Finance secretary John Swinney last week named Sir Angus Grossart as chairman of the newly established Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) company set up to deliver£35bn worth of public projects in waste, transport and education.
The company which Mr Swinney said will have local authority expertise on its board from its inception aims to be a centre of expertise that can inject a private sector ethos into talks with lenders. It will be run by five top officers, each earning up to£180,000.
The SFT will develop proposals in partnership with councils for municipal bond issues and encourage joint bids for loans to secure cheaper rates, including a non-profit distributing model that curbs the private sector profits now derided under PFI.
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities said the announcement “leaves many questions unanswered because it is light on evidence and detail”.
COSLA vice-president Rob Murray (SNP) said talks to date had “not delivered the detail local authorities had wanted” and he warned the plan “must be workable and not just a political aspiration”.
“There are key elements to this proposal which require the active co-operation of local government and to date we have not had sufficient involvement in the development to ensure that it can work,” he said.
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy Scotland has voiced concerns over governance and ensuring councils’ interests are upheld.
Unison attacked what it said was a “hugely expensive quango headed up by a merchant banker”.
Unison said each staff member will earn on average more than the chief executive of Scotland’s largest local authority.
Its Scottish organiser Dave Watson said: “It is difficult to see how this body will be anything other than a vocal proponent of more PPP in Scotland, wasting yet more billions of taxpayers’ money.”