06 November 2006 | Helen Gilbert
The Federation of Small Businesses Scotland has urged the Scottish Executive to do more to help SMEs access the £8 billion a year of public sector contracts north of the border.
Speaking at the executive's second public procurement conference held in Glasgow last week, Niall Stuart, FSB Scotland's head of press and parliamentary affairs, said more steps were needed to remove artificial barriers that could prevent small firms bidding for work - resulting in less competition, higher prices and poorer service.
Stuart said: "Excluding SMEs affects regional and national economic growth, as larger companies - often headquartered abroad - currently capture much of the value of Scotland's procurement spend."
He called for the "speedy delivery" of a national website on which contracts could be advertised and the creation of a point of enquiry enabling small firms to report unfair treatment without prejudicing their chance of future work.
He added the recommendations from John McClelland's review of public-sector procurement in Scotland on collaborative buying would "inevitably" result in contract aggregation in certain sectors and commodities.
This would take work beyond the scale of many of Scotland's small businesses. Stuart told the conference, which attracted more than 600 public and private-sector professionals, that the FSB wanted a commitment this would only happen when savings were greater than the loss to the local economy.
Tom McCabe, public service reform minister, said the executive was committed to raising standards of procurement across the public sector and could not afford to be "complacent".