Scotland business

Small businesses in Scottish council spend call

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The FSB wants contracts to be designed, where appropriate, so they can be met by local supply

Planned public procurement reforms must encourage councils to use more of their spending power on local economies, according to the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland (FSB).

The FSB said public bodies should be required to publish regular assessments of how they spend their cash.

It argued they should also have to identify areas for improvement.

The FSB called for the measures to be included in the Scottish government's planned sustainable procurement bill.

The federation also urged that public contracts be designed, where appropriate, so they could be met by local supply.

And it said it would like turnover, insurance and financial requirements to be proportional to the size of contract.

The call came after the FSB published a study which suggested Scottish authorities on average spent less on their budget with local firms than councils in many other parts of the UK.

Web portal

However the report, conducted in conjunction with the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, also highlighted areas where Scotland was ahead of the UK.

It recommended initiatives such as the Public Contracts Scotland web portal should be emulated across the UK.

Scottish councils were also commended for better data collection than their UK counterparts.

Earlier this year, Infrastructure Secretary Alex Neil outlined his intention to reform public procurement to improve Scottish businesses' access to contract opportunities.

The Scottish government has committed to introducing a sustainable procurement bill during the life of the current parliament.

The FSB's Scottish policy convener, Andy Willox, said: "The Scottish government's upcoming sustainable procurement bill is a real opportunity for us to decide what we want Scottish public procurement to do.

"Over and above any other priorities associated with this legislation, we believe that Scotland needs to use its public spending power to advance our economic ambitions.

"Legislation alone won't solve some of the systemic issues associated with smaller enterprises bidding for public work.

"Alongside the bill, we need to see a real push to connect taxpayers' spend with the communities it came from. We've recently seen some enormous public contracts go spectacularly wrong."

He added: "The idea that going with the multinational is the safer option has been proven wrong time and time again and we need the system to reflect this."

The Scottish government's proposals for a sustainable procurement bill are expected to be published this summer.

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