LEADING publisher Hugh Andrew has welcomed The Herald's spotlight on public procurement in our SME-SOS Campaign.

Mr Andrew said a £40 million contract for the supply of school and library books had been allowed to go outside Scotland in 2010 due to European rules, which he claimed had been narrowly interpreted.

He said: "It was possible to write into the tender document that the provision of material of Scottish cultural value was integral to success in the tender, but the only judgement was price."

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Mr Andrew said the tendering rules included a "derogation on culture" which was undoubtedly used by other countries. "Don't tell me the French libraries don't buy French books," Mr Andrew said. "That provision was deliberately excluded from

the tender documents, and now almost every library

book is supplied from South of the Border."

He said although Scotland no longer had its former major library suppliers, "there are all sorts of innovative ways by which we could supply schools and libraries in Scotland". But public tendering had become a "tickbox exercise", to the extent that any start-up business hoping to enter the market would be automatically excluded as not having a track record, he went on to say.

A spokesman for Scotland Excel said the cultural derogation "would not apply to this type of tender process". The frameworks placed in 2010 had maintained 20 per cent of spending by local authorities with specialist suppliers, and they had been restructured in 2013 to support participation by publishers, wholesalers and booksellers. "The new framework was awarded to

17 suppliers including five SMEs based in Scotland."