Remploy (United Kingdom Government Response)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 22nd March 2012.

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Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

It is quite right that the Glencraft process involved the Government and the local authority; that was missing in Edinburgh’s case. My point is that there are political choices to be made and political leadership can be shown.

The most obvious tool that ministers can call on is article 19 of the EU public procurement directive, which exists specifically so that contracts can be given to organisations in which more than 50 per cent of the workers have a disability. Royal Strathclyde Blindcraft Industries is showing, through its contracts with Glasgow City Council, exactly how the sector can be led.

At the demonstration today, I met somebody from the Remploy factory in Springburn who told me that it is the sole maker of wheelchairs in the whole of the UK—not the sole supported employer, but the sole maker—and it is now, for the first time, on the list as an approved supplier; yet, it is threatened with closure.

I am conscious of the time, although I have taken some interventions.

We can offer political will. The minister mentioned Scottish Enterprise, and I believe that Co-operative Development Scotland also offers a model. The minister should work with trade unions and the sector. That would make a huge difference not in saving money, but in generating money for the economy. By using the untapped potential of disabled workers—who are underemployed at the moment—we will improve our economy as well as improving lives.

I move amendment S4M-02431.2, to insert at end:

“; urges the Scottish Government to take the opportunity to express an interest in acquiring the Scottish Remploy factories affected by the closure proposal and, through Co-operative Development Scotland, to explore the community cooperative model of ownership for those businesses and to establish a task force comprising Remploy employees, trade unions and cross-party representatives to help secure a sustainable future for those factories and their employees, and further calls on the Scottish Government to commit to greater use of Article 19 contracts by the public sector.”