Lamont Forth Bridge attack backfires as it emerges contract regulations put in place by Labour

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By a Newsnet reporter

Attacks by Scottish Labour over contracts for the new Forth Crossing have boomeranged after it emerged that the procurement regulations used to award them were actually implemented under the former Labour/LibDem Scottish Executive.

The law, which was introduced in 2006, forbids the Scottish Government from discriminating in favour of Scottish companies when awarding contracts.

By a Newsnet reporter

Attacks by Scottish Labour over contracts for the new Forth Crossing have boomeranged after it emerged that the procurement regulations used to award them were actually implemented under the former Labour/LibDem Scottish Executive.

The law, which was introduced in 2006, forbids the Scottish Government from discriminating in favour of Scottish companies when awarding contracts.

The revelations will prove embarrassing to the Scottish Labour Party after several high profile attacks by leader Johann Lamont.  Ms Lamont has repeatedly attacked a decision to award part of the steel contract to China.

Ms Lamont said: “Putting Scotland first means more than holding press conferences at Edinburgh castle.  It means ensuring that Scottish investment benefits Scottish workers.” Many of Lamonts colleagues also attacked the contract decision at this weekend’s conference.

Richard Baker, Labour’s infrastructure and capital investment spokesman, added: “We know Scottish firms won’t get every contract, but when of the nearly £800m contract for the new Forth Crossing only £20m has gone to businesses based in Scotland and four times that has gone in the steel contract alone to overseas firms, then clearly something is going wrong.”

Motherwell and Wishaw MSP John Pentland, whose constituency includes the Dalzell works, said: “Missing out on these contracts means missing opportunities to boost our economy. The Scottish Government needs to take a long hard look at itself.  The Scottish Government needs to learn the lessons of this debacle.”

However First Minister Alex Salmond recently defended the decision by pointing out that the type of steel required was no longer manufactured in Scotland – facilities having been closed down by successive Westminster Governments.

It has also emerged that no Scottish bids had been received for the contracts.

The revelations have led to SNP MSP for Edinburgh Western Colin Keir claiming that Labour’s position on the Bridge contracts is now absurd.

Commenting, Mr Keir pointed out that the SNP had already ensured as many Scots as possible benefitted by introducing Community Benefit Clauses to ensure training opportunities were part of any contracts.  Mr Keir also explained that the Forth Crossing is the first project to insist all subcontracts are advertised on Public Contracts Scotland – ensuring Scottish suppliers have access to every opportunity.

Mr Keir, who this week revealed that nearly 400 people are already employed directly on the site of the new crossing including many of his own constituents said:

“This is an embarrassing boomerang attack by Labour who seem to have forgotten that they actually introduced the procurement rules under which these contracts were awarded.

“EU procurement law, introduced in 2006, clearly forbid the government from discriminating in favour of Scottish firms.  If any government in the EU did what Labour wants, they would find themselves in court facing huge fines.  That point aside, the fact is that no Scottish firms even submitted tenders for the steel fabrication subcontracts.”

Labour’s attacks on the Forth crossing contracts come a week after the MoD announced that contracts for the next generation of Royal Navy support tankers have been awarded to firms in South Korea, instead of Scottish shipyards.

It has also emerged that a tendering process started under the last Labour government resulted in Labour-led Strathclyde Passenger Transport awarding contracts for the regeneration of Glasgow subway to a Czech firm.

The new Forth Crossing is the biggest transport infrastructure project in Scotland for a generation and is currently on time and on budget.

The main Forth Replacement Crossing (FRC) contractors have confirmed the project is currently directly employing 384 people on site, and at its peak the project will directly support 1,200 jobs.

These figures don’t take into account the number of people who will be working for the 222 Scottish firms – and that figure is expected to grow significantly over the coming years – currently working in the subcontracting and supply chain for the project.

As of 15 February, the three main contractors appointed to deliver the project have advised Transport Scotland that around £23 million of subcontracts have already been awarded to Scottish companies and around £13 million of supply orders.

The project is currently 9 months into a 6-year construction period and there are many more subcontract and supply order opportunities to come.  Official figures show that 870 out of 1,041 supply orders awarded on the Principal Contract have gone to Scottish companies: 84 per cent of the total.

Accusing Labour of having a “a very short memory” Mr Keir added:

“We are only 9 months into a 6 year construction period and there are many more subcontracts from the Principal Contract to come.

“The SNP Government is committed to ensuring Scottish firms continue to benefit from the FRC.  But it is utterly ridiculous that Labour – who hail themselves as the party for workers – are advocating a plan that would see hundreds of jobs lost.”