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European Union law precludes making payment of a living wage a requirement of a procurement process. The Procurement Reform (Scotland) Bill will allow ministers to issue statutory guidance on how workforce-related matters, such as a company’s approach to recruitment and terms of engagement, should be considered when assessing the suitability of a company to bid for public contracts.
As the cabinet secretary will be aware, this is living wage week and today campaigners are outside, lobbying the Parliament. In addition to asking for amendments to the bill, the campaigners are asking whether the Scottish Government will set up a Scottish living wage unit, convene a living wage summit with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and issue with the bill guidance to public bodies that outlines steps that can be taken to deliver the living wage through procurement. I have signed up to those pledges; will the cabinet secretary indicate whether he, too, supports them?
I am very sympathetic to the points that Mr Bibby has raised. Indeed, as the finance minister in a Government that applied the living wage to the public sector pay policy over which it presides, I am very proud of that commitment.
As Mr Bibby will acknowledge and as has been widely acknowledged in this debate, some very significant practical and legal issues that have emerged as a result of the constraints that I mentioned with regard to the EU’s position restrict our ability to oblige contractors to pay the living wage. However, in Scottish living wage week, I want to make clear the Scottish Government’s strong and emphatic support for the application of the living wage. We are leading by example and look to other organisations to follow that example.