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Procurex Scotland keynote review

Tuesday October 6th, 2015

The Keynote arena at the 11th National Procurement Conference was one of the biggest attractions for delegates at another jam-packed Procurex Scotland. flag_3570425Large

One year on from the previous year’s National Procurement Conference it was all change on the stage with a new minister and new director taking to the podium, but facing the same challenges to achieve best value for money. Keith Brown MSP and Ainslie McLaughlin filled the chairs previously taken by John Swinney and Alistair Merrill respectively.

The opening keynote address came from the new Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities, Scottish Government, Keith Brown. The minister set out the Scottish Government’s vision for Procurement Reform.

It was Keith Brown’s first time at Procurex Scotland, one of the biggest of its type in Europe and he took the opportunity to say that Scotland’s model of procurement, putting the social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainability at the heart of all it does, remains the foundation of the Scottish Government’s approach. He said it will remain fundamental to how the Scottish Government does business.

He said there is a huge opportunity to benefit Scotland both socially and economically with procurement as a key lever in Scotland’s economic strategy to build a more prosperous and fairer economy. Mr Brown said:

“We can see the challenges ahead, and we know they will not be easy. We can expect a continued pressure on our budgets, value for money will continue to be a prime focus, the need to continue to innovate and to see new and effective opportunities to work together to deliver value for the tax payer. That requires us to build on our capabilities and to develop the skills of our people. A planned implementation of the Procurement Reform Act, and the new EU Directives by Spring next year will help underpin how we take forward the next stage of reform.

“That next stage will see at its heart procurement that improves public services for a prosperous fairer and sustainable Scotland, with procurement supports Scotland’s economic strategy and delivers local economic and environmental and social benefits; as it promotes inclusive growth, and enhances access to contracts for Scottish businesses of all sizes; as it works together to deliver savings, benefits and excellent public services that meet the needs of local people.”

The drive to tackle inequality in society was a topic of choice during the keynote address and the minister called for help from businesses in this effort, in particular through a commitment to fair work practices through paying the living wage.

Mr Brown announced the publication of the Fair Work Procurement Guidance. This guidance will have to be considered by public bodies when preparing tenders to go to competition, and through its statutory guidance the Scottish Government is making clear that it sees the payment of the living wage a significant indicator of an employers’ commitment to fair work practices.

It is clear the Scottish Government sees procurement as a powerful tool in shaping a positive and inclusive society. The minister said, “It is our belief that socially responsible procurement is good procurement.”

Next to the stage was Ainslie McLoughlin,Scottish Government Director of Procurement and Commercial. Mr McLaughlin reminded the room that the next stage of procurement reform is underway and procurement is at the heart of the Scottish Government’s economic strategy.

He said the publication of guidance for fair work practice is the first piece of the legislative jigsaw that will be put in place in the coming months, to provide the framework for how the Scottish Government expects sustainable procurement to be done in Scotland. He said the next stage of procurement reform has to be seen in the context of wider public services reform.

Mr McLaughlin outlined that there is a drive to take collaboration to the next level in order to maintain the rate of improvement in public sector procurement in Scotland since the McLelland Review. This will include working with stakeholders from the outset so that procurement can inform the design of new ways to deliver services more efficiently.

He also said there is a need to collaborate more across the public sector to understand more about what other people are doing in the public sector to promote innovation. With regards to innovation, he said Scotland is a world leader in e-commerce and is seeking to cement its place as a world class digital nation by 2020.

Another well received topic was the emphasis on continuing to improve opportunities for SMEs to access public sector contracts, which Mr McLaughlin said is enshrined in the reform act. The Scottish Government’s track record in this area speaks for itself with 45% of spend going directly to SMEs, and far more if you include the supply chain. Mr McLaughlin said Scotland wants to go further in helping businesses compete for contracts so will need further engagement with the supply chain at the right time, and have the right procurement professionals with the right mix of experience and confidence to make the best use of premarket engagement.

He said the development of commercial skills and capability is vital and urged businesses to invest in people. Mr McLaughlin emphasised the need for procurement professionals to have excellent communication skills.

What is clear is from the speakers in the Procurex Scotland Keynote Arena is that the reform programme is already gathering pace, and procurement and will have a key role in delivering public services in Scotland.

 

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