Friday, 31 December 2010

'It's Our Water'



Here in Scotland domestic water isn't privatised.  The publicly owned corporation is also responsible for sewerage services and the Scottish Government determine the national policy.  This excellent publicly owned service is known as Scottish Water and the average water and sewerage costs to Scottish users is slightly below those of the private water companies in England and Wales.

The unionist parties in Scotland, Labour, the Tories and the LibDems have all regularly called for the sale of Scottish water, insisting it would benefit the public purse.  The CBI has been exceptionally vocal too.

Yet, in spite of these pressures from the unionist parties, the SNP Government have insisted they have no plans to sell Scottish Water to the highest bidder, or any bidder.  They are resolute about our water continuing in public ownership.

Northern Ireland's water service is an 'arms-length' organisation (the modern method employed by politicians to avoid responsibility) which has a troubled past.  It also has a troubled present.  Since Christmas Eve thousands have been without water, including businesses and public services such as their health services, who are having to rely upon the fire service for water. I was disappointed to read this  statement from Owen Paterson, the Westminster based Northern Ireland secretary:


'...he warned there "may have to be changes" to the service. He said: "In the past 25 years there has been very significant investment by private water companies in other parts of the UK, and it's very noticeable that those parts appear to have fewer problems than Northern Ireland."


Scotland has sent 160,000 litres of bottled water to assist the folk of N Ireland.  Owen Paterson doesn't mention Scotland whatsoever has he appears to believe all water in the UK is privatised.

Thanks to the present Scottish Government we have an effective and efficient water supply here and all under public ownership.  Much of the credit must go to those within the Scottish Government who are responsible for investing our money wisely and ensuring we have a first class service.

Let's hear no more about the sale of Scottish Water.  Water is vital to life and we need to preserve it for future generations.  Doing what N Ireland has done, by  creating an arms-length company, shows the dangers of removing it from any form of direct government control.

'It's our water' is a great slogan here in Scotland. I hope we can say that in 50 years time.

44 comments:

I am Stan said...

Hi Subrosa,

I`ve never been able to get my head around the fact that water is free,it falls from the sky and yet ownership is immediately claimed and we end up paying for it.

I wouldn`t begrudge paying a little for the upkeep of the pipes etc but what right do corporations and individuals have to profit from it.

It is indeed "our water".....except its not!

Dramfineday said...

"Let's hear no more about the sale of Scottish Water" - Indeed. As despite everything else it's the one thing that would guarantee me taking to the streets!

Edward Spalton said...

Water, as a natural monopoly, ought to be efficiently delivered by a publicly accountable service.

Yet this was not entirely the case before privatisation in England. A combination of weak management and strong unions had built up a high level of inefficiency and bureaucratic empire building.

So, when the moderately salaried public servants became private enterprise tigers, they had quite a few years of really improving efficiency by getting rid of of overmanning and so justifying their massively inflated salaries and bonuses.

Whilst on my travels years ago, I chanced to lunch with a youngish chap from one of the public water boards. He had been sent round to check up on space available in all the stores. That year so far, budgets had been underspent and it was his job to order as much expensive stuff as quickly as possible so that it would all be spent before the year end. Otherwise their next year's budget would be cut.

Whilst I did not think water privatisation was a good idea, there has to be some way of breaking out of this sort of "public service" mentality."Yes minister" got a great deal right in its portrayal of this.

subrosa said...

Hi Stan. Water is never free unless you live in a rural area where water is diverted to your home and by your own system.

I don't mind paying a reasonable amount for water because it is well managed here these days. Let's not forget, sewerage management is also included in the price we pay.

subrosa said...

I'd join you Dram. The unionists seem hell bent on selling off SW. Should (God forbid) labour get in next May, they'll try it too, along the lines of the Irish with an arms length company. Wait and see.

subrosa said...

Morning Edward. SW these days is highly efficient and we don't have the nonsense that goes on in England where different companies own water in different areas.

