steel, holidaymakers and, to world acclaim, its banks once echoed with the clamour of shipbuilding.

Now, in terms of activity, it's a shadow of its former self.

The Waverley, the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world, still operates cruises from Pacific Quay 'doon the watter', to Dunoon, the Kyles of Bute and the like.

But the overwhelming sense is of a river whose most productive days are behind it.

It's not a situation James Stuart, chief executive officer of the Royal Yachting Association Scotland, is willing to tolerate.

With a passion for water sports and marine tourism, he had a vision a bit like Kevin Costner's in the movie Field of Dreams.

However, instead of building a baseball diamond in his field, Stuart's dream was to stage of procession of boats during the Commonwealth Games, something to celebrate the international drama and the famous river, which he wanted people to connect with again.

The event's name, where exactly it could be staged, who might back it financially - all were complicated by the strictures of the Games.

But he persisted and when an astonishing 250 boats and 1,900 sailors mustered at James Watt Dock in Greenock on Saturday to prepare for the journey of 18 nautical miles to Pacific Quay, Stuart had reason to feel proud.

As some boats began their return journey along the Clyde, Stuart told BBC Scotland that the sight of so many vessels taking part had given him a lump in his throat.

"It has surpassed our wildest dreams," he said.

"It was about coming together, meeting people and having fun. We want people in Scotland to realise that this is their water and that there's no fee to go on it.

"We want to bring the Clyde back to life. Scotland has the finest waters on the planet."

Glasgow Life stumped up £150,000 and Inverclyde Council £250,000 to help stage the flotilla.

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Media captionLaura Bicker meets some of the people taking part in the Commonwealth Games flotilla on the River Clyde

They were rewarded with crowds of tens of thousands watching the spectacle from vantage points in Greenock, Port Glasgow, Bowling, Erskine, Braehead, Glasgow's Riverside Museum and the final destination next to BBC Scotland's headquarters, where pontoons had been installed.

RYA Scotland say it was the largest flotilla ever to sail on the Clyde and they were delighted that a royal guest joined in the fun, too.

"We had a visit from the Earl of Wessex," explained Stuart.

"He got on the Ocean Youth Trust Scotland yacht Alba Endeavour at the Riverside Museum and crossed to Pacific Quay.

"He worked his way along the pontoons chatting to all the families asking how far they had travelled; from Wales, Shetland, Largs, everywhere! He seemed to be enjoying himself."

The Commonwealth Flotilla is likely to be remembered as a joyous spectacle. For it to reignite a love of the Clyde so that people actually use it, more cash and energy will be required.

The pontoons installed at Pacific Quay in Govan are only temporary, after all.

There are active marinas at Bowling, Greenock, Inverkip, Largs and Rhu, for example, but boating clubs aren't exactly at capacity.

"I hope the people who saw it thought it was interesting enough to get out on the water," added Stuart.

"I hope they feel inspired. My message is for people to get out on the water and enjoy it.

Image copyright William Wilson
Image caption The Commonwealth Flotilla gathered in Greenock before heading to Glasgow

"In terms of business, my big hope is that, having staged such an event, we start many more conversations with Glasgow City Council and Inverclyde Council."

The British Marine Federation (BMF) says direct revenue for Scottish companies involved in leisure, super yacht and small commercial marine activities was £82.6m in 2012-13.

In addition, it states that boating tourism generated £366m in gross value added revenue in that period, sailors eating in local restaurants and so on.

BMF Scotland, which represents 57 marine leisure companies in the country, reports that kayaking, motor boating and yachting are the three most popular activities on the water.

That £82.6m in revenue is only 2.8% of the UK total.

The Clyde and the rest of Scotland's waters feel like an underused asset.

Those who lined the Clyde and sailed in the Commonwealth Flotilla might agree.

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