Unison calls for probe into Scottish PPP buildings

NICOLA Sturgeon must hold an inquiry into all public-private partnership (PPP) building projects including those carried out under the SNP, a union has demanded.

Work being carried out on Oxgangs Primary School in Edinburgh. Picture: Hemedia

Unison said the closure of 17 Edinburgh schools built under the previous Labour government’s private finance initiative (PFI) “calls into question this whole (PPP) funding model from inception to present and plans to continue using it in the future”.

Speaking ahead of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s address to the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) in Dundee, Unison delegate Susan Kennedy said: “Don’t just investigate those schemes that suit you, Nicola.”

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The SNP has been a long-standing critic of PFI but it has introduced its own PPP programme called non-profit distributing (NPD) - which limits returns to the private sector and reinvests profits back into public services.

Infrastructure is still built by private contractors under commercially-confidential public contracts.

Ms Kennedy told the STUC: “PFI, PPP, NPD, they’re all different names for the same problem.

“They are all flawed and we need them all investigated and made transparent. We need to explore ways of bringing them back in-house.”

She said PPP has been “a disastrously costly mistake” and “eye-wateringly expensive”.

“Secretive contracts have now been acknowledged by many as being a rip-off,” she said.

“We want the next Scottish Government to commission an inquiry into all PPP infrastructure projects in Scotland.

“This inquiry should include within its remit what can be done to open up the contracts and charging regimes to public scrutiny.”

She also called on public bodies to exploit “historic low borrowing rates on capital to refinance or bring back these schemes to the public sector to provide better value for money”.

She added: “We must, therefore, say to the First Minister: don’t just investigate those schemes that suit you, Nicola.

“We need you to look at all of them for all of our children’s safety and our safety in the public sector.”