I don't see much of the 'public service' mentality regarding water here. SW is respected for its efficiency. Most public services are not.

English Pensioner said...

I agree with you, I've never understood how one can sensibly privatise something that by definition must be a monopoly. My water is supplied by Veolia, which is a French Company and I have no choice in the matter. In my view, privatisation is only appropriate where the user can opt to go to another supplier. At least when a service is government run you can complain to your MP or local councillor, once it has been privatised there is nothing you can do.
Of course privatisation does provide jobs in yet another Quango which is then required to oversee the privatised company, something all governments love, authority without responsibility.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Last night on the national BBC news, much was made of the problems in
Northern Ireland.

The impression was given of this being mainly due to the problems inherent in 'public' companies.

In the North West regional news, which immediately followed, it reported on the bursts and frozen supplies that had left many homes in the area without water since before Christmas and would continue to be affected until well into the New Year.

This area is served by United Utilities, one of the privatised monopolies whose records on efficiencies are more fictionally manipulated than driven by fact or responsibility.

It would seem the legendary bias of the BBC is not limited to its reporting in Scotland but is an endemic reaction to distorting truth.

BJ said...

I wonder if WfW has the reason for all of this sudden talk about water.

http://witteringsfromwitney.blogspot.com/2010/12/water-water-everywhere-and-to-be.html

subrosa said...

But we're we told some years ago by our leaders than privatisation would create competition and in turn push up quality EP?

All it's done for you is make water more expensive because money needs to be found to keep shareholders happy.

subrosa said...

I missed that news broadcast RA. The BBC has its own agenda. But you know that.

subrosa said...

Thanks for the link BJ. I have it marked for a Take Your Pick in a day or two.

Jo G said...

The issue was dealt with, maybe not Scotland wide, but certainly within Strathclyde some years back in a referendum. 97% of people at that time were warning Thatcher to keep her thieving hands off our water. Any politician foolish enough to ignore that statistic will be sorry indeed. Thatcher sent domestic fuel into the hands of profiteers and just look at the state of things now. The energy companies virtually operate as a cartel and no one challenges them. We cannot allow anyone to touch Scottish Water.

Joe Public said...

Two points SR:

1. Was the water sent to NI free-of-charge, or, sold?

2. The charges for 'water' are actually for its collection, storage, filtration, purification, distribution; and, re-collection / cleansing / disposal.

It's just another commodity.

Is their any reason why 'government' should be involved with what is just industrial processing?

Strathturret said...

We need to keep control of our water. Once you sell the 'family silver' you can't get it back.

In the future water is going to become a valuable asset; we need to ensure that Scottish water is controlled by Scots.

Jo G said...

Well said Strathturret. Water is all we have left!

subrosa said...

If labour get in at the election Jo I can see them privatising SW can't you?

subrosa said...

It's a natural resource Joe and the last to remain in public hands. Are you suggesting it would be better broken up and sold to the highest bidder(s).

subrosa said...

Oh Joe, I've had a quick search to see if N Ireland received an invoice. Didn't find anything.

subrosa said...

Well said Strathurret but I have a feeling if the unionists get in at Holyrood, they'll have another plan.

Strathturret said...

One of the problems about privatising water is what do you do if people do not pay? Cut off their water? It doesn't really bear thinking about!

I think lots of these 1980's utility privatisations were so misguided. As Harold Macmillan said at the time it was selling the family silver. Now we've lost control of so many with HQs being abroad.

Joe Public said...

@ Strathturret 15:22...

"One of the problems about privatising water is what do you do if people do not pay?"

Why should you or I pay, if someone else can't be bothered to pay?

They might choose to have more fags or booze - their decision; but I'm sure their newsagent or off-licence wouldn't keep supplying them after payment for a previous lot wasn't paid.

subrosa said...

As far as I know Strathturret, there is help available for those who have difficulty meeting their bill.

I agree with your second paragraph.

subrosa said...

