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Date: 21 Feb 2008

Water 'mutualisation' would mean higher charges - UNISON

UNISON, the largest union representing Scotland's water and sewage workers have told MSPs that the call for 'mutualisation' of Scotland's Water Industry, contained in a motion by Derek Brownlee MSP to be debated in the Parliament today, was 'crazy' especially with the current state of the banking industry.

The union says that so-called 'mutualisation' - promoted by the Tories, the business sector and the Liberals - is simply a smokescreen for privatisation.

The union has released a briefing to MSP's in advance of today's debate, which points out that the likely source of investment in any 'mutual' company would be the banks.

More expensive borrowing on the private market, and the need to provide a profit to private investors, would inevitably mean increased costs which would be passed on to customers in the form of higher charges. The banks and private companies would also insist that services should be provided by private contractors.

UNISON's Scottish Organiser Dave Watson said: "This debate is another attempt by the Tories to promote water privatisation by handing over a vital public service to the banks and private water companies. Crazy at the best of times but during a credit squeeze it is sheer lunacy.

"Scotland's water and wastewater infrastructure is being overhauled and that requires considerable investment. To borrow that money at expensive interest rates and allow private companies to extract further profits would add hugely to water charges. All around the world communities are rejecting water privatisation yet here the Tories are promoting it."

UNISON, along with the STUC and the other unions involved in the water industry have been engaged in the debate about the future of Scottish Water, and believe that there should be greater democratisation of the service. They have produced a discussion paper It's Scotland's Water that outlines some ways to allow greater accountability for Scottish Water, and how important the service is for public health and socio-economic development.

ENDS

Note for Editors: the MSP briefing is available by clicking here, and the STUC discussion paper is available on the UNISON website at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/water/scotland's_water.pdf

For Further Information Please Contact: Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser) 0870 7777 006 (w) 07958 122 409 (m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0870 7777 006(w) 0771 558 3729(m)

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