MSPs to press EU on issue of local firms

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SCOTTISH ministers are to urge the European Commission to give local firms a better chance to compete on major public sector spending contracts.

Infrastructure minister Alex Neil has written to the European Commission saying its rules should be changed so the economic impact on local communities can be taken into account when handing out contracts.

Neil’s intervention follows criticism from Labour that Scottish firms were losing out to overseas competitors on major multi-million-pound contracts – such as for the new Forth road bridge – because of EU competition law.

Writing in Scotland on Sunday today, Neil claims that if either the Edinburgh or London administrations took such considerations into account at present they would be hauled before the courts by other EU firms.

“At present, neither the UK nor Scottish Government could consider the potential closure and loss of employment when awarding a contract like this,” Neil says, before adding: “I have written to the European Commission asking for this important concession.”

The call comes amid growing anger about the handing out of contracts for the new Forth Crossing, and in particular the £790 million deal to fabricate the steel on the new bridge, won by Chinese and European firms.

Labour has called it “a national disgrace”. Richard Baker MSP said yesterday: “It makes a mockery of the SNP’s promise to use this massive project to provide a major boost to Scottish businesses.”