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I was the Head of Policy and Public Affairs at UNISON Scotland until my retirement in September 2018. I now work on several policy development projects, so all views are very definitely my own. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

SFT & Water Privatisation

In 2006 the SNP published proposals for a Scottish Futures Trust. This was essentially a means of raising public finance to fund public infrastructure as an alternative to the costly PFI schemes that the SNP and UNISON campaigned against. We welcomed the analysis of the costs of PFI but doubted that a future Scottish Government would have the borrowing and tax powers to implement the plan. In Government the SNP discovered that they didn’t have the powers and in 2008 established a Scottish Futures Trust that in both rhetoric and substance was far removed from the 2006 SNP plan. As the Herald Economics Editor put it “PFI Lite”.

Since it was established it has done nothing much, other than paying fabulous salaries to its staff. The Chief Executive, Barry White (an ex-PFI consultant) picks up a pay cheque greater than the Chief Executive of Scotland’s largest council. It is promoting the same old PFI schemes for schools and rebranding the English LIFT PFI scheme as the “Hub Initiative”.

Now it would appear the SFT sees its role as an advocate for water privatisation. According to Mr White, because the CBI said “that privatisation and mutualisation are things we should be considering” (Times 26 Jan). Well we really are getting value for that fabulous salary when the SFT is reading the same tired old CBI dogma!

No doubt we will next be told that that they have found a wonderful compromise – mutualisation. In other words a rebranding of Welsh Water that provides a fa├žade of democracy as the banks would control the organisation and all services would be privatised . Don’t you just love all this innovative thinking!

The Cabinet Secretary has repeatedly made it clear that the Scottish Government’s policy is to retain Scottish Water in the public sector and that’s Scottish Labour’s policy too. Only the Tories and the Liberals favour privatisation. A clear parliamentary majority so Barry White should be focusing on justifying that inflated salary elsewhere. I didn’t much like his music either!

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