Procurement Portal

– in the Scottish Parliament on 27th October 2011.

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Photo of Colin Beattie Colin Beattie Scottish National Party

2. To ask the Scottish Executive what steps it has taken to ensure that small to medium-sized businesses have fair access to the procurement portal and what share of the available business they obtain. (S4O-00289)

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

Public contracts Scotland provides a free-of-charge, single access point to public sector contract opportunities, which is open to suppliers of all sizes. Eighty-six per cent of the 58,000 suppliers registered on the site are SMEs. In the past year, 74 per cent of the contracts advertised on the PCS website have been awarded to SMEs.

Photo of Colin Beattie Colin Beattie Scottish National Party

In Scotland, we spend £9 billion a year on third-party goods, works and services, but only 30 per cent of the spend is with companies that employ fewer than 100 people. Will the minister consider what further measures can be taken to ensure that smaller companies, which form the backbone of our economy, receive a more equitable share of the procurement allocations, in order to better protect jobs?

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

I am very empathetic to the member’s point. We are looking at ways in which we can increase the opportunities for smaller companies and, indeed, micro-companies. We are considering a range of measures, including, not least, reform of the pre-qualification questionnaire system, with a view to accommodating smaller companies.

In addition, I will in future work much more closely on that issue with our local authority colleagues, who are responsible for 50 per cent of all public procurement in Scotland. The way in which some of their framework contracts have been designed makes it extremely difficult for SMEs in their area or, indeed, in the rest of Scotland to compete effectively for that business. One local authority, Fife Council, has tackled the problem highly successfully, and I hope to see the Fife model rolled out among all the local authorities in Scotland.

Photo of Gavin Brown Gavin Brown Conservative

If I heard him right, Mr Neil said that 70 per cent of public contracts go to SMEs. Does that figure relate to the volume of contracts? If so, what is the value of the contracts that go to SMEs?

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

Over the past four years, the volume of contracts that have gone to SMEs is 75 per cent, which represents 45 per cent of the value.