Gradual drip of privatisation has reached epic proportions in Scottish Water, says UNISON

Date: Tuesday 3 June 2014

UNISON, Scotland’s largest public service union, says new figures showing the extent of privatisation in Scottish Water should be a major wake-up call to the Scottish Government.

A recent FOI by insider website ‘Utilities Scotland’ has revealed that 92.5 per cent of Scottish Water’s capital programme has been delivered by private contractors over the last four years, while just 7.5 per cent was delivered by Scottish Water staff. UNISON, who has long campaigned to keep Scotland’s water in public hands, says it is merely privatisation through the backdoor.

While Scottish Water is a public service, there has been an incremental drift towards privatisation. Firstly, through the hugely expensive PFI schemes and then by a broader PPP scheme which has seen the extensive contractorisation of Scottish Water.

Scotland’s main political parties have supported public ownership, however, the White Paper ‘Scotland’s Future’ has no mention of a public water service should Scotland vote for independence in September. UNISON is seeking clarification from the Scottish Government that this is simply an omission.

Dave Watson, UNISON Scotland’s Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, said:
“Scottish Water is a public service success story, but we are only too aware that there is a powerful lobby for privatisation. Water is a service, not a commodity and we need a service that puts people before profit.

“These latest disclosures show the gradual drip of privatisation has reached epic proportions. The privatisation sharks are still circling Scottish Water and we need to remain vigilant – Scotland’s water is not for sale.”


Notes to editors 

1. For more information see our briefing at:

2. You can find more information on the FOI at

3. Scottish Water is a public corporation that delivers a publicly-owned water and sewerage service to the people of Scotland, unlike the privatised service in the rest of the UK.

4. Scottish Water has delivered a massive capital programme to update our aging infrastructure. It spends just under £500m a year on infrastructure including pipes and treatment works, funded largely by the water charge payer with borrowing support from the Scottish Government.

5. The SNP, Scottish Labour and the Greens have supported public ownership of Scottish Water with only the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats making the case for privatisation.

6. Campaigning against the privatisation of Scottish Water doesn’t mean clinging to the status quo. In UNISON Scotland’s paper ‘It’s Scotland’s Water’ we highlight other public service models that demonstrate that a more democratic structure can deliver a more efficient, socially responsible and more accountable public water service. Find out more here:

For more information please contact: 

  • Dave Watson, UNISON Scotland’s Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, on 07958 122 409
  • Trisha Hamilton, UNISON Scotland’s Communications Officer, on 0141 342 2877