I have conversations with my colleague, Roseanna Cunningham, almost every day, and I am more than happy to explore that issue with her. It is important to recognise that the use of article 19 is not new; it is already used for many public contracts. Jenny Marra asked specifically about the uniforms of the new fire and police services. She will accept that it is wrong to give the impression that, through one contract, we can secure the future of Remploy. This must be about ensuring that the Remploy businesses are sustainable. It is also important to acknowledge that the bodies that will let the contract will be the new police and the fire services; the Government does not purchase those uniforms. I have no doubt that those bodies will, in making decisions on uniforms, consider whether use of a supported employment organisation is the best option.
I regret how the UK Government has gone about making the announcement on Remploy. Several members referred to that during the debate and John Pentland talked about the limited notice that the Scottish Government had received. My understanding is that Fergus Ewing was given less than two hours’ notice of the announcement. That is regrettable and it undermines the so-called respect agenda.
From an early stage, we said to the UK Government that we wanted to be involved as early as possible, because we wanted to explore whether there were alternative models that could be developed before a final decision was made on the future of the Remploy factories. I regret that our willingness to work in partnership and co-operation with the UK Government on this matter was not reciprocated. As a result, we have found ourselves in a situation in which we now have to address the problems following the decision that has been made by the UK Government.