There is a safety net I think Joe, same as there is for other utilities. Unfortunately some of those who do need it don't use it, such as the elderly.

Idle Pen Pusher said...

SR - SW may well be efficiently-run. The state doesn't consistently run companies inefficiently any more than private enterprise consistently runs them well. These things are partly down to co-incidence and passing luck. But I suspect there might be something missing. Is there a subsidy? Ought water in Scotland be managed far more cheaply than in England (I'm thinking less droughts to prepare for, lower population densities and lower salary costs).

The idea that water is vital for life and therefore should be run by the state is silly. What about food, housing, clothing and sex? Sooner or later SW will lose its efficiency under public ownership and so should be sold now while it'll fetch a higher price. Ultimately, there is no reason for the threat of violence that underpins the state's every move to be required in the management of water in Scotland or anywhere else. It should be left to private individuals to manage among themselves.

subrosa said...

Happy New Year IPP.

Scotland's geography makes the organisation of water perhaps more costly rather than less.

It's only in the past 6 years or so that SW has 'regrouped' and that has now resulted in the excellent service we have here today.

As far as I can gather, there is no subsidy.

Jo G said...

Subrosa I can't see any of them trying it for real. There would be a major uprising. And I'm not exaggerating there. There is a precedent here and a referendum conducted Strathclyde wide. 97% of people warned Thatcher that our water was staying in public ownership. That is a massive statement and I believe it would still stand today.

People have seen what Thatcher's privatising of domestic fuel took us. We created companies that exist for profit and for shareholders. We cannot ever do that with out water. I want Scottish water to work for Scotland not for shareholders and private companies. We should never have been placed in a position where cartels of power companies hold us to ransom and where domestic fuel bills now come second only to a mortgage in terms of costs. They do not own what falls from our skies into our rivers in Scotland.

As far as I know the SNP once were thinking along such lines and then quickly abandoned them because it was felt the public wouldn't wear it. I think that's an accurate assessment. Within months of English water being privatised it was 95% foreign owned. That's a fact.

Our water is the key to a great deal still to come here. I remember when I fist went to the Highlands and toured the Hydro schemes. It was fascinating and the engineering that went into it was amazing too. The sheer power of the stuff! My late father worked on the dams a long time ago and had told me all about the construction.

The SNP government has used plentiful Scottish resources to set out plans for our future and along with wind-power and sea-water power natural water has a major, major role to play too. It is a fabulous natural resource and I hope Scots will go on the streets in protest rather than allow politicians to hand it into private hands. It would be sacrilege.

As I said the statistics in the Strathclyde referendum made it clear what many Scots thought then. 97% said don't even think about it!

Jo G said...

"The idea that water is vital for life and therefore should be run by the state is silly. What about food, housing, clothing and sex? Sooner or later SW will lose its efficiency under public ownership and so should be sold now while it'll fetch a higher price. Ultimately, there is no reason for the threat of violence that underpins the state's every move to be required in the management of water in Scotland or anywhere else. It should be left to private individuals to manage among themselves."

I have never disagreed more with a statement in my life. If there are threats towards those who allude to taking water out of public hands they are made for good reasons. And they are entirely justified. Water is NOT for the profit of private individuals. It does NOT belong to them. And it IS indeed vital in ways the other items you mention are not which is why it must be kept public.

subrosa said...

I do hope you're right Jo. I see today's Herald has an article about it. http://bit.ly/f6V40a

Since when was Scotland wealthy enough to be giving water free to other countries? N Ireland should be paying for the amount sent to them this past week.

It's possibly not a vast amount of money but N Ireland can well afford to pay for their water company's incompetence.

Jo G said...

And another thing: the "sell it now while it can fetch a higher place" suggests a lack of understanding of one thing some of us have already realised. Scottish Water has not remotely yet reached its true potential!

Sorry to be riled this early in the New Year but people who speak this way of water truly do rile me.

Jo G said...

