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20 February 2014 | Gurjit Degun
The Procurement Reform (Scotland) Bill has passed the first stage of legislation after MSPs voted in favour of the principles of the bill.
A debate in the chamber saw MSPs speak in favour of the bill but many said the bill could go further, for example making the legislation apply to Scottish Futures Trust’s hub co-operatives.
James Kelly, Scottish Labour MSP, said he thought it was “peculiar” the Trust was exempt because millions of pounds are spent through it. He also said that the bill should look at company taxation policies to ensure they are operating ethically.
He added: “As the bill stands, there are some problems. The government has to make emphasis on guidance. It’s all very well to make all the right statements, but the legislation needs to achieve its objectives.” But another MSP said guidelines allow a bill to be more flexible and adapt to the needs of different times.
Several MSPs called for the bill to include living wage standards, and one said this could help push the private sector into paying contractors more.
Scottish Conservative MSP Alan Johnstone questioned why Scottish Water is exempt from the bill. Fellow Conservative MSP Gavin Brown pushed for unbundling major contracts to make them appeal to small firms. “Small businesses do not want special treatment but they want ability to compete. There’s nothing in the bill that references unbundling.” He also noted that it seems to be easy for a company that loses out in a bid to go to court.
Deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon responded by saying that she is happy to work with others to see if something can be done around unbundling.
“This bill is not a panacea,” she added. “Most of what is wrong in procurement can be fixed by a common sense approach in procurement.”
In terms of certain organisations being excluded from the bill, Sturgeon said that she is open to further discussions. On living wage, she referred to EU law which does not allow this to be in contracts, however this will be included in the bill’s guidance.
The second stage of the bill will include a detailed line-by-line scrutiny.