Today I submitted our response to the Scottish Government consultation paper Building a Hydro Nation. This consultation sets out a big vision of an expanding role for Scottish Water. Moving into renewable energy, research and international development.
The paper makes it clear that ownership is not a consultation issue. Despite the well financed big business lobby for privatisation the public service model still enjoys widespread public and political support in Scotland. Labour and the SNP understand this - the Tories and the Lib-Dems are stuck in the 1980's with their support for privatisation. This consultation reflects a growing understanding that not only is water and sewerage an essential public service, but that given the global water crisis, it is one of Scotland's greatest assets.
This does not mean that we should cling to the status quo. The water trades unions have published a paper, It's Scotland's Water, that highlights other public service models that demonstrate that a more democratic structure can deliver a more efficient, socially responsible and more accountable public water service. It is in this context that we believe that a new governance model, a water agency, is needed to take forward this vision for Scotland's water.
This approach would have the added benefit of abolishing the expensive nonsense of the economic regulatory framework, including the Water Industry Commission. The leaders of this organisation have actively lobbied against the vision described in Hydro Nation and a new democratically accountable water agency should replace it.
The consultation paper has a strong international vision. This fits in well with the developing worldwide Water Network which aims to strengthen the resistance against privatisation and commercialisation of water. The common theme is to develop more democratic forms of ownership that ensure there is a focus on the issues that matter to the public like leaks, repairs and water quality. Not creating an artificial market that concentrates on profit rather than service. Scotland should be a world leader in that network.