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Water industry warns against SNP nationalisation plans

SCOTLAND'S MULTI-BILLION pound water industry could face a dramatic slowdown if threats by the Scottish National Party to 'redemocratise' its control are ever fulfilled, leading water engineers warned this week.

If the SNP wins control of Scotland's devolved parliament next May, it is pledged to bring the country's three water authorities 'under full democratic control', a party spokesman told NCE. Options to be put to the party's annual conference this week include:

Retaining the three authorities, but replacing their government-appointed management boards with local councillors.

Reducing the three authorities to one

Scrapping the authorities altogether and devolving control of water to the country's unitary authorities.

Most of the industry's current construction programme is dedicated to meeting strict European Union water clean-up directives. The engineers NCE spoke to argued that any sudden and major administrative changes, not to mention any local political wrangling, would hinder this already tight programme and probably result in a failure to meet the EU's 2000 and 2001 deadlines for waste and drinking water improvements.

Any resulting fine would be levied on the UK Government, but Whitehall could penalise the water authorities by reducing allowances to the Scottish Parliament.

However, engineers reckoned the pounds1bn workload to be secured through private finance is likely to remain safe. To meet current deadlines, all private finance deals should have been agreed before the spring start up of the Parliament and it is thought unlikely that signed agreements would be revoked.

David Hayward

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