The Procurement Reform (Scotland) Bill has been put forward by the Scottish Government it is about getting added value for the public purse out of expenditure on public procurement.  The Bill has been much watered down during its consultation process.  However, it is not too late for the Scottish Government to support stronger proposals on Fairtrade, the Living Wage and support for co-operatives.

The public sector in Scotland spends around £10 Billion on areas covered by the Procurement Reform Bill.  It would send out a powerful signal if this public expenditure also delivered social goods like the Living Wage, Fairtrade and more support for the co-operative sector.

As Fairtrade Fortnight begins I am pleased to say that I campaigned for and supported Scotland’s bid to get Fairtrade nation status, and I welcome Scotland gaining that status. Nevertheless, the Scottish Fair Trade Forum makes a good point when it says that it is not enough for the bill to ask companies to consider fair trade issues. The bill must contain a more serious commitment and an explicit recognition of Scotland’s Fairtrade nation status if we are to make the most of it. Labour will return to that issue at stage 2.

The community benefit provisions in the bill are to be welcomed. With so much money being allocated, there is an opportunity for companies to work closely with communities to look at the wider social and economic benefits that this spend can achieve, as the Jimmy Reid Foundation has said. In its submission, the Construction Industry Training Board gives the practical example of including provisions around apprentices and training, which can not only benefit the delivery of the contract, but make a real difference to local economies.

As a co-operator I recognise the way in which co-operatives can empower local communities and workers.  There is much in the bill about supporting small and medium sized enterprises.  I believe that the bill should also include support for co-operatives.  I will be looking for the Scottish Government to accept amendments which would mean that in Scotland there would be a sustainable procurement duty that would facilitate the involvement of co-operatives in public procurement.

In promoting these amendments on promoting co-operatives and supporting Fairtrade Scottish Labour and Co-operative MSPs aim to show the Co-operative Difference and empower people in the developing world as well as at home here in Scotland.