UNISON supports a more open and accountable
approach to Scotland's waters, monitoring activities and
promoting sustainable water use through specific control
measures. We recognise the importance of safeguarding
the water environment and welcome measures in this consultation
paper which aim to do this.
We believe it is essential that there
are systems and safeguards for controlling water abstraction
and impoundment, and we are pleased to see that these
issues are being raised in this new consultation. In addition,
we welcome the opportunity to put forward the case for
introducing water use licences, registration and management
agreements. The extended role for the Scottish Environment
Protection Agency (SEPA) is very welcome. It is essential
that we have a strong, effective and accountable body
to carryout the role of monitoring, regulating and safeguarding
Scotland's water. Throughout our response we have, therefore,
emphasised the need for increased resources for SEPA so
as they are able to carry out this extended role effectively.
UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union
representing over 140,000 members working in the public
sector. As the largest trade union in the Scottish water
industry, UNISON members are both providers and users
of water in Scotland. UNISON welcomes the opportunity
to comment on the Scottish Executive's consultative paper
The Future for Scotland's Water, proposals for legislation.
This response needs to be seen in the context of our previous
submissions to recent Scottish Executive consultations
on the water industry.
This paper constitutes UNISON Scotland's
response to the consultation document issued by the Scottish
Executive Environment Group on the Future of Scotland's
Waters - Proposals for Legislation.
Chapter 1: The River Basin Planning Process
1.3 - 1.11 River Basin Planning
We support the proposals to establish
one River Basin District covering the whole of Scotland,
with provisions to give Ministers powers to introduce
regulations to identify river basin districts by defining
their geographical boundaries.
- Scottish Environment Protection Agency
SEPA should take the lead role in
river basin management planning, however it is essential
that it has the necessary resources to carry out the
role effectively. The consultation documents sets
out a range of specific duties and activities for
SEPA to carry out. We welcome the extended role and
new authorities given to SEPA, but given the additional
duties there has to be an increase in resources and
personnel for the body.
- - 1.18 Integration with other policy
We welcome the integration of river basin management
planning (RBMPs) with other environmental policy areas,
and we would like to see social and economic policy areas
included in the RBMPs too. This should involve public
authorities and local community groups in the planning
1.20 The importance of wide participation
UNISON supports the involvement of private
and voluntary sectors in the provisions of RBMPs. We would
also wish to see trade unions and other community and
co-operative organisations participating in this process.
Trade unions in particular have a wide range of skills,
experience and expertise of relevance to this area of
Chapter 2: Environmental Outcomes: Environmental Objectives
- Protecting the Water Environment
UNISON very much welcomes the establishment
of a framework for the protection of the water environment.
Issues of damage to the environment, economic development
and climate change need to be addressed through this framework.
We recognise that progress has been made
in recent years in reducing the pollution of Scotland's
rivers, lochs, estuaries and coastal waters. However,
there is still significant pollution of Scotland's water
environment. Substantial investment is needed in the underground
infrastructure to reduce the pollution incidents that
appear after heavy rainfall.
2.13 Robust characterisation and monitoring
We welcome the provisions for robust
monitoring and detailed environmental characterisation
of river basin districts. It is important to identify
human activities that could potentially impact on surface
Although not emphasised in the Directive,
we would like to see more detail on the provisions for
economic characterisation, and we welcome the commitments
for SEPA to consult on the Directive's technical requirements
as set out in the consultation document.
Chapter 3: Delivering Environmental Objectives
- Reducing the regulatory burden - A common framework
UNISON is wary the proposals indicate
that mandatory controls will only be deployed where necessary
to protect the environment. We believe it would be simpler
and clearer to have a uniform system of controls.
However, although the Executive intends
to adopt a selective approach - we support the range of
- Water use licences
- The use of standard conditions within licences
- General binding rules
- Simple registration
- Management agreements
3.11- 3.15 Water Use Licenses
UNISON supports the proposals to have
water use licences that are activity and site specific.
We believe it is essential that there are systems and
safeguards for controlling water abstraction, impoundment
and usage, and we are pleased to see the introduction
of water use licences. The licensing regime should do
more than establish "basic requirements" for
all new operators. The highest standards must apply to
new operators from the outset.
We welcome mechanisms for the identification
of the operator of specific licences, and we believe that
an operator should be required to inform the regulator
when a change of operator occurs, this will help to identify
responsibility and ownership.
