AS the rest of Scotland was watching the first ominous flakes of the recent spring snowstorm and anticipating the worst of the weather, a small but warming and cheerful ceremony was taking place in the heart of Ayrshire.

People in Largs had gathered to mark the handover of the new £44 million Largs Campus, which relocates Largs Academy, brings together three primary schools with early years provision and will accommodate more than 2,000 pupils as part of North Ayrshire Council’s biggest ever investment.

It was a cause for celebration across the community – and, also, an occasion for quiet satisfaction at infrastructure partnership hub South West, for which it was one of the highest value projects it has ever undertaken. Tellingly, the project was delivered on time despite the challenging weather conditions.

It brought to a total of £380m the value of projects successfully delivered by hub South West since it was established in 2012 and it took the partnership another step towards its target figure of £1 billion by 2022.

And, as Largs Campus welcomes its new intake of bright-eyed young hopefuls, the latest success goes a long way to validating the Scottish Government’s decision to take the wild bull of public construction procurement by the horns and bend it into a coherent and cohesive strategy.

I first became closely concerned with the public sector procurement regime in Scotland when I was asked in 2006 to conduct a comprehensive review which highlighted the need for public sector bodies to work together in a collaborative way rather than on a piecemeal basis. It also focused on the need for the public sector to engage more closely with its private sector suppliers.

I argued that procurement needed an overarching body for capital and estates projects to promote advanced practices with a view to delivering best value, achieving long-term savings and catalysing action on resources and skills.

The government went even further than I had imagined in 2008 with the establishment of the infrastructure-focused Scottish Futures Trust which aimed to improve value for money by leveraging additional investment through alternative funding sources.

Out of this came the hub model – five public sector/private sector partnerships covering the country with a brief to establish collaborative working practices between public sector bodies and private companies to deliver real savings and benefits to local people.

I was approached to join hub South West and was persuaded by the opportunities which I saw in the five bodies.

Big construction projects, by their nature, tend to be one-off enterprises. No one says: “Let’s build hundreds of schools.” The hub model gave us the chance to do things once, which could then be replicated, rather than hundreds of times in individual ways.

From the start, there has been a strong inclination to see the model work. It didn’t happen overnight – many public sector bodies had, and have, their own estates departments and professional people. The hubs had to demonstrate their capabilities and build a reputation.

Support from the territory partnering boards was crucial in these early days; senior people in organisations made it clear that they were interested in seeing the hubs working; and, as we started to deliver, we made inroads into understandable reticence.

The contribution of hub South West’s directors and staff cannot be overstated. They had to have the diplomatic skills required to persuade professional people to hand over the management and development of projects.

That hub South West succeeded is not only implicit in the figures but in the way in which projects have been delivered. Until now, all 28 facilities have been delivered on time and on budget.

Throughout, hub South West has put a key focus on local economic development, establishing the Supply Chain Institute and a Skills Academy. These initiatives have resulted in 117 apprenticeships facilitated through our projects and 55% of all work packages being awarded to companies within the South West territory, with this figure set to rise.

Importantly for the SME-focused Scottish economy, hub South West community partners have placed 401 individual work packages, worth a total of £151 million, with local suppliers who employ local people.

This is a game-changer for small firms. One of the big problems for SMEs is continuity of work and a stable pipeline with streamlined tendering procedures means that they do not continually have to be reinventing the wheel.

Education construction projects are still going strongly at hub South West, but the horizon in this specialism is not always clear and the succeeding years will see increasing diversification into health, childcare and community projects, blue light projects and affordable housing.

When people set out to change established ways of working, there is no rule that says they will succeed. The record of hub South West projects demonstrates, however, that it is always worth taking on the challenge.

John McClelland, CBE, is Chairman of hub South West.