Scotland sacrifices sustainability for hydro nation goal
Scotland is placing commercial gain over sustainability in its bid to become the world's first 'hydro nation'.
Environmental groups have warned that proposals outlined in the Water Resources (Scotland) Bill are “short-sighted” and focus on “making money” with no mention of water’s contribution to biodiversity or future supply risks.
The warning comes as the Scottish Parliament’s Infrastructure & Capital Investment Committee begins its scrutiny of the new legislation.
The Scottish Government’s intention is that the Bill will set a framework for making the most of Scotland’s water resource, seeking to develop and improve its management as a key part of achieving the Government’s wider hydro nation agenda.
The Bill has been through a public consultation period and is now being more widely reviewed by Parliament. The Committee will consider key aspects of the proposals including the development of water resources, control of water abstraction and Scottish Water’s functions.
One concept is for Scotland to attract business, including those with a heavy reliance on water, from areas of water stress to “add value” to the country’s water assets.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust said this was a very short-term game. Speaking to edie, policy officer Alex Kinninmonth said: “Value is a strange term. It means different things to different people. These proposals really push the economic value of Scottish water – but there is no mention of environmental issues. It’s short-sighted.”
The RSPB also noted that it would be “extremely concerned” if Scotland were to consider undertaking any water-intensive activities without due regard to the environment.
During the consultation earlier this year, concerns were also raised regarding the role of Scottish Water. Unlike England where water companies are largely privatised, Scottish Water remains a public body.
The Bill suggests giving Scottish Water the “power to do anything it considers will assist in the development of the value of Scotland’s Water resources”.
Many have called for clarification to ensure there is a level playing field. SSE, which owns and operates extensive hydro generation schemes, said in its response that it is important that Scottish Water “is not given preferential rights”.
As the country’s biggest user of energy, Scottish Water is investing in carbon reduction schemes said a spokesperson. It has recently launched an international division and has expanded its renewable activities, though largely in food and waste recycling. The spokesperson welcomed the Bil, but declined to comment further.