Scotland Escalates its Procurement Reform: Ainslie McLaughlin
Wednesday December 16th, 2015
Following his speech at Procurex Scotland Live 2015, Scottish Government Director of Procurement and Commercial Ainslie McLaughlin told BiP Solutions about his new role and the next phase of the Scottish Government’s Procurement Reform agenda.
In September 2015, after Alistair Merrill’s departure, Mr McLaughlin joined the Scottish Procurement and Commercial Directorate from Transport Scotland, where he was Director of Major Transport Infrastructure Projects (MTRIPS).
Mr McLaughlin said: “Before I entered the world of procurement I had viewed myself first as an engineer, and then as a civil servant. But it was inevitable that I would become involved in procurement at some point, because a big part of delivering road improvements involves purchasing consultants’ and contractors’ services.”
Having studied civil engineering at university, Mr McLaughlin went into the construction industry, focusing on roads and transport. From there he went to work in local government before joining the Scottish Office for Transport in the late eighties.
There he became a senior engineer and then chief engineer, responsible for motorway and trunk road programmes. Mr McLaughlin was later promoted to Director of Major Transport Infrastructure Projects (MTRIPS) at Transport Scotland.
This role in turn inspired Mr McLaughlin to join the Scottish Government Procurement and Commercial team.
He said: “Transport Scotland is one of the biggest spenders of public money in the country; while I worked there I had experience dealing with a range of complex contractual and commercial problems. I also had the privilege of working with both the ex-Director of Procurement, Alistair Merrill, and his predecessor; who shared their knowledge of best procurement practice.”
This experience paid off and, in September 2015, Mr McLaughlin was named Scottish Government Director of Procurement and Commercial.
He said: “When I heard I had got the job as Director of Procurement and Commercial at the Scottish Government I was initially delighted and then a bit apprehensive.
“My biggest apprehension was doing justice to the next stage of the Scottish Government’s Procurement Reform agenda. The first two stages were a great success in boosting collaborative procurement and transparency; they opened public contracts to a wider range of suppliers, including Scottish SMEs.
“The next stage of procurement reform is going to be even more challenging; it is going to involve even closer collaboration with local authorities and the rest of the public sector, to spread procurement reform to Cat C groups.”
Although Mr McLaughlin recognised there was much work still to do, he took comfort in the professionalism of his new team, and the range of new challenges ahead.
He said: “The thing I most looked forward to when joining the Procurement and Commercial team was the range of activities that I would be involved in. My new position covers the whole spectrum of government activities; so there is opportunity to positively impact the way that government procures and manages its business.”
This meant ensuring Scottish Government contractors continued to use fair work practices and encouraging them to adopt the living wage.
Mr McLaughlin explained: “Nowadays a lot is being asked of government procurement, at all levels; people want to see their taxes being used to drive value for money and community benefits. This drive means that we need to continue to work to further open up the supply chain as much as possible to Scottish businesses, including SMEs.
“To do this, the Scottish Government has been engaging with the supply chain from the very early stages, ensuring it understands its requirements.
“We work hard to help our suppliers realise that, through responsible procurement, they can deliver better public services and economic growth for Scotland.”
Mr McLaughlin concluded: “I would strongly encourage professionals from across the country who have an interest in public procurement to learn about the latest developments here in Scotland.”
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