Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/517/3660
SNP 'trusts' are PFI in disguise
THE SNP-led Scottish government has published a consultation paper setting out its 'alternative' to the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and Public-Private Partnership (PPP) schemes in Scotland.
Brian Smith, Glasgow Unison social work services secretary, personal capacity
The government proposes to set up a Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) as a means of raising finance to fund public-sector capital projects such as schools, hospitals, transport links, etc. The SFT will also include housing which was not previously part of the PFI framework in Scotland.
The paper talks about how the limitations on the Scottish Parliament over public borrowing and tax powers, UK fiscal policies and EU constraints hinder "off-balance sheet" approaches to public spending. However the paper welcomes the "involvement of the private sector in infrastructure investment".
The Unison union has responded that the "proposals are in both rhetoric and substance far removed from the 2006 SNP plan" and says that "private profit is still taken out at the contractor level.... This results in the same profiteering and inflexibility inherent in PFI". The Glasgow Herald economics editor suggests "that the picture that emerges bears little resemblance to what was proposed sixteen months ago".
The SFT will be a Scottish-wide private limited company and will raise finance from bonds but will also borrow from commercial banks and private investors. It will basically operate as a single PFI vehicle with public authorities and local councils paying a charge to the SFT for the use of facilities and support services.
The SNP claim this national approach will generate an 'economy of scale' that will be more efficient that the current individual PFI schemes. There is no mention of whether workers will or will not transfer to the private companies under the new arrangements.
The SFT itself will be "non-profit making". However the private-sector companies and banks who have made millions from PFI will still rip off the public sector and get their share of working-class people's taxes through the same overpriced, inflexible contracts and loan repayment charges.
Public-sector workers and Scotland's wider population will soon recognise that there is more that unites the SNP with their Labour predecessors than Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond of the SNP, would care to admit.
Whilst the SNP have delivered some small popular changes in the last few months, on the crucial economic issues they remain the servants of big business and the private companies that have sucked the blood out of our public services for years.
In The Socialist 23 January 2008:
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