A massive £4.8 billion of public money is being paid to multinational corporations to run sewage works that are plagued with breakdowns, pollution and pongs, an investigation by the Sunday Herald has revealed.
Internal reports from Scottish Water lay bare for the first time the scandal of the sewage contracts signed with private companies under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) backed by Labour and Conservative governments.
The problems at PFI sewage plants across Scotland have been so serious and intractable that Scottish Water has been pushing to take them back into public ownership. It has also been forced to pay out over £100 million extra to try and rectify some of the faults.
Yet communities around the country still have to endure nauseating smells, and many feel that they have been palmed off. Experts say their complaints are justified.
PFI was introduced as a way of trying to build public projects using private money. In the late 1990s nine PFI contracts were signed with private companies to build, refurbish and run 21 sewage plants across Scotland, dealing with half of the nation’s human waste.
According to Scottish Water documents, the sewage plants they inherited when they formed in 2002 cost nearly £600 million in capital costs. Contracts to run them cover periods of between 25 and 40 years and are costing around £130 million a year, giving an overall cost to the public purse of £4.8 billion.