There are many reasons not to like the Scottish Water bonuses revealed in this paper at the weekend. One, of course, is that, at a total amounting to almost £1 million for three executives over five years, they dwarf most of our pay packets.

While the Scottish Water salaries (upwards of £270,000 each) and bonuses are smaller than those of some water company CEOs south of the border, they represent a reminder that we have, here, people working in key public roles who are earning vastly more than the workers. You could call it envy, but it's more about justice.

And it's not the only gripe. A key reason why water company bonuses are so much in the spotlight now is the failure of the sector on an issue that generates a visceral public outrage – and that is sewage spillage.

The scandal of sewage pollution in England and Wales, and the bonuses received by those heading up the companies, has put a rocket up the issue here in Scotland.  We have looked over the border and seen fury at the pay packets of CEOs like former Thames Water boss, Sarah Bentley, who was pulling in a £750,000 basic salary, and total pay for 2021-22 which amounted to around £2 million (and in a year in which Thames Water was fined £3.3 million for untreated sewage pollution).

Bentley, like Nicola Shaw of Yorkshire Water, decided to forego her bonus - and later even resigned. But the question remained out there. How can bosses be taking home such huge pay packets for running a system that is blatantly polluting our environment?

READ MORE: Scotland shockingly behind England in monitoring sewage releases

This latest revelation about Scottish Water bonuses is a reminder of how, even when Scotland has a public water company, it is not insulated from private culture. It has, for instance, drawn its most recent new boss – Alex Plant – from the same pond as England's private water companies and one of the defences of his salary ( £22,500 more than his predecessor) is that this it’s lower than those of equivalent positions south of the border.

It also, as a physical system, suffers from many of the same problems as England’s sewers – chiefly that an original system of sewage drainage into rivers and streams has, over time, been built upon and developed through new technologies, but with insufficient investment or regard for limitations.

People argue over which UK country is worst - but that's not the point. Regularly I see evidence of sewage-related debris on my local shoreline. On weekends like the one that has just passed, it could be argued, post-storm, that this is how the system is designed to work. Untreated sewage is meant to flow out through storm outflows when rain flow is intense.

READ MORE: Calls for sewage monitoring as river branded a health hazard

READ MORE: Busted Flush: My journey through Scotland's sewage

But what’s concerning, and a sign of failure,  is the number of dry spills – sewage entering our waters that are not linked to heavy rain. Spillage of untreated sewage during dry weather is illegal, but because many outflows are not monitored, or their spills collated with rainfall, we don't have a proper picture of when that is happening.

However, a recent report and analysis by the Ferret and the Herald compared locations and times of spills with environmental information from Sepa, and calculated that Scottish Water illegally discharged sewage hundreds of times during dry weather.  In the past five years (exactly the time period of those £1 million bonuses), it said, there were 2,300 “dry spilling” incidents from Scottish sewers.

Given this, did those Scottish Water bosses deserve their £1 million? Did they deserve, in fact, any bonus?  Scottish Water's financial papers state that they maintain and operate a "simple remuneration structure made up of base salary and benefits, an annual outperformance incentive plan (AOIP) and a single long-term incentive plan (LTIP), which provide a clear link between pay and Scottish Water’s key strategic priorities."

A key ‘outcome’ pursued in Scottish Water’s Improving Urban Waters Routemap is that the company will “significantly reduce sewer-related debris in the environment, and reduce spills from the sewer network” by December 2024.

That has not yet happened - and it would be surprising if it did. Data published for 2018 to 2022 shows that in that period the total volume of sewage spillage tripled, increasing from less than 16 million cubic metres to over 47 million - and, last year, there were 14,000 spills across Scotland.

And, as is often pointed out by campaigners, the real figure could be higher because only around 4% of the 3,614 sewage overflows in Scotland’s network are currently monitored -  compared with England's 90%.

Many are calling for change. The Marine Conservation Society wants Scottish Water to monitor 100% of sewage outflows by 2026. Scottish Liberal-Democrat leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "There should be no bonuses for Scottish Water execs until sewage discharges are decreasing".

Views are divided between those who want to just repeat the line that 66% of Scotland's waters have good or better ecological status, some who want to use sewage pollution as ammunition against the SNP, and others, like myself, who simply see the evidence, and want us to do better.

One thing, however, is clear - in this context any kind of bonus doesn't look or smell good. It only contributes to the stink.