Scottish Economy Secretary urges public bodies to act to protect suppliers

Public bodies across Scotland should act to protect their suppliers to help them through the coronavirus outbreak, Scotland’s Economy Secretary has said.

Fiona Hyslop highlighted new guidance published for public sector firms including accelerating payment practices to ensure suppliers are paid as quickly as possible and modifying contract terms to offer relief for contractors.

She wrote to the organisations urging them to act now to help their supply chain cope with the pandemic, stating: “The current outbreak of Covid-19 is already having a significant impact on businesses of all sizes.

“Many suppliers will struggle to meet their contractual obligations and this will put their financial viability, ability to retain staff and their supply chains at risk.”

She continued: “Public bodies should act now to support their suppliers so they are better able to cope with the current crisis and to resume normal service delivery and fulfil their contractual obligations when the outbreak is over.

“This guidance provides a suggested template document that public bodies may wish to use when liaising with suppliers to agree interim payment proposals and modifications to current contracts.

“Public bodies should now aim to accelerate their payment practice to ensure payment is made as quickly as possible to their suppliers.

“The national endeavour to get us through this health crisis will require an unprecedented economic response shared collectively, deliberately and with purpose – by business, the public sector, unions, workers and the public.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said she has received assurances from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay that differing definitions of which businesses can remain open among the UK nations does not mean workers will miss out on wage support.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes

She said: “I had a productive call with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury along with the finance ministers from Wales and Northern Ireland and we discussed the need to ensure that our public services are properly funded to respond to the Covid-19 outbreak as well as how we are responding to the economic crisis.

“I welcome the assurances from the Chief Secretary that while there may be some differences across the nations of the UK regarding which businesses should close as part of the health response, this will not impact on the eligibility for wage support through the Job Retention Scheme.”