We agree that there is no real value
in making licences time limited, but we support the provision
of mechanisms to allow the regulator to review the licence
where necessary to protect the water environment, or if
the activity envisaged in the licence is not being undertaken.
It is important that Ministers will have the powers to
require the regulator to review a licence, thus allowing
Parliamentary intervention where concerns are expressed.
In exceptional circumstances the regulator should have
the authority to set time limits on licences to protect
UNISON welcomes moves to allow the regulator
to impose necessary conditions in licences to protect
the environment. It is important that the regulator is
able to use this facility, so whilst we believe that the
regulator should have a wide discretion to impose conditions
on a water use licence, the regulator should be sufficiently
independent and authoritative to do so.
3.21- 3.22 Simple Registration
It is essential that a person/organisation/company
registers an intention to carry out a water use activity
with the regulator prior to carrying out that activity.
There should be systems to enable the regulator to approve
the water use activity, so as it is not damaging to the
water environment, surrounding area, and local community.
In addition the regulator should be aware of the full
implications regarding cumulative impacts of human activity
on the water environment.
UNISON welcomes the authority of the
regulator, after having received notification of activity,
to determine whether simple registration is sufficient,
or whether some more stringent controls are required
3.23 - 3.27 Powers of the Regulator
UNISON agrees that the regulators need
to be independent, well resourced and kept informed by
water users on the activities they wish to carry out.
It is important that regulators do have the power to require
information from water users to enable them to carry out
their regulatory control powers.
It is good to see emphasis given to preventing
environmental damage rather than acting only after the
damage has been caused. We support the use by the Regulator
of notices for control regimes as appropriate.
3.28 - 3.31 Offences
UNISON welcomes the provisions to make
it an offence to carry out activities without any form
of consent, or failing to comply with a particular consent
of notice. We believe it is also important to have supporting
offences of providing misleading information and obstructing
the regulator. We agree that there needs to be systems
for people/companies to defend actions, however, we support
the principles of establishing an offence in carrying
out activities without consent.
We agree that there needs to be a robust
appeals mechanism which is transparent, independent and
fair. It is important that the Executive consult further
on this issue before firm proposals are introduced.
3.34- 3.38 Information, participation
UNISON believes it is essential to involve
the public and all interested parties in the management
of the water environment. We also support moves to make
information about individual applications for consent
for water use public, so as local people and interested
parties have the opportunity to respond to these applications.
UNISON is wary about giving the regulator
discretion to determine the best means of publicising
individual applications, and would prefer some guidelines
on the publication, for example displaying on a web site,
publishing in a local / national newspaper, or publishing
within local authorities, etc.
We agree that the regulator should establish
a Public Register of Water Use Consents, to include the
register of licences issued, activities registered under
GBR, activities registered under GBRs, activities which
are the subject of simple notification, details of the
operator, applications for review and details of any enforcement
3.39 - 3.42 Call in
UNISON supports the concept of the call-in
procedure. It is important that third parties should have
the formal right to request the call-in procedure, and
that "third party" is defined widely to cover
all interests, including the local community and local
authority, not just developers.
We believe that it would be difficult
to restrict the use of call-in to only important or significant
cases, as this would mean that we need clear definitions
and guidelines as to what is to be classed as an "important"
or "significant" case. The call-in procedure
should be sensitive to recognise and respond to the concerns
of local interests.
UNISON supports the polluter pays principle
and we are pleased that this principle will continue to
underpin the new regimes introduced in this Bill. We welcome
the requirement on the regulator to consult with interested
parties on the development of a charging regime.
3.45- 3.49 Timing
UNISON believes that the proposals in
the Bill should be introduced as soon as possible, as
many of the provisions within the Bill are long overdue
already. Whilst we recognise that the River Basin Management
Plans will take time to develop, we believe that it is
possible for the provisions for water use licences to
go ahead without having the RBMPs in place. The proposal
to allow business and other water users to not comply
with rules and licences until the end of 2012 seems extraordinary.
It is important that we have rules and licences to protect
the water environment as soon as possible. The Executive
does not offer a reasonable argument for the delay in
implementing the rules and licences.
