Herbies taps into Scottish Water’s regulatory work

Herbert Smith has trumped the Scottish legal sector by scoring a place as the sole adviser to Scottish Water on its regulatory affairs.

The water agency tendered several Scottish firms, including its main external adviser Dundas & Wilson, but instead opted for Herbert Smith.

The new instruction will hand Herbert Smith energy partner Trevor Turtle a flood of work, as his instruction coincides with a shake-up in the regulation of Scottish Water, which is the only water supplier north of the border.

Commenting on the instruction, Tom Axford, Scottish Water’s head of legal, told The Lawyer: “We wanted a law firm which was familiar with the regulation of water. We initially tendered in Scotland, but instead chose Herbert Smith, which is acting for a number of water companies in England.”

Turtle will be responsible for handling the impact on Scottish Water of Scotland’s Water Services Bill, which is currently before the Scottish Executive.

The bill could lead to the introduction of a regulator responsible for the prices Scottish Water charges its customers. 

The water agency is also likely to gain new powers to appeal any of the new regulator’s decisions to the Competition Commission.

Under competition rules in the bill, other companies could take over aspects of Scottish Water’s support services, in particular its billing arm.

On the proposed changes, Axford said: “The Scottish Executive policy is that if you don’t have a regulated market, then the market will set its own rules. I agree with this. I think it’s in everyone’s interests to set such a regime.”