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Agenda:

Today sees the Stage 1 reading of the Procurement Reform Bill, a proposed piece of legislation that has the potential to have a transformative effect on Scotland's economy.

Sadly, such potential is not being realised in the Bill's present form.

Public sector procurement is a huge source of Government spending, with contracts handed out for everything from the provision of pencils to care services.

The opportunity exists for this Bill to change the way we do business with public money, making sure our economy and society reaps the maximum benefits possible from public contracts awarded.

I want to build a better, fairer Scotland that strengthens our economy and protects our communities.

The best way to do both through the Procurement Bill is to promote the living wage, currently £7.65 an hour.

Labour has long understood the need to protect against working poverty, and the establishment of the national minimum wage stands out as one of the strongest achievements from the last UK Labour Government.

The scaremongering from the Tory right as to its impact on the UK economy was unfounded and it passed without the support of the SNP, absent from the vote that day.

The living wage is the next step in improving pay for workers and building a fairer, more just society and economy.

As it was with the minimum wage, it is Labour leading the way, with Labour-run councils such as Glasgow and South Lanarkshire paying the living wage to their staff. In fact, Glasgow City Council was the first local authority in Scotland to do so.

The living wage has the support across the often acrimonious constitutional divide, with the Scottish Greens and SNP joining Labour in supporting paying it to public sector employees.

And for good reason. Research carried out by the Scottish Government has shown that implementing the living wage would increase the net income of a single parent with one child by 5%, while a married couple with one child would see their income increase 11%.

Hard-working families in Scotland are facing a cost of living crisis.

It is imperative the Scottish Government uses its spending power to deliver fairer wages for them.

The Scottish public sector spends approximately £10 billion on procurement, involving many businesses that employ a higher-than-average proportion of low-paid workers.

For instance, in Scotland, sales and customer service jobs and elementary occupations such as labourers, cleaners, kitchen and catering assistants had the largest percentage of employees earning less than the living wage in 2011

At a time when taxpayer money is going to 19 quango chiefs who earn more than the First Minister, why can't available money be used to deliver fairer wages for working people?

If we are serious about cutting the pay gap between the average worker and senior executives, the Scottish Government has to set an example by leading the way.

It makes business sense, too. Barclays has been paying the London living wage since 2007. In cleaning, it retains 92% of its workers against 35% across the industry.

It keeps staff turnover, and the costs associated with it, down.

The differential between the minimum wage (£6.31 an hour) and the living wage over the average working year is more than £2200.

This is a drop in the ocean in relation to the multi-million pound public contracts being tendered but, for people up and down Scotland facing a cost of living crisis, it would make a huge difference day to day.

Scottish Labour will bring forward an amendment to the Procurement Reform Bill to promote the living wage, and we hope to have the support of the SNP and other parties in doing so.

It is the right thing to do for our economy and our communities.

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Local government

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