I had an opportunity to visit Royal Strathclyde Blindcraft Industries on 6 July, where I met staff and employees. RSBI is a successful example of a supported employment workshop that offers training, development and career progression, to benefit people with disabilities and the local economy.
Will the minister tell the Parliament what state the order books are in for the relatively small number of sheltered workshops in Scotland? Is he aware which workshops have empty order books? What meetings has he convened with ministerial colleagues to address the developing crisis for sheltered workshops throughout Scotland?
I had a chance to listen to some of the debate this morning, when such issues were raised. I acknowledge the genuine commitment and compassion that Helen Eadie has displayed on the matter, in the debate and in discussions with me. I hope that she acknowledges that there is the same commitment on the Government benches. We provide direct funding for some supported employment workshops, in Aberdeen and other areas.
The member asked about orders. Of course, it is not possible for us to provide contracts if we have no requirement for the goods but, in areas in which we have a requirement for goods, we are closely considering whether we can place contracts that will benefit the workshops. That work is continuing.
As was mentioned in the debate, where we can we also use the European Union public procurement directive, in relation to reserving contracts for supported factories. That is helping
Before we come to the next item of business, I am sure that members will want to join me in welcoming to the gallery the Rwandan high commissioner to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Ernest Rwamucyo, and the deputy high commissioner, Ms Linda Kalimba. [ Applause .]