Floods of protest
Scotland is more likely to react angrily to the threat of water privatisation than to the Poll Tax claims Tommy Sheridan, Militant Labour councillor and Anti-Poll Tax veteran. ‘The idea that a resource that falls from the skies should be bottled up and sold off for private gain is obscene and immoral,’ he argues.
Although the Scottish Ofﬁce insists that no firm decision has been taken yet, it is known that Scottish Secretary Ian Lang has appointed merchant bankers Quayle Munro to advise on the future of the water and sewage industries, and it is likely that privatisation will be one of a variety ofoptions in their forthcoming report.
Among the first to cast doubt on the proposal were the Conservative party’s own members, particularly councillors worried that an unpopular policy such as this would bring criticism from the party’s supporters. This is borne out by a poll carried out earlier this month by The Herald and System Three, which showed that less than one in ten Tory voters support water privatisation.
“Dizzying and wonderful, the James Taylor Quartet should have the glory they deserve” m uve
‘If the people aren’t mobilised and the people aren’t involved, we won’t stop water privatisation ,’ he claimed. ‘You can have all of the grandest campaigners in the world — business leaders, church leaders, community elders. We had that at
Gartcosh and it closed. We had it at
Water privatisation: threat: at civil
Overall, only 4 per cent of Scots favoured the notion, meaning it has even less support than the Poll Tax. A cross-party meeting organised by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) at the end of August agreed to liaise with the STUC in order to ask Scottish industry leaders to put pressure on the Scottish Office. But according to Tommy Sheridan, more is needed than the combined voices of local politicians and businessmen.
‘The idea that a resource that tells lrom the skies should be bottled up and sold oilior private gain is obscene and immoral.’ Tommy Sheridan.
’Ravenscraig and it closed. We had it
at Caterpillar and it closed. But then there was the Poll Tax, where there wasn’t unity among church leaders or the business community because it involved breaking the law. The point is, we broke the law and broke the P011 Tax. We were successful where other campaigners were not. So the involvement of the people is absolutely paramount.’
Sheridan hopes to put the Anti-Poll Tax campaign’s experience to good use under a new banner, Hands Off Our Water (HOW), which will hold its first public demonstration in Glasgow on 21 November. HOW is dedicated to a mass non-payment campaign and will physically block any attempts to install water meters or disconnect water supplies from any Scottish household.
It is clear that Scotland is going to make a louder and more emotional noise about water privatisation than
there was when the services were sold off in England and Wales three years ago. According to a report prepared by the National Association of Citizen Advice Bureaux , 21 ,000 homes south of the border had water supplies cutoff last year often because people simply
; could not afford to pay the inﬂated
charges. The average water bills in south-west England come to £228, whereas the current charge in Central Region is £20. Household disconnections raise fears of health hazards as people are no longer able
' to wash themselves or flush toilets.
‘Major wants to go one better than Thatcher,’ comments Tommy Sheridan, ‘because she only wanted to introduce Victorian values. Major wants to introduce Victorian vocabulary. He wants to bring back “Gardez loo!” into normal usage as the warning that will have to be shouted when they throw the excrement out of the windows.’ (Alan Morrison)
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The List 25 September — 8 October 1992 5