Legislation aimed at boosting economic growth by creating better access to public contracts is of "enormous importance" to business, according to Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

She outlined the aims of the Procurement Reform Bill as it reached a key stage at Holyrood. The Bill addresses concerns about how companies that "blacklisted" workers, often for union activity, can be excluded from potentially lucrative work.

Ms Sturgeon said: "Public bodies in Scotland spend round about £10 billion a year buying things so it stands to reason that the decision public bodies make when they spend that money are going to be of enormous importance to businesses, to third sector organisations and indeed to the health of our economy as a whole.

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"That's why the Procurement Reform Bill is both necessary and important."

Ms Sturgeon promoted the Bill as MSPs offered wide support for its general aims. It will be scrutinised and amended by MSPs before it can pass its final hurdle.

It was debated after trade union Unison called on politicians to back action to tackle low pay and stop tax avoiders winning public contracts.

The union called for the Scottish Government to consider adding provisions to address "aggressive" tax avoidance.

The union says it is "disappointed" that no mention of the living wage is in the Bill.

While widely supported, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations said its members are "concerned" about aspects, including proposals to treat housing associations as public bodies.