Colin Smyth MSP
Colin Smyth MSP

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth used a question session in the Scottish Parliament’s Economy Committee last week to question Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise Ivan McKee about the recent job losses at Alpha Solway.

Colin Smyth, who is a member of the committee, asked about the importance of Scottish Government procurement in securing supply chains. The MSP challenged the Minister on whether all PPE used by the public sector in Scotland was manufactured in Scotland.

Earlier this month the Scottish Government announced spending cuts of £1.7bn, which included confirmation of reductions in the budget for PPE. Alpha Solway recently announced the closure of one of their Dumfries factory as they cut their workforce following the sudden ending of PPE contracts from NHS Scotland as a result of the cuts.

Speaking in committee Colin Smyth said: “I turn to the important role of Government procurement in securing local supply chains.

“[Ivan McKee] talked about building robust supply chains to deal with the pandemic, and I want to touch on one example of a response to the pandemic. A company that is mentioned in our report and that you are very familiar with is Alpha Solway.

“That company has just shut one of its Dumfries plants, and there are not 300 new jobs; there are actually only a dozen.

“The company no longer produces PPE because the national health service in Scotland ended the contracts for that. I understand that that was one of the cuts that the Government recently announced.

“Everyone accepts that demand for PPE was going to fall—that includes the company, which is refocusing its work—but I do not think that anyone fully expected the cliff edge, with contracts ending overnight. How do such decisions show a commitment by the Government to building resilient supply chains, particularly for a product such as PPE? It is a real challenge, as it was during the pandemic, to make sure that we have the local supplies that we need. That is not a great example of building long-term resilient supply.”

Colin Smyth continued: “I want an absolute assurance that all PPE that is used in the public sector in Scotland is actually manufactured here.

“It seems that the Government is not being entirely clear about that. It is surprising that, just a few months ago, [the government was] talking about the creation of 300 jobs and then, all of a sudden, that stopped.

“I am curious whether you think that our procurement rules have been adequately changed to increase reliance and focus on local supply chains.

“The example of PPE suggests that some of that is still being produced outwith Scotland.

“That, to me, is an example of something that should be produced entirely in Scotland. There are lots of other products that could be produced around the world, and I am not sure that our procurement rules emphasise that, if something can be made in Scotland, the public sector should purchase it in Scotland.”

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