Date: 11 November 2010
UNISON welcomes Water Bill consultation
UNISON Scotland today welcomed the announcement of a consultation
over the proposed Scottish Water Bill. The aim of the Bill remains
to keep Scottish Water in public ownership, but to allow the utility
to expand its operations and engage in wider activities such as
renewable energy projects.
It also provides an opportunity to promote a wider vision of
water resources. UNISON particularly welcomes the Ministerís commitment
to retain the control of Scottish Water in public ownership.
UNISONís Scottish Organiser Dave Watson said: ďUNISON Scotland
shares the long term vision that Scotlandís water is much more
than the provision of a utility. It is a vital economic asset
that will become even more important in the years to come. If
the 20th Century was dominated by oil, then the 21st Century will
be dominated by water provision. Wet countries like Scotland are
well placed to exploit the economic and environmental opportunities.Ē
UNISON expects that the usual vested interests will use the
Bill consultation to yet again argue the case for privatisation.
This would involve selling off assets paid for by the taxpayer
over many years at a fraction of its true value.
We would be selling off huge swathes of Scotland, almost certainly
to foreign interests, together with the opportunity to exploit
Scotlandís water potential for the benefit of big business rather
than the people. Charge payers would face higher bills to pay
for the purchase debt, fees and directors salaries.
Dave Watson added: ďThose arguing for privatisation, or the Trojan
horse that is mutualisation, have no vision beyond a quick profit
for their companies. They are tied to a narrow privatisation ideology
that Scotland rightly rejects. When communities across the world
are reclaiming their water, it would be crazy for Scotland to
abandon our greatest asset.Ē
UNISON Scotland regards the Bill consultation as an important
step towards a broader approach to water in Scotland. The current
approach of the Scottish Water Board and the regulatory framework
can act as barrier to this larger vision for Scotlandís water.
Scotland needs a democratically accountable, strategic approach
to water that is broader than simply providing a utility, important
though that is. On Scottish Water much emphasis is placed on the
£140m of government financing for capital in the current financial
difficulties. Less well known is the fact that £90m is returned
through loan repayment.
None of this would be necessary if Scottish Water had prudential
borrowing powers and UNISON would argue for the early adoption
of this approach. The implementation of the Calman recommendations
or the relaxation of HMRC budget guidance could achieve this.
This would also enable a public service solution to the exploitation
of the renewable energy opportunities, rather than another expensive
Ďpartnershipí. We need to develop Scotlandís capacity to exploit
For further information please see UNISON Scotlandís Defend Scotlandís
Water briefing at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/water/index.html