Oops, that should be "sell it while it will fetch a higher price". (See what I mean about being riled? Means typos.) ; )

Jo G said...

Subrosa, well it is now something for the SNP to be clear about. They want SW to stay in public hands. If they make it clear the other Parties are thinking about selling it off I think it would have a major impact. Get Gray and Scott on the spot and force them to state exactly what it would mean. I am certain Scots will not wear it.

subrosa said...

I'd agree with you there Jo. SW is only just coming 'good'. When the then labour/libdem Scottish government reorganised it in 2006 (I think it was), my first thought was they were preparing it for a sell off, but as you say they backed down because of public anger.

We need to hold onto our water. It's our richest resource. We've lost our oil to the south.

What annoys me most is way in which N Sea oil has been stolen and without much protest from the people. Have we benefitted? No. We're the only oil producing country in Europe yet we have a large part of the country which has the worst record for health and financial security.

Jo G said...

Subrosa, you said something earlier that is worth taking forward on water: the waste is unacceptable yet we all pay the same water charges. I think we need to look at that. I'm not suggesting meters but I'm certainly comfortable with doing something to assess usage and wastage. My dad was awful about wasting water. He would go daft at us kids for wasting it. So I'm still aware of wastage because of that but I think that sort of mind set is dying out. I'm 52 now so there are two generations behind me who simply don't care about these things. I think they need to be educated.

Jo G said...

Indeed Subrosa, we are also the only country within a country who contributes a massive amount to the UK economy and still gets treated like a passenger.

subrosa said...

You say you're not suggesting meters Jo but some of my friends in England say they're the best thing that's happened to them and their bills have reduced, some quite considerably. I don't see why we shouldn't introduce meters. It may make younger generations become aware of something all of us take for granted.

The SNP need to make water a priority in their campaign as you say and we mustn't forget to bang the drum about how the income from oil hasn't benefitted us in the least.

Strathturret said...

Water available to all is a major positive health issue. I dont want my neighbours using their garden as a toilet or spreading cholera.

Hence it should be provided by the state to all.

Warer is an essential natural resource that should be used for public benefit. Most people in Scotland support that point of view.

Jo G said...

Joe Public

"They might choose to have more fags or booze - their decision; but I'm sure their newsagent or off-licence wouldn't keep supplying them after payment for a previous lot wasn't paid."

Water is not a debate where we should throw stereotypes around. It is more important thatn than. If you are for privatising such a resource say so, but back off the stereotyping. I'd like to ask you tho, whose water is it exactly?? Because that is the 64,000 dollar question when it comes to water and ours falls out of the sky!!!!

Jo G said...

And actually its when I read comments like that that I understand why community and vision died!

subrosa said...

Well said Strathturret. In the last few years the Scottish government have done a good job improving SW. Long may it continue to stay in public ownership.

subrosa said...

That's why it shouldn't be privatised Jo. The financial cost of course is the treatment of it before it comes from a tap.

When I was a wee lass we used to picnic in the hills and I never thought anything of drinking from a burn. Nowadays that's a no no because of 'pollutants'. A local farmer still insists his burn water is fine and he diverts it himself. Has a tiny hydro up there.

Jo G said...

Subrosa, on the billing issue, reading Salmond on the matter, he seems to be approaching it in a neighbourly way but he's also highlighting how both NI Water and Scottish Water could invest more if they were allowed to borrow in order to raise the capital. I wonder if he's hoping to do a joint approach to Westminster on this with NI?

subrosa said...

Yes I read that Jo and I think you're right. But, with the current economic situation here, I think he could turn off a few folk with his largesse. As one person mentioned, would the N Irish government give me free food if I needed it.

Jo G said...

I know where you're coming from Subrosa but I also think he figures it will win him friends both here and over there. There are links between there and here remember. I'm wondering if he's appealing to that?

I found the consultation section on the SG website. I'm going to have a wee shifty at it.

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/12/14111932/0

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