Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has again raised a series of “fundamental” unanswered questions about the awarding of the new Anderson High School contract in the Scottish Parliament.
One of the UK’s largest building companies, Miller Construction, was appointed as the main contractor last month through the government’s hubco venture. It prompted discontent within the local construction industry, which fears being frozen out of much subcontracted work.
In a Holyrood debate about procurement of public sector contractors on Wednesday, Mr Scott said Miller had three directors on the board of hubco.
“We still do not know whether any other company was allowed to tender for the new school,” he said. “We do not know the price of the school or indeed the other five schools that were procured as part of the same contract.
“We also do not know whether a number of other small businesses had an opportunity to provide a price.”
Mr Scott continued: “I hope, therefore, that in testing the current systems, never mind introducing new ones, the government will give some thought to ensuring that there is transparency in the process that currently operates through its hubco setup throughout Scotland.”
He is concerned that less than half of Scotland’s £9 billion spend on procurement goes to small firms employing fewer than 50 people.
“The deputy first minister admitted there is still room for significant improvement in the way that the public sector buys goods, works and services,” Mr Scott said, “but I am concerned that small businesses do not even have the opportunity to tender for some more lucrative projects, having been elbowed out by enormous procurement systems and conglomerate hubs.
“Ultimately, I want to see a situation where Shetland firms can bid for local contracts. Local firms have the local knowledge and expertise that other companies cannot offer and they should be absolutely entitled, and encouraged, to win contracts in the isles.”