Scottish Water condemned for bonuses as sewage is released into rivers

An investigation found that the dumping of untreated human waste happened more than 10,000 times in 2021.

Scottish Water condemned by Liberal Democrats for bonuses as sewage is released into rivers iStock
The Liberal Democrats say that raw sewage is being dumped into Scottish rivers "30 times a day"'

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are demanding to know why bosses at Scottish Water are receiving “enormous” bonuses while raw sewage is released into the country’s rivers “at least 30 times a day”.

Earlier this week, leader Alex Cole-Hamilton quizzed the First Minister on the routine dumping of untreated human waste after an investigation by The Ferret revealed the practice had happened more than 10,000 times in 2021.

Nicola Sturgeon said it is an “important issue” and vowed to take steps to examine what can be done.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said it is time the Scottish Government sends a message that “nobody should get away with systematically pumping raw sewage into our rivers – let alone a Government-owned company”.

He said people will want to know why the total bonus paid out last year to three top bosses at the organisation amounted to £227,000 – of which £92,000 was given to the chief executive.

The party also suggested that while The Ferret identified the figure of at least 30 times a day for the releasing of sewage, the true statistic is “likely to be much higher” due to a “rarity” in monitoring.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “The release of untreated human waste into our rivers shouldn’t be allowed to happen.

“We’re talking about excrement, wet wipes and sanitary towels being pumped into the heart of our communities.

“People will want to know why top execs are being rewarded with enormous bonuses of up to £92,000 when raw sewage is being dumped at least 30 times a day.

“We need the Government to take action to prevent this from happening, but neither Scottish Water or the Scottish Government show any sign of changing their ways.”

A Scottish Water spokesperson said the chief executive’s package was “significantly less” than that of paid to counterparts in other UK water companies.

They stated: “Executive incentive payments are only made for exceeding performance expectations under arrangements approved by the Scottish Water Board and the Scottish Government.

“Payments made in 2021 reflected strong out-performance of the targets set for the final year of the 2015-2021 regulatory period.

“The package for the Scottish Water chief executive is significantly lower than that of other water company chief executives elsewhere in the UK water sector. Scottish Water is the fourth largest water and waste water services organisation in the UK.”

The spokesperson also stressed: “Scottish Water is committed to continuing to support the protection and improvement of Scotland’s rivers, coastal waters and beaches.

“We recently published our urban waters route map and plans to invest up to half a billion pounds in Scotland’s waste water network to deliver further improvements and ensure the country’s rivers, beaches and urban waters are free from sewage related debris.

“This will enable us to target investment in improving our monitoring, reporting our performance, and upgrading the worst performing Combined Sewer Overflows. CSO’s play an important role as essential safety valves on the sewer network to help prevent flooding which can particularly affect customers’ properties and communities.

“All our customers can play a huge part in preventing debris in rivers and on beaches. Our new national campaign ‘Nature Calls’ urges customers not to flush wet wipes (and other items) down the toilet and we are calling for a complete ban on the sale of wet wipes containing plastic.”