– Scottish Parliament written question – answered on 22nd March 2011.

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Peter Peacock (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what impact the decision of Scottish Enterprise to ask small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and others to pay 25% towards accessing support by use of their intangible assets will have on its commitment to free support for SMEs and voluntary sector organisations to bid for public sector contracts.

Jim Mather: European State aid regulations state that for initial investment projects the beneficiary of aid must provide a contribution of at least 25% of the eligible costs, either through its own resources or by external financing. Scottish Enterprise, in common with other organisations distributing public resources, must abide by these rules.

The Scottish Government is committed to making it easier for SMEs and third sector organisations to access public sector contracts. The Public Procurement Advisory Group (PPAG) meets quarterly and is chaired by Mr Mather, bringing together supplier representatives from CBI Scotland, Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses and the third sector.

In addition, in October 2008, the Cabinet Secretary launched Public Contracts Scotland, a "one stop shop" public sector contract advertising system. Its principle aim is to provide businesses with free and easy access to contract opportunities. Since the launch:

Over 50, 000 suppliers have registered (84% are SMEs);

Over 300 public bodies use the portal;

Over 14,000 business opportunities (notices and awards) has been published;

74% of contracts advertised on Public Contracts Scotland are awarded to SMEs"