Scott raises ‘serious questions’ over AHS contract

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott is demanding an explanation as to why a local consortium was unable to bid for the main contract to build the new Anderson High School.

Last week The Shetland Times revealed that a joint approach from DITT, Hunter & Morrison and Tulloch Developments had been rejected.

Hub North Scotland (hubco), the organisation tasked with delivering several new schools in the north of Scotland, last week awarded the contract to Miller Construction.

The company is part of the Miller Group, one of the UK’s largest building firms and joint shareholder in the Alba partnership, which owns 60 per cent of hubco and controls its day-to-day decisions.

Mr Scott said the fact the company had members on the hubco board and effectively awarded a contract “to themselves” did “at least pose some questions”.

“We need to know how this very important project for the future of Shetland education was awarded,” he said.

DITT director Peter Tait said the three firms would be asking “some serious questions” at a meeting with representatives of hubco and Millers next month.

Although hubco wrote back to the companies informing them that it would not entertain a tender from a local consortium, they are unhappy at the “lack of clarity” in explaining why.

“Our main concern, I suppose, is the misinformation and inconsistencies in what we’ve been told up to now,” Mr Tait said.

This newspaper asked hubco for a clear explanation of its decision to freeze out the consortium.

In response, its development director Fraser Innes stated: “The supply chain strategy to deliver the requirements for the programme of schools is to use the established supply chain which were [sic] derived through competitive tendering.

“This has been further benchmarked and considered on the basis of a programme approach and has already realised a potential saving in excess of £2 million.

“This also brings the required experience, resources and commitment to the standard form contracts which are required by Scottish Government as part of these revenue funded projects.”

Millers is now expected to put out four fifths of the work to tender and 18 local contractors and consultants have expressed an interest in being involved. But Mr Tait said it was unclear how much subcontracted work might go to home-grown firms.

“There’s a rule within the hub process that 80 per cent has to be tendered, but that doesn’t necessarily mean 80 per cent awarded,” he said.

“Anecdotal evidence [of the schools for the future programme] in other areas suggests the amount being done locally is considerably less.”

Speaking following a meeting with members of the building trade on Friday, Mr Scott said he was disappointed the local consortium had been denied a “fair crack at this enormous tender”.

“It would have been fair to have allowed them to tender to the build the new AHS,” he said. “That would have added to the competition because we still don’t know the tender price that Miller Group submitted and who else was allowed to tender.

“I’m now going to ask the chief executive of hubco to come north to Shetland to sit down to local industry and explain why they didn’t get this opportunity.”

He added: “This unfortunately looks like yet more centralisation of procurement, stopping our local trade at least having the right to put a price in for a big job.

“I am sure a very close eye will be kept on Millers to see what work they do award to Shetland business.”

In the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon told Mr Scott he would get the answers he was looking for.

Ms Sturgeon said it was anticipated that local companies would tender for subcontracted work. That would ensure not only that Shetland would get a “fantastic new facility”, but that some of the £36 million project’s economic benefits would stay in Shetland.

Visiting the islands this week, Scottish finance minister John Swinney said hubco had to comply with the “constraints” of the EU’s regime for awarding public sector contracts.

“The tendering process has got to be undertaken in an open fashion,” he said. “Judgements have to be taken about the companies that are taking that forward.”



Add Your Comment
  • Michael Grant

    • March 28th, 2013 9:00

    So here we go again,just get on with it and build the damn thing.Contract awarded rightly or wrongly just get it built.Oh yeah and we can really afford another compensation payout if they do change there minds but then again it is the Shetland Islands council were speaking about here.

  • Johan Adamson

    • March 28th, 2013 10:16

    Even if they get to tender for the 80% it will be the least profitable parts of the work. I dont understand how anything controlled by one building firm in particular can possibly ever be seen as fair. And isnt this about PFI which I thought had been discredited by public PFI buildings already there which are now costing the public sector a fortune in rent and other charges? And can we have a more plain english response from Fraser Innes because I did not understand a word of it.

  • john mcphail

    • March 30th, 2013 10:26

    Yet again Tavish fabricates a conspiracy from nothing for purely political purposes.

    His confrontational moaning is quickly becoming tiresome.

    Just get the new School built. This whole process over decisions to build has gone on forever and been a complete mess. At least a substantial grant from the very government Scott decrys has finally got things moving. Unlike when he was in government.


Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.