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Procurex Scotland Live 2014 Keynote Review

Wednesday October 22nd, 2014

It was the Scottish Government’s Tenth National Public Procurement Conference and there was cake to celebrate it. The cake was rather aptly cut by procurement and supply chain apprentices, the very people who will be procuring for Scotland in the future. procurexscotland_logo

The future was on the minds of many attending the conference, and optimism was in the air. The general feeling was that while huge challenges lie ahead, they also bring huge opportunities.

The keynote arena saw John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth at the Scottish Government, take to the stage in Glasgow’s SECC to sing the praises of Scottish procurement with the enthusiasm of the many rock performers the venue has welcomed in the past.

He said: “Scotland’s model of procurement is recognised internationally as a benchmark of excellence. Measures to simplify and streamline processes are giving thousands of businesses across Scotland an opportunity to flourish.”

Mr Swinney stressed the significance of procurement to Scottish Government operations. Public bodies in Scotland have taken collaborative procurement to heart and its impact is clear. He noted that 80% of contracts on Public Contracts Scotland are won by SMEs, and announced the streamlining of procurement processes with Public Contracts Scotland to merge with Glasgow Business Portal.

Mr Swinney also said sustainability is at the heart of everything the Scottish Government does. Good procurement is socially and environmentally responsible procurement, and he underlined that these considerations are central to the Scottish Government’s commitment to making Scotland the best place in Europe to do business with the public sector.

He commented: “Through our Community Benefit Clauses, we have given communities a guarantee that they will get something back from businesses operating in their area. As a result, thousands of young people are being trained and equipped with the skills they need for the jobs of the future.

“The Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 shows that we are doing all we can to ensure as many people as possible benefit from the Living Wage. The Act enables us to issue statutory guidance, which will mean that public bodies will be able to evaluate each contractor’s approach to workforce-related matters, including paying the Living Wage.

“This approach is demonstrated by the award of a new catering contract for the Scottish Government which means that employees working on that contract will be paid the Living Wage. This comes on top of our work setting up the Fair Work Convention which will aim to exert greater Scottish influence over the minimum wage.”

Sir Peter Housden, Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government, and presenter of the aforementioned cake, was equally positive about Scottish procurement, outlining the progress that has been made over the last 30 years. Scottish procurement, and indeed UK procurement, has come a long way, especially when you consider that in the eighties there was no requirement to know what services actually cost.

Sir Peter showed how good procurement practice has become a strong driver of reputation for government and business alike. Scotland has made great strides in many areas, such as creating a transparent and level playing field, SME development, labour market skills, environmental sustainability, innovation in tendering, and social cohesion. The challenges ahead concern restricted resources, sourcing scarce skills, and social care provision. Sir Peter also predicts that employment practice will be a growth area. All in all, he concluded, Scotland is a good place to do business.

Procurex Scotland Live 2014 was warmed by possibility. There are great opportunities ahead to achieve the things that the Scottish Government has set out to do. There are challenges ahead for Scotland, that’s for sure, but the message resonating from Procurex Scotland is that Scotland can have its cake and eat it. And for business, there are plenty of slices to go around.

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