Scottish Water bids to turn around negative publicity

Scottish Water has drafted in senior BBC journalist Atholl Duncan to spearhead attempts to turn around the public body’s fortunes in the media.

Duncan, until recently managing editor for BBC current affairs TV programme Reporting Scotland, has joined Scottish Water this week as its first head of corporate affairs. He will lead a ten-strong external communications department and has a brief to gain more

positive coverage for the under-fire body.

Since its creation last year from an amalgamation of three regional water bodies, Scottish Water has come under a barrage of criticism in the media, including negative stories from, among others, Duncan’s former employer.

A BBC Frontline Scotland investigation earlier this year found that Scottish residents paid more for a lower quality of water than those living in England. Also, a report last month in The Scotsman re-emphasised the comparison with English privatised firms and called into question its state-owned status.

Duncan said the main aim of future PR efforts was to ‘show how the water industry is transforming after 20 years of under-investment. In England there was huge investment after privatisation during the 1980s – that has not happened in Scotland’.

However, he added: ‘Our job is not to dwell on the past, but look to what is being done to improve the quality of service.’

A key point in this strategy is expected to come in the autumn, when around £2bn worth of investment in replacing pipelines is set to be approved.

Duncan’s hire comes a month after the appointment of Glasgow Herald Edinburgh editor Helen Lennox as Scottish Water’s PR head, to handle the day-to-day running of media relations work.

Duncan joins after almost 20 years at the BBC.

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