Scottish Water: Keeping It Clean

In Scotland we have a publicly owned water company, Scottish Water, which supplies clean water to our homes. We simply have to turn on a tap to access drinking water of the highest quality. As part of a series of articles in the run up to COP27 we take a look at Water in Scotland.

Loch Ness contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined.

Scotland is abundant in a very valuable natural resource – its fresh water. Be it in lochs, rivers or burns, Scotland’s water is a prized asset. Keeping it clean, maintaining its safety for us all to access is the work of Scottish Water. Being owned by us, the Scottish public, means it is not run for the profit of a few shareholders.

You can find out more about that here: The water industry in Scotland

This is different from rUK where there are several private water companies. Unfortunately many commentators do not understand that when reporting on the dreadful pollution happening in England where there are huge problems.

The Water and sewerage companies in England: environmental performance report 2021 is shocking reading:

In 2021, the environmental performance of England’s 9 water and sewerage companies was the worst we have seen for years.

The sector’s performance on pollution was shocking, much worse than previous years. Serious pollution incidents increased to 62, the highest total since 2013. There were 8 of the most serious (category 1) incidents, compared with 3 in 2020 and most companies, 7 of the 9, were responsible for an increase in serious incidents compared to 2020.

One of the safeguards when the UK was in the EU was on maintaining high standards of water quality and keeping our environment clean.

It was back in December 2020 when the Scottish Parliament passed The UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill. It passed by a vote of 90 for, 29 against and 0 abstentions. The Bill became law on 31 January 2021. Tory MSPs voted against this Bill and against the many protections it can offer us.

What the passing of the Continuity Bill in the Scottish Parliament now means is that Scotland’s high quality drinking water aligns with standards set by the European Union. When the UK ‘took back control’ by leaving the EU it allowed the UK Parliament to dispense with environmental standards that it had when it was a member of the world’s largest free trade area. But that cannot happen in Scotland because our Parliament passed the EU Continuity Bill two years ago. The Scottish Parliament in its early days also ensured that we have a national publicly owned water company with the passing of the Water Industry (Scotland) Act 2002.

New regulations put before the Scottish Parliament are intended to improve the quality of Scotland’s drinking water. They should come into force from 1 January 2023.

Pictured in 2019 is local Scottish Water network maintenance operator Jon Smales filling up his water bottle from the Top up Tap in Kirkwall.

Commenting on the regulations Scotland’s Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson said:

“Scotland’s drinking water is renowned for its excellent quality all over the world and we will be relentless in ensuring it stays this way and meets the highest of standards.

“These latest steps we are taking, to maintain those standards, are a prime example of our commitment to re-join the EU and align with its policies. Through such action, we will continue to protect the health and wellbeing of people in Scotland and also ease the future process of Scotland’s return to the EU. 

“This is in stark contrast to the approach being taken by the UK Government, intent on undermining retained EU law which will be hugely damaging to people and businesses in Scotland.  

“We’re determined to continue to be an active and constructive participant on EU matters, which will ease the process of Scotland’s future return to the EU.” 

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) works in partnership with Scottish Water. It implements the regulations and assesses compliance. SEPA’s work has been hampered by a sophisticated criminal cyber attack but gradually it is restoring its services.

And we all have a responsibility too, making sure we do what we can to keep our water and the environment clean and free from pollution.

Fiona Grahame

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