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'Dereliction of duty'

Labour demands more SME contracts from Holyrood

Richard Leonard at Penicuik

Richard Leonard: ‘a dereliction of duty by the SNP’ (pic: Terry Murden)

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard says the SNP government’s failure to award contracts to small firms is contributing to the jobs crisis.

He has accused Nicola Sturgeon of a “dereliction of duty” based on government data showing fewer than 0.3% of SMEs benefited from £1.12 billion of procurement contracts.

The Scottish Government procurement annual report for the year to March 2019 shows its spending with SMEs increased by 15% on the previous year to £103 million, with 1,000 SMEs benefitting directly from its business. Additionally, three-quarters of 800 SME sub-contractors were based in Scotland, winning work in the supply chain worth £44m.

However, the spending on SMEs equates to under 9% of total expenditure by Scottish public sector bodies and the 1,034 SME suppliers was just 0.29% of the total.

Data since March 2019 was not made available, though Labour claimed the figures in the report, published last August, showed a “gross failure” by the SNP to deal with the current crisis.

In the summer Ms Sturgeon’s government agreed to support a recommendation by the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery, chaired by former banker Benny Higgins, to allocate more procurement spending to SMEs.

It said it would “explore options to alleviate planning restraints” and “continue working closely with business leaders to ensure we are doing all we can”.

Business leaders have complained for years that too few local businesses win public contracts.

Mr Leonard said: “Scottish Labour have been calling for further support for local businesses during the pandemic and has demanded a proper jobs Guarantee Scheme to protect livelihoods and stimulate growth.

“In stark contrast, Nicola Sturgeon and her SNP Government have handed billions of pounds of public money over to contracts, with little job creation and SME support in return. Scotland can ill afford this dereliction of duty by the SNP.”

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