Transport minister Keith Brown, responded to criticism this week over the possibility that Scottish companies and jobs have not profited sufficiently well from the Forth Crossing project.
Mr Brown said: “Scottish firms the length and breadth of the nation are clearly already benefiting and will continue to do so – 118 Scottish firms have already risen to the challenge of working on this iconic project – greatly and directly benefitting Scottish firms and jobs.
“For the avoidance of doubt, these contracts are awarded by Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors [FCBC], which includes Scottish firm Morrison Construction.”
At FMQs this week, Labour decided to attack the SNP government over their view that Scottish jobs and steel manufacturers bidding for the new Forth Crossing Bridge had lost out to Spain, Poland and China.
At FMQs, leader of the Labour group in Holyrood, Johann Lamont, in reference to the steel construction contracts for the new Forth Crossing asked why Scottish business had been neglected in preference for contracts given to Spain, Poland and China.
First Minister Alex Salmond answered, saying:
“118 out of 155 subcontracts for the project have been awarded to Scottish companies, representing 76% of the total awarded. In terms of supply orders, 870 out of 1041 supply orders, that’s 83.5% have been awarded through principle contract to Scottish companies, that is a very substantial percentage.
“It means the Forth Replacement Crossing Project will support 1,200 Scottish jobs and secure an additional 3,000 more. Every year construction will deliver 45 vocational training positions, 21 professional-body training places and 46 positions for long-term unemployed and maximise the number of modern apprenticeship opportunities – a substantial, good deal for Scotland from the Forth Replacement Crossing.”
Labour leader, Johann Lamont responded to the FM’s statement by making the point that only £20 million out of a contract of £1.5bn was a poor result for Scottish businesses, with £800 million going to China in exchange for two pandas.
In answer to her point, Mr Salmond corrected Ms Lamont by telling her that the total contract is not £1.5bn but is in fact £790 million. Mr Salmond then pointed out to Ms Lamont that the steel component element for the Forth Crossing is between 5% and 10% (£39.5mn to £79mn) of that total £790 million contract.
Mr Salmond added: “Having 76% of the total subcontracts awarded to Scottish companies not only represents a good deal for Scottish companies but it’s amazingly better than anything that happened when the Labour party were in power in Scotland.”
Ms Lamont, obviously, reading from her preprepared notes and somewhat in a fluster, then proceeded to make more errors in her response, referring again to the steel contract being worth £800 million going to the Chinese.
Mr Salmond responded by having to basically repeat what he’d already said and added: “I have to say, there’s a great disadvantage in reading a script – occasionally you’ll read the wrong line from the script, also it means that you don’t listen to the previous answers.”
From there Ms Lamont began to sound completely flustered and jittery and wandered off onto a somewhat incredulous letter from a Labour trades union asking David Cameron for protection from the First Minister giving steel manufacturing jobs away to countries abroad.
Mr Salmond politely responded saying: “No firms that submitted a tender for the steel fabrication subcontracts were Scottish – that’s because we don’t have steel fabrication facilities in Scotland anymore thanks to the depredations of the UK past governments, both Labour and Conservative.
“The [EU] rules of procurement forbid directing contracts to go to Scottish companies, they have to be competitively placed out. What this government has done by establishing the portal for contracts is allow tens of thousands of small and medium sized business to obtain the benefit of public procurement and purchasing.”
Mr Salmond’s statements in relation to steel contracts are supported by the FRC, a Transport Scotland spokesperson said:
“No firms that submitted tenders for these steel fabrication subcontracts were Scottish.
“Sourcing manufactured steel plate is just one element of fabricating the steel components – represent [ing] between 5 and 10% of the FRC Principal Contract’s total value.
“The exact values of these steel fabrication subcontracts are a matter for FCBC, who consider it commercially confidential information.
“However, information provided by the contractors in December showed a total of 118 out of 155 subcontracts awarded so far on the project have gone to Scottish firms – representing 76% of the total awarded.”
It is to be noted that the 76% of the subcontracts went to Scottish companies despite EU precurement open bidding rules. This 76% is in no small part due to the Scottish Government’s online portal site for contract tendering, allowing small and medium-sized businesses from all over Scotland to tender bids as opposed to the more typical scenario of a giant multi-national taking the entire contract.
The Transport Scotland spokesperson added: “There is a misapprehension that all the subcontracts from the £790 million Principal Contract have been awarded. In fact, there are currently 88 subcontracts advertised for tender on Public Contracts Scotland and there will be more opportunities throughout the construction period.”