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[ 11-08-2009 ]

More than 30 business representatives from Wick to Wigtown met with Enterprise, Energy and Tourism Minister Jim Mather at a special event to discuss issues relating to public procurement. 
Public procurement contracts in Scotland are worth in the region of £8billion each year and represent 25% of public sector spend.
The event, led by Scotland’s largest business representative organisation, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC), provided businesses of all sizes and across all sectors with the opportunity to discuss issues of concern regarding the procurement process directly with the Minister and his team.  It also gave the Government team the chance to outline progress, which has been made over the past two years in opening up the process and making opportunities for supplying the public sector more accessible, particularly to the SME sector.
Mike Salter, Chairman of the SCC said: “Local and central government procurement is a major issue for businesses of all sizes and if we can collectively get this right then it will deliver not only significant benefits to Scottish Government and to local authorities in Scotland, but will develop a robust supply chain which in itself will be competitive in an international scene.  We had a very productive meeting and look forward to working more closely with government to ensure that the procurement lever is being pulled in the right direction to help support economic development throughout Scotland”. 
Mr Mather also welcomed the debate, “My discussions with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce were constructive, practical and highly productive in terms of the ideas and energy committed to working together and getting better outcomes. There was a total recognition of the importance of procurement issues and how they can impact positively on economic growth.”
Key points raised by the business community related to the pre-qualification process and there were calls to the Government to provide clearer guidelines and to take steps to reduce duplication and the often high cost associated with the process.
Businesses also raised concerns about the difficulties which SMEs face in trying to get involved in the procurement process.
The Government team outlined a number of initiatives including a new website, www.publiccontractsscotland.gov.uk which gives suppliers access to contracts across the entire Scottish public sector.
Mr Mather also talked about the possibility of arranging a series of public sector forums across the country to help improve working relationships between the public and private sectors.