Monday 2 August 2010

Uisgich (water)

Scottish Water was formed in 2002 after East, West and North of Scotland Water Authorities merged. They are now the only water and waste water services provider in Scotland, the 4th largest in the UK, covering a huge area of 79,000 square kilometres.

Scottish Water supplies approximately 5 million customers in 2.3 million households. 46,000 kilometres of water pipes and 39,000 kilometres of sewer pipes provide 2.3 billion litres of water and take away 1 billion litres of waste water every day. Water is treated at 1896 water treatment works including 1274 septic tanks, pumping stations, sludge treatment centres and reservoirs. Over 800 water samples are taken each day and 99.44% of water quality tests carried out in 2003 complied with regulations.

Under the Water Services Act (Scotland) 2005, Scottish Water had to split its operation into wholesale (Scottish Water) and retail (Business Stream) units. Formerly known as Scottish Water Business Stream and ostensibly remaining a part of Scottish Water, Business Stream is a new business working completely independent of its parent company in order to ensure fair and transparent retail practice under the rules of the new deregulated marketplace for business customers.

That's a brief history of Scottish Water in the past eight years. In the past few years there have been rumblings and mumblings about privatising Scottish Water. Last week an independent review on Scotland's budget recommended that ownership should be transferred to a 'public interest' board with powers to borrow money from banks rather than rely on taxpayer funding. This would free up the £140m a year currently earmarked for the utility.

Ministers would also get back more than £1bn already given in loans to Scottish Water, helping them to pay for the new infrastructure projects such as the £2bn new Forth Bridge which seems to be having problems already. Maybe they've been following the dreadful situation which has developed with the Edinburgh tram project.

The Independent Budget Review (IBR) last week warned that as many as 50,000 jobs would have to be axed in the public sector over the next four years to cope with what it described as the biggest crisis in public spending since WW2. One of the key areas under strain is Scotland's capital budget - which pays for infrastructure work.

The panel said they were aware of 'strongly held public views' that the service should not be privatised'.

John Swinney, the Finance Secretary, said he believed Scottish Water - which was performing extremely well - should remain under public ownership, yet he was careful not to rule out the not-for-profit option as he did for other of the budget review's recommendations, such as that ministers should reconsider their decision to 'ring-fence' the NHS from cuts and their commitment to free personal care for the elderly and concessionary travel. He has invited opposition parties to talks on the budget review.

The main finance problem we have in Scotland is that we don't have borrowing powers. To create an arms length company to manage Scottish Water will be a disaster for customers. Glasgow City Council tried this on a much smaller scale and it has been spectacularly unsuccessful. Our water should stay in public ownership. It is forecast there will be a world shortage of water and we must hold onto this utility for bargaining purposes. Since gas and electricity have been privatised consumers have borne excessive price rises while companies have made excessive profits.

Scottish Water should stay under government control, although with a change of management because the present management has not been efficient, but I do think it's inevitable it will be sold in the near future. Our water could be an excellent campaigning issue for the SNP. Will they realise that?


McGonagall said...

" ... I do think it's inevitable it will be sold in the near future ..."

The wolves have been circling for years and the slash and burn Conservative economics will give them confidence when dealing with an impoverished Scottish Government.

Alex Porter said...

The money made from the sale would be peanuts in relation to the bail-outs! And the bail-outs are the reason for the financial mess.

I agree that privatising water would be something no party would want to touch neither Labour nor the SNP - can't see it happening.

I think it would be worse than the poll-tax in terms of rebellion. If it did happen the service would be bad, there'd be no investment and bills would skyrocket. Yes, they'd lie through their teeth about the benefits before but after all the promises would be gone! It's always the same.

We have to stop thinking that cuts are inevitble. Austerity is not inevitable and when they go through people are going to go nuts because of the pain they'll bring without no benefit - infact things will get worse.

subrosa said...

It's the last of our crown jewels someone said to me today scunnert. I think Alex (below) is very optimistic.

subrosa said...

I'm not sure if the Scots are interested enough to rebel Alex. There's a sense of apathy around I feel.

Dramfineday said...

"Since gas and electricity have been privatised consumers have borne excessive price rises while companies have made excessive profits", Yes and I'm sick to the back teeth with chairmen or spokespersons being dragged in front of TV's to greet and whine about their excess profits and how they didnae mean to do it and anyway they were fairer than the other big boy. Unfortunately, the tories are in and greed that knew no bounds during superbroons days will be even less fettered. BUT this one, if they tried it, would put me on the streets (first time since the Winter of discontent)

subrosa said...

It's all we have left Dram so our last chance to take to the streets. I can see changes if the SNP lose at the next election and presently I think they will.

Apogee said...

Conspiracy theory I know but...
We were looted by the banks selling goods that they knew were worthless in a manner that with the garbage regulatory system, here and in the States was ,it would seem in retrospect could detect no wrong. The money the banks collected in this fraud, for that is what it was, went some where.Who gained.
Because the banks "had" to be recapitalised,so our political class kept telling us, the taxpayers had to stump up.Because the watch dogs had been given a mickey finn and were asleep.
So now the government says we have to pay a third time, to pay back those we borrowed from, to pay the banks who effectively robbed us in the first place, and to do this, and this is the smart bit, we have to sell off the "family silver", Scottish Water being one candidate, and once it, and a lot of other assets have past into corporate "private" hands, we will once again be ripped off.
So the people who started the whole mess are forcing us to sell things to them at fire sale prices to compensate them for their own fraudulant activities, after all ,what they sold was worthless, on their own eventual admission, so they are now back in profit, if so ,why are we still paying and why are the casino banks not paying?

Why has no attempt been made to trace the money at all. It must have passed to the banks and then evaporated. Why do I get the feeling that the public ,us , will never find out who was behind this rip-off of the millenium although I am sure the US reserve bank , a private company will know, also the Bank of England.
Eventually, people will just give up, and starving , will take to the streets, and of course it will be all our fault !

subrosa said...

Far more truth than conspiracy. Maybe we'll take to the streets quicker than 'they' think. I forsee horrendous increases in gas and electricity bills in the next couple of years and that fool Huhne will do nothing to curtail them.

Pensioners will be forced to sell their homes to pay the bills just to keep warm. But of course they have a choice. They can stay in their homes, bought by working for 45+ years, and just freeze to death.

Funny the figures for deaths from hypothermia last winter haven't appeared anywhere yet.

Apogee said...

Hi SR, just thought of an unintended consequence, imagine if global warming was a reality, average temperature up three to four degrees, would make this place liveable in the winter. That would cause consternation in a lot of political places, but not so much problems as they say.

subrosa said...

Morning Apogee. It would save a great deal of fuel too an increase in temperature.

But it's not going to happen is it?

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