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Date: Thur 20 December 2007

PFI proposals mainly window-dressing - UNISON

UNISON, Scotland's public service union today attacked Scottish government proposals for a huge private company to run Scottish PFI schemes. The union said the proposals simply put a gloss of public accountability on PFI and PPP, and the government had shied away from addressing the real problems of expensive and inflexible schemes.

Dave Watson, UNISON's Scottish Organiser - Policy said "UNISON is obviously in favour of any improvement on PFI/PPP, but an initial glance suggests that what is being proposed is mainly window-dressing, and looks nothing like what the SNP promised in their Scottish Futures Trust policy document.

"Non Profit Distribution models retain higher borrowing costs, private profit is still taken out of public services at the contractor level and the so-called risk transfer costs still apply, all leading to the same profiteering and inflexibility inherent in PFI.

"We are sceptical that a private company such as the proposed Scottish Futures Trust can have a genuine public interest ethos. It may not take a profit, but the banks and the private firms it contracts to run our services certainly will."

UNISON has campaigned for many years against PFI and PPP methods of financing public services, and has already suggested immediate and effective steps that the Government could take, were it to be serious about moving away from PFI.

Dave said "While the Treasury is the main driver for PFI, there are a number of things that the Scottish Government could have proposed. A review could be carried out of existing contracts, 'buying them out', if this benefits the public purse. No new PPP contracts should be approved, including all projects in the planning phase. Scottish Government grants should be offered for new capital projects irrespective of the method of procurement. Health boards should be given prudential borrowing powers, and new procurement arrangements should ensure that staff are excluded from transfer."


Note to editors: For UNISON proposals to move away from PFI see our evidence to the Scottish Parliament Finance Committee on their Call for Evidence on the Funding of Public Capital Investment Projects, and our At What Cost? report. www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/capitalinvest.html and www.unison-scotland.org.uk/comms/atwhatcostoct07.pdf

For Further Information Please Contact: Dave Watson (Scottish organiser - Policy) 07958 122 409 (m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)