Scotland politics

Scottish government wins £3.2m legal battle over gritting contract

Snow ploughs Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The winter of 2010 was one of the coldest in living memory

The Scottish government has won a £3.2m legal battle against a gritting business which had accused it of a breach of EU competition laws.

Nationwide Gritting Services Ltd had sued over the awarding of salt contracts in the winters of 2009-11.

The Court of Session ruled in favour of ministers who argued they were allowed to award contracts without competition during the exceptionally cold winters.

A spokesperson said the Scottish government welcomed the outcome.

The winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11 were the coldest in living memory, and the government was forced to use up its salt supplies as temperatures fell as low as -15C.

Ministers had cited the "extreme urgency" exception in the Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2006, arguing that the conditions were "exceptional".

Track record

However, Nationwide Gritting Services (NGS) launched its legal action in 2012 when it found out the Scottish government had purchased extra supplies of salt.

The firm said it had not had the opportunity to bid for the contracts and claimed to have lost more than £3m from not being able to supply the salt.

Lord Woolman, ruling in favour of Scottish ministers at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, said the company, which supplied its first customer in 2010, did not have a track record of bidding for public contracts.

Branding the legal action "misconceived", the judge added that NGS had not established that it would have been able to offer more competitive bids than its rivals.

A Scottish government spokesperson said: "We welcome today's opinion which found that the case against the Scottish government had no merit.

"In the face of extremely severe winter weather the Scottish government acted properly to keep the economy going and to protect public safety.

"Securing additional salt supplies helped to keep the majority of our roads open and to keep people on the move in exceptional circumstances."

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