CONTRACTORS WARNED this week that a brain drain of water industry skills to England was causing skill shortages in Scotland.
Spending on English and Welsh water infrastructure is coinciding with a downturn in Scotland, so many firms are moving staff south.
'We are already seeing signs of serious salary inflation even though work is beginning to tail off, ' said Civil Engineering Contractors Association (Scotland) chief executive Alan Watt.
Scottish Water has set up a special team to ensure work is fed through to its contract partners. And the Scottish Executive has agreed to release some work ahead of the next four year spending period known as Q&S3 (Quality and Standards 3) which starts next year. This covers spending from April 2006 to April 2010.
It is hoped this will ensure contracting and consulting teams are kept busy so staff stay put.
'We are aware of concerns about people leaving. Water Minister Lewis McDonald has agreed to provide advance funding for a 'start early' programme to take forward investigative, feasibility and design work in supporting Q&S3 essential objectives, ' said a Scottish Water spokeswoman.
This year is the final year of the current investment cycle and a review has begun into how the work will be carried out over the coming four years.
But as the workload begins to tail off in Scotland, water companies in England and Wales are getting stuck into the first year of the next fi ve year spending programme.
Major water consultants contacted by NCE said that they expected to recruit hundreds of technical staff over the next year, and were looking to bring people south from Scotland.