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Concern over slow drip of Scottish water works

SCOTTISH civil engineering firms are urging ministers to speed up the delivery of capital works in the Scottish Executive's £1.8 billion spending programme for the water sector.

The Civil Engineering Contractors'Association warned the Executive's environment minister, Ross Finnie, over the slow pace of the work coming out at the halfway point of the four-year spending programme.

Two years ago the Executive chose two consortia, Stirling Water (Alfred McAlpine, Gleeson and Thames Water) and UUGM (United Utilities, Galliford Try and Morgan Est) to deliver the spending programme through the Scottish Water Solutions (SWS) joint venture.

But concern remains over the slow pace of the work and CECA has raised its fears with SWS chairman Geoff Aitkenhead.

CECA Scotland chief executive Alan Watt said: 'The minister agreed that the water sector's run rate had been slow but that Solutions was committed to ramping up the remainder of the programme as a matter of urgency.'

Industry sources in Scotland added that the civil engineering sector is able to cope with more than £500 million of work a year but is currently operating 'significantly below full capacity' at around £200 million a year.

The industry source warned: 'What contractors need is a steady flow of work and, if the spending is heavily backloaded to the end of the spending period, not only will the industry struggle to cope with the volumes, but the Executive will find that the price goes up as well.'