SELECT, the trade body for Scotland's electrotechnical industry, has welcomed the positive tone of the recent debate on the Public Procurement Reform bill.
The Scottish government conducted a lengthy consultation on the proposals in the bill, the results of which were published recently, and the debate – which will continue after the summer recess – was called to consider what should be included in the bill.
In the interests of its members, SELECT has made representations regarding the reforms, which are of major significance to the Scottish economy. Spending by the public sector in Scotland on goods and services comes to more than £9 billion per year.
If spending on infrastructure investment and other capital projects is added, the total is more than £11 billion per year which is more than 7.5% of gross domestic product, if the geographical share of North Sea oil is included.
David Wright (pictured), head of external affairs at SELECT, said: "The decisions taken regarding public sector procurement will have a major and lasting impact on the prospects of companies, and thus employment, in Scotland. So it is very heartening to see Scotland leading the way in this arena.
"We have been encouraged by the considered responses from government on a number of aspects, and the sense that the promoters of the bill share our imperative of making public sector procurement operate in a more streamlined and effective manner."
Wright highlighted a number of areas, including:
Sturgeon said that the approach to procurement in recent years had delivered £1.2 billion of savings, more than 3,500 training and employment opportunities through community benefit clauses and a national framework for supported businesses.
She also said that 46% of Scotland's £9 billion procurement spending – compared with a UK government target of 25% – is with SMEs, nearly half of which goes directly to small firms that employ fewer than 50 people.
Wright said: "For Ms Sturgeon to highlight the importance of companies with 50 or fewer employees is a welcome recognition of the reality of the SME sector in Scotland. SMEs are typically regarded as having between 50 and 250 employees, but the fact is that companies with 250 employees are few and far between. Enterprises with 50 people or fewer are much more representative, and it is encouraging to see attention being drawn to their special circumstances."