Alan Sutherland (Water industry)

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Market Cheerleader

Alan Sutherland was the original and sole Water Industry Commissioner from November 1999 until 2005. In 2005 the commissioner made way for a six person commission. He was/is an open advocate of the privatisation/mutualisation/liberalisation of Scottish Water. In 2004 he advocated privatisation [1] while, alongside Sir Ian Byatt in 2006 he called for the mutualisation of Scottish Water [2]. In May 2008 he called for a Great British market, where Scotland would join with the privatised English and Welsh market. Moreover, his vision promotes an enhanced private system, with an opening of markets and competition opened up in every sphere of water provision. According to Utility Week he said 'that a Great Britain-wide competitive market might be the best option for customers, entrants and the market. He also said that Scotland would look to open up competition upstream: in resources, treatment and distribution, as well as in domestic retail [3].

He is no opponent of increased market involvement and competition in the water sector in Scotland. A clue to his mindset was given in an exchange he had with Frontier Economics. Frontier invited him to a ‘guest only’ talk by Frontier’s new recruit (at that time in March 2006) Sir Andrew Turnbull, the retired Cabinet Secretary. The talk was titled ‘Why Blair has struggled to reform the Public Sector’, a title that hints at the frustrations felt by many that, despite the significant inroads made by the private sector, there has not been enough privatisation and market principles applied in the public sector. When replying Alan Sutherland said ‘sounds a rather interesting talk and more than a little relevant to the challenges that we face in the regulation of Scottish Water' [4].

Work History

He has extensive experience in management consultancy and in the investment banking industry, being a former management consultant with Bain and Company. A role he had with them was assisting and overseeing the Ukraine’s transition from state to market economy. Acting as project director for financial advisers Bain & Company, Sutherland said in 1995 that 65 percent of Ukraine's industrial work force could switch to the private sector that year [5].

Before that he was a Manager with the private family run bank Robert Fleming and Company. Sold off to the American Bank Chase Manhattan for £4.9billion they reincarnated as Fleming Family and Partners (FF&P). An investment firm FF&P state that their ‘entrepreneurial spirit seeks innovative investment solutions to preserve and grow the wealth of our clients’. According to a report early in 2007 ‘In order to get your foot in the door and on to the fine Turkish carpets, you need to have at least £ 10m of assets available to invest, on top of whatever your homes are worth’. In return, you get small army of financial flunkeys who will advise on minimising tax bills and offer a range of investments, from hedge funds to private equity and Russian property, all of which would be outside the ken of ordinary punters’. His last position before becoming the commissioner in November 1999, was as the Managing Director of Wolverine CIS Ltd, a division of Wolverine World Wide a global footwear manufacturer and distributor. A graduate in Russian all of the companies Alan Sutherland worked for had interests in Russia, which had emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union.


  1. Macmahon, P, 'OVERHAUL SCOTTISH WATER OR PRICES WILL SOAR' The Scotsman (February 24, 2004) Accessed 7th August 2008
  2. Macmahon 'Free Scottish Water from state to avoid surge in bills, ministers told' The Scotsman (8th June 2006) Accessed 7th August 2008
  3. 'GB Market Best Option' Utility Week (30th May 2008) Accessed 7th August 2008
  4. Document Uncovered by FOI, e-mail between Alan Sutherland (WICS) and Rob Francis (Frontier Economics) (9th March 2006)
  5. Journal Of Commerce, (9th August 1995), 'PRIVATIZATION DRIVE TO GET FOREIGN FLAVOR IN UKRAINE GOVERNMENT OKS SALE OF VOUCHERS', Accessed 7th September 2008