Page last updated at 23:16 GMT, Monday, 31 March 2008 00:16 UK

Business gets water supply choice

Tap running water
Four new water suppliers have already been licensed

Businesses in Scotland are now able to decide who supplies them with water and sewerage services.

About 130,000 companies, councils, schools and other public bodies are also able to choose from four newly-licensed water suppliers.

Publicly-owned utility Scottish Water was previously the sole supplier.

The move - said to be a world first - is aimed at creating competition to help reduce prices and increase the quality of service.

Scottish Water will retain control of Scotland's network of pipes, sewers and treatment works.

Competing companies will buy water from Scottish Water at a fixed price, before selling it on to customers.

Domestic customers

Four suppliers have already been licensed to provide services to Scottish businesses - Osprey, Satec, Aquavitae, and Scottish Water-owned Business Stream.

A further application from Ondeo Industrial Solutions is currently under consideration, with several other companies rumoured to be interested in applying.

If the move is a success, it could be extended to domestic customers in the future.

Alan Sutherland, chief executive of the Water Industry Commission for Scotland, said the introduction of choice would benefit businesses of all sizes.

He added: "Scotland is leading the world in the introduction of a competitive framework for the water and sewerage sector.

"It is a system that has never been tried anywhere else in the world. Any company, of any size, from the smallest corner shop to an international conglomerate, stands to benefit from these changes."

This is political double standards driven by ideology at its absolute worst
Alex Johnstone
Scottish Conservatives

Infrastructure Minister Stewart Stevenson welcomed the opening up of the retail market for non-domestic customers as an "exciting development" for Scotland.

He said: "For the first time, all business and public bodies such as schools and hospitals and local authorities will have a choice of who supplies them with their water and sewerage services.

"This is the first time such market competition has been introduced anywhere in the world."

But Tory MSP Alex Johnstone accused the minister of double standards by refusing to extend the same benefits to domestic customers by "de-nationalising" Scottish Water.

"Surely if the market is good for one set of standards, it is good for everyone," said Mr Johnstone.

"This is political double standards driven by ideology at its absolute worst."

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