Horsemeat in kids’ school meals and multinationals’ tax avoidance are two recent scandals to have captured the public’s imagination, and are arguably more likely to grab readers’ attention than the subject at the heart of this letter: the Scottish Procurement Reform Bill.
Yet, this imminent reform of Scotland’s procurement processes (essentially, how our public sector buys things) represents a fantastic opportunity to tackle tax-avoiding companies, school meal supply chains and much more.
From apartheid-related boycotts and beyond, Scots have long understood how to harness their buyer-power to bring about positive change. Last month, Scotland became only the second country to be declared a Fair Trade Nation, reflecting a vast increase in our propensity to seek out fairly-traded goods.
Two weeks ago, a Christian Aid poll found that 55 per cent of Scots are considering boycotting companies that they perceive to be avoiding taxes (a far higher percentage than the UK-wide figure). If we are taking these actions at individual level, it seems reasonable to expect our governments to follow suit. Scotland’s biggest consumer is our public sector, which spends a whopping £9 billion per year on our behalf.
The Procurement Reform Bill, due to pass through the Scottish Parliament this year, is our opportunity to demand high standards of our public sector suppliers in areas such as fair trade, carbon emissions, tax practices, labour standards, community-based solutions, animal welfare and more. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government in shaping this legislation.
Chair, Enough Food for Everyone IF Scotland
Chief executive, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations
General-secretary, Scottish Trades Union Congress
Director, Scottish Fair Trade Forum
Chair, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland