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Date: Tues 20 May 2008

Scottish Futures Trust looks like simply 'PFI-Lite', says UNISON

UNISON,the union that represents staff working for Scotland's Public services, today called on the Scottish Government to stop inventing new ways of delivering PFI and to start practical steps to abandon it.

Matt Smith, UNISON's Scottish Secretary today rejected the Scottish Government's 'flagship' Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) plan as 'PFI-lite', saying that the SFT looks like a vehicle to continue with private sector funding and running of public services as is done in PFI/PPP.

UNISON Scotland has already submitted a response to the consultation document and has given evidence (13 May) to the Scottish Parliament Finance Committee's inquiry into the funding of public capital investment projects.

The union has already set out its own five point alternative to PFI - Reviewing existing contracts; Not awarding new contracts; awarding government capital grants equally to all projects-irrespective of the method of procurement; introducing prudential borrowing for health boards; and strengthening the PPP staffing protocol*.

Matt Smith, UNISON's Scottish Secretary said: "While UNISON will have a close look at the detail of this plan, and initial look suggests that the SFT is envisaged as a large bureaucracy to continue to attract private investment to build public service infrastructure. This merely puts a gloss of accountability on a fundamentally flawed base. It is merely 'PFI-Lite'. No amount of spin can change the fact that the private sector will continue to build, design and run public services under this plan, and they will continue to take a profit out of our essential services.

"Money raised from the private sector by the SFT will retain higher borrowing costs, private profit will continue at contractor level and the excessive risk transfer costs look like they will continue. This is likely to lead to the same profiteering and inflexibility as other PFI schemes.

"Evidence is stacked against PFI. The public have said they do not want it, and it is time to say 'no more'. We have already outlined how this can be started in five steps

"If the Scottish Government can conclude that public funding provides the best value for money for the massive new hospital campus at Glasgow's Southern General site, why can this not be the approach across Scotland?"

He will cite UNISON research* finding that billions of pounds of taxpayers' money is being wasted on expensive PFI projects such as schools and hospitals which could be built more cheaply using conventional funding.


Notes for editors *The main evidence submitted in Dec 2007 to the Finance Committee's Inquiry is at: http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/capitalinvest.html UNISON's submission to the Scottish Government consultation on the Scottish Futures Trust is at: www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/sftresponsemarch08.html 'At What Cost' is on the UNISON Scotland website at: www.unison-scotland.org.uk/comms/atwhatcostoct07.pdf

For Further Information Please Contact: Matt Smith (Scottish Secretary) 07771 548 997m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)