The PPP market in Scotland has strengthened recently. We are now seeing increased competition for PPP projects, with 3 or more consortium bidders for health and schools projects. There are variations in market response across the sectors and in different parts of the country. It is now standard practice to review prospects for every PPP proposal before procurement commences.
The First Minister will be aware that the European public sector procurement law and the Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2006 (SSI 2006/1) require genuine competition for PPP contracts. He might not be surprised if I refer to the North Ayrshire Council schools PPP contract. Is he aware that there were only two bids for that contract, one of which was identified by the council's advisers as being "non-compliant" at the first key stage review, and that the evaluation report that was produced at the first key stage review recorded that the council's advisers
"had been unable to satisfy themselves that the ... bid has sufficient financial or economic standing to pass evaluation at this stage of the process"?
Does the First Minister therefore accept that there was no competition for the North Ayrshire Council schools PPP contract?
I want to make two points. First, as I understand it, Mr Martin has made a number of allegations about that contract and that when investigations have taken place, those allegations have been found to have no foundation, so he should hesitate to make such claims in Parliament.
Secondly, it is important to recognise that public-private partnerships, whereby local authorities and
I should clarify that some complaints are still with the Lord Advocate and the procurator fiscal in Kilmarnock, so the matter is not closed.
As the First Minister will accept, the Scottish Executive is responsible for the money for PPP contracts. However, is he aware that when I asked the Executive's scrutineers, Partnerships UK, why it had allowed the North Ayrshire Council contract to proceed on the basis of two bids, one of which was non-compliant and should not have been allowed past the first stage, the chief executive, Mr James Stewart, said:
"In this instance, the Authority"— that is, North Ayrshire Council—
"did not consider it necessary to provide the Evaluation Report"?
Does the First Minister accept that North Ayrshire Council did not provide the Executive's scrutineers with the necessary information to ensure that there was competition? Moreover, will he agree to meet me, or instruct the Minister for Finance and Public Service Reform to meet me, so that I can inform the Executive of what exactly has been going on with the North Ayrshire Council schools PPP contract?
In addition to the comments that I made last weekend about my family, I also said that I was older and wiser. One thing that I have learned in this job is never to respond to a quotation until I know whether it has been taken in or out of context. It would be better if Mr Martin provided us with all the information that he claims exists, and we will ensure that he receives a detailed response.