Chapter 4: Pollution
4.1 - 4.3 Pollution Controls
We would support a rigorous system of
pollution control through secondary legislation. There
is a widely held subjective view that Scotland benefits
from very high water quality. Unfortunately, the objective
evidence does not support this view. Whilst there have
been fewer breaches of the Water Quality Standards in
recent years the quality of water compares unfavourably
with many regions in England and the rest of Europe.
4.5 - 4.7 SEPA's Role
Existing codes of good practice on tackling
pollution should be given statutory force with SEPA as
the body to enforce them. We also recognise the value
of approaches such as education and awareness on tackling
pollution and on promotion of the statutory codes. However,
we believe that it is important to tackle pollution and
its causes, therefore we support a mandatory code of practice
for water users to comply with.
Chapter 5: Abstraction
5.1- 5.3 Introduction
UNISON very much welcomes the proposed
powers for Ministers to establish a system of abstraction
control by secondary legislation. We believe that it is
essential that "abstraction" is clearly defined
in the Bill and structures are in place to control abstraction
5.4 - 5.6 Scope and Structure of the
We agree that there needs to be a requirement
preventing abstraction without notification to and consent
from the regulator. We also support the prohibition of
installation of equipment or structures for the abstraction
of water, or the modification of existing equipment or
structures to provide increased capacity to abstract water.
SEPA should regulate the abstraction control regime, but
once again it is crucial that SEPA does have the resources
to be able to carry out this function efficiently and
5.7- 5.9 Thresholds
Thresholds will be of value in the abstraction
control system, however they should take into account
the local conditions of the water environment. SEPA should
be directed to set thresholds at the lowest practical
5.10 Transfer of abstraction licences
UNISON believes that the regulator should
be informed of transfers of licence, but we agree that
it would be overly bureaucratic to make licences person
specific. However, it is important to be clear that licences
are there to regulate water use, and to protect the water
environment. Therefore, those holding the licence have
to be accountable for their actions and any failures to
comply with the regulator, unless the regulator has been
notified of a transfer of licence.
5.11-5.12 Interaction with existing
Clearly the existing rights of the three
water and sewage authorities should not be detrimentally
affected by the new proposals for water use licences.
We would hope that these existing rights can be assimilated
into the new system without adverse impact on the existing
three water authorities.
Chapter 6: Impoundment
UNISON supports the introduction of systems
to control impoundment, we believe it is important to
be able to regulate on activities in this area, and the
environmental impact they could have.
6.5-6.8 Scope and structure of the
We agree that it is important to define
impoundment, and support the definition as set out in
the consultation document. An impoundment should not be
constructed nor an existing impoundment operated without
notification being given to the regulator and the appropriate
consent received. It is also important to prohibit the
installation of works or structures intended for the impounding
of a water body.
Again, we welcome the role for SEPA as
the regulator of the impoundment control regime, and to
extend the regulatory powers to the creation and existence
of an impoundment, and to the environmental impact of
As with the application of thresholds
for abstraction, UNISON supports the principle of thresholds,
which are sensitive to the local water environment, and
are set at the lowest practical levels.
It does make sense to have an impoundment
regime that is flexible to cope with flood and drought
situations, and we would hope that emergency provisions
to deal with such situations are incorporated into the
Chapter 7: Engineering
We agree that Ministers should have powers
to establish detailed provisions of the engineering control
regime by statutory instrument.
7.4-7.8 Scope and structure of the
UNISON is concerned at the scope of the
regulation, and the definition of "significant impact".
We would prefer a clearer statement of what is deemed
to be a significant impact on the environment, to ensure
that we do have a robust system of regulating engineering
The new proposals should complement those
of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 (FEPA)
framework, with SEPA regulating in the areas not covered
Overall UNISON welcomes the proposals
for contained in this latest consultation paper. It is
vital that there are robust systems and safeguards for
controlling water abstraction and impoundment in Scotland.
In this response UNISON has emphasised the importance
of additional resources and authority for SEPA to enable
it to carry out its new functions efficiently and effectively.
SEPA's role is increasingly important in co-ordinating,
managing and regulating the proposed control regimes.
Although the threat to Scottish Water
of competition is diminishing for the immediate future,
it is important to remember that off-network services
are still open to competition, and therefore we need clear
controls and reporting systems to monitor and regulate
water use activities. Without such adequate regulations
Scotland's water environment is vulnerable to unscrupulous
water users, compromising water quality, and putting social
and environmental objectives at risk.
For further information please contact:
Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835