Forum welcomes parliamentary committee's report on public procurement and calls for Bill to include recognition of Scotland as a Fair Trade Nation

The Scottish Parliament’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee has published its report on the Scottish Government’s proposed Procurement Reform Bill. 
 
The Forum welcomes the Committee’s recognition of the importance of high level commitment within public sector organisations to Fair Trade procurement. The Committee’s report quotes evidence given to them by our Director, Martin Rhodes: “Our experience of talking to and working with local authorities, universities, schools and colleges suggests that if the people who are at a high level in, for example, a local authority or a university administration and who have the political leadership to tell people what they want them to do, produce a clear and public policy statement, procurement officers will sit down and look at the guidance and gain the confidence to do what they need to do.“
 
The Forum wants the Scottish Government to lead the way on this high level commitment to Fair Trade procurement by explicitly acknowledging in the bill that Scotland as a Fair Trade Nation will use public procurement to support Fair Trade.
The Committee acknowledges that simply requiring public bodies to "consider" the issues raised in the sustainable procurement duty may result in it being taken lightly, and has sought assurances from the Scottish Government on this question.  The Forum believes that an explicit recognition of Scotland’s Fair Trade Nation responsibilities in the Bill would make clear Fair Trade’s importance to public procurement decisions.
 
The Committee’s report notes that the recognition of Fair Trade was called for by a wide range of stakeholders including the University of Edinburgh, Nourish Scotland, the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, the STUC and a coalition of civil society organisations in Scotland. The latter considered that the Bill should empower procurers to prioritise fairly-traded products wherever these are available, especially when no locally-sourced alternatives exist.
The Forum welcomes the opportunity offered by the Scottish Government to work with them on producing guidance to support public bodies procuring Fair Trade goods and the Committee’s report notes the statement by Cabinet Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon that “The sustainable procurement duty should help encourage authorities to buy fairly traded goods where they are available. A range of further work needs to be undertaken to progress the uptake of fair and ethical trade. The Scottish Government has agreed to work with the Scottish Fair Trade Forum to achieve this.”
 
The Forum’s Director, Martin Rhodes, commented “This is a real opportunity to significantly increase public sector procurement of Fair Trade goods and the Forum looks forward to supporting the Scottish Government in drafting robust guidance. However, the Forum also believes the Bill needs to explicitly include the recognition of the responsibility of public procurement to reflect Scotland’s Fair Trade Nation status.”