Public procurement is crucial in supporting the effective delivery of our public services. Whether we are buying goods, works or services, we can use our considerable spending power across the public sector in Scotland to promote inclusive economic growth, create opportunities for all, and support and accelerate a just transition towards a net-zero economy.
We have placed economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainability at the heart of all we do. In doing so, we aim to make the best use of public money by driving access to contracts for businesses of all sizes and types; creating jobs and training opportunities for some of the most disadvantaged in our communities; and enabling climate change goals. This approach reflects the distinctive approach that we have developed in Scotland in harnessing the full power of procurement in the pursuit of inclusive, sustainable economic growth.
This report provides an overview of public procurement activity in Scotland during 2018-19 and demonstrates how public procurement spend is supporting ministerial ambitions. Public bodies in Scotland continue to work effectively with partners and stakeholders, and are conducting their procurement processes in a manner that is open and connected. We have seen continued progress in opening up access to contracts and ensuring that businesses – irrespective of size, location and sector – have the support they need to bid for and deliver contracts. We are continuing to embed community benefit requirements within the delivery of Scottish public sector contracts and delivering a wide range of benefits for businesses, communities and wider society. And crucially, where public spend is concerned, we are ensuring that our most disadvantaged communities are not being left behind.
It is important, however, that we do not stand still. And we haven’t. We have taken steps to ensure that procedures are proportionate and standardised, that contract opportunities are transparent and readily accessible, and that the policy and legislation is in place to support sustainability in its broadest sense.
We can continue to do more. That is why we are assessing the effectiveness of the steps we have taken to identify where we can do more, or, indeed, do things differently to ensure that our aspirations are translated into good practice and performance. We are listening and learning all the time. We will use public bodies annual procurement reports, this report, the Sustainable Procurement Duty research published last December, the soon to be published analysis of a suppliers survey we undertook at the tail end of 2020, feedback from SME round tables, the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy & Fair Work Committee’s scrutiny of the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 and any other evidence available to us to improve the way the public procurement system operates to deliver maximum benefit for Scotland.
We cannot achieve all of this alone, however. The progress to date has been made possible through collaborative and partnership working across organisations, including with suppliers. To make a step change, we need a whole organisation approach within organisations to what we buy and how we buy it, with support at the highest levels and with early engagement of procurement in the planning and scoping stages of projects. Only by using all levers at our disposal – including continuing to invest in our procurement talent – can we continue to maximise the impact of public procurement in Scotland for the benefit of all.
While the period of this report pre-dates the outbreak of COVID-19, it is clear that the outbreak has had, and continues to have, a significant effect on the people of Scotland. This underlines more so than ever the vital importance of ensuring that we fully harness our public procurement spending in Scotland helping us shape and deliver our ambitions for an inclusive and green society. Collectively we can and must learn from these experiences and harness public procurement in Scotland to help give the best chance of a strong recovery for people, businesses and our communities across the country.