Forth Crossing contracts highlight procurement concerns

News that the construction company working on the Forth Replacement Crossing are to source the steel for the project from China and the EU has sparked concerns about the ability of Scottish firms to benefit from large infrastructure projects.

The official announcement from Transport Scotland stated that no Scottish firms bid for the contract to supply the steel.  However, this has been described as disingenuous by trade unions after Dalzell steel works in Motherwell confirmed that it had participated indirectly in the tendering process.

The Scottish Government has said that no Scottish firms bid to supply the huge amount of raw steel required by a project raising serious questions over whether the procurement process is unfairly balanced against Scottish bids.

Towards the end of last year, the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) published a report raising a number of important issues around current procurement policy for major construction projects warning that a whole generation of new architectural talent is being squandered.

Problems are arising where small contracts are being bundled up into large packages makings it harder and harder for small Scottish companies to compete for business.  This is because the resources that firms have to commit to even making a bid are being stretched.

It is essential that Scottish firms can benefit from major contracts awarded by the Scottish Futures Trust.  In the past, the SNP have been the first to criticise where Scottish firms have lost out.  By creating the conditions to allow Scottish firms to compete effectively for tenders, the Scottish Government would help the economy to grow.

The Scottish Government must look again at the procurement process to ensure that it is fair to local businesses if we are to help our struggling construction sector.