To the west of Edinburgh, construction of the new £1.5bn Forth road bridge will use steel from Poland, Spain and China.
A local steel plant near Motherwell lost out as part of a consortium bidding for the work. It says the contract could have secured hundreds of local jobs.
Officials insist that they have to follow EU rules which state that any company across the single market can bid for public contracts. But analysts complain that UK authorities interpret these rules more narrowly than their European counterparts, to the detriment of British firms. French public spending goes outside France at only half the rate that British contracts go abroad.
With the economy struggling, the Government has pledged support for British business but accepts that public projects are too often awarded in a way that disadvantages domestic companies. So can it take action to support UK jobs without being accused of protectionism?
Reporter: Gerry Northam
Producer: Gail Champion.