Sharing Knowledge, Expertise Key to Scotland’s Hydro Nation Initiative: Keith Brown

EDINBURGH, Scotland, United Kingdom

Building and sharing knowledge and expertise are at the heart of Scotland’s Hydro Nation initiative, says Scottish Government Minister for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities Keith Brown.

When it comes to water, Brown, who sat down with OOSKAnews CEO David Duncan at the Scottish Parliament last week, sees his primary responsibility as ensuring sustainable, effective water supply in Scotland.

But at the same time “we have a real focus on the Hydro Nation initiative we’ve undertaken, and that is about using for example environmental justice funds,” as well as other funds, to provide “technological and managerial expertise to help with water infrastructure development in other countries," he says.

“It’s about making the best use of our own resources but also helping other countries do the same thing with their water resources,” Brown explains.

Ensuring that other nations can develop their own water sectors is “obviously more sustainable, so those are the kind of things we’re aiming to do; that’s the ‘justice’ element” of the Hydro Nation initiative, he says.

But Hydro Nation is a two-way street; Brown says it is also an opportunity for Scotland to acquire expertise and increase knowledge. The International Water Resources Association’s World Water Congress, hosted in Edinburgh last year, is an example of this, as is the Hydro Nation scholars program.

The World Water Congress was a “hothouse atmosphere” of participants looking at water issues in depth “and being able to share each other’s experience,” Brown recalls. “That’s where you can get new ideas and innovation.”

While Scotland is not the only country in the world to position itself as a water leader, its unique water sector model also offers an example that could benefit other nations, he says.

Scotland’s water service provider, Scottish Water, is a publicly owned company that takes direction from government ministers. It has managed over time to make fairly substantial capital investments in water infrastructure, provide services of a quality that exceeds that of many private sector companies while maintaining low tariffs, and ensure “efficiency [and] careful husbanding of existing resources,” says Brown.

“It’s really that kind of expertise that’s been developed in a fairly unique way,” and “some countries could certainly benefit from that where water is much more of an issue.”

In addition, Scotland’s regulatory regime -- with a Water Industry Commissioner appointed by Scottish Ministers to monitor Scottish Water’s performance and manage water rates -- as well as European Union directives that have driven up standards, performance and quality, have “create[d] the environment in which we managed to achieve what we have achieved, he says. “That environment is important and probably quite distinctive.”

Highlighted video footage of the interview is available here.