DOUGLAS Ross’s economic proposals to “power up Scotland” began to unravel yesterday after it emerged one of his key pledges would be banned by the UK Government.

A central idea unveiled by the new Scottish Tory leader to create jobs and boost the nation’s prosperity in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic was a promise to allow public sector organisations to give preference to local businesses when handing out contracts.

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Among the proposals in the 36-page document was a commitment by the Tory boss to a ‘Scotland First’ procurement strategy to have the Government spend more money locally.

It said: “Procurement changes may sound like a technical, niche aspect of policy, or something that can wait until the economy has recovered. But the Scottish public sector spends over £11 billion each year buying goods, services and works.

“The sheer size of this purchasing power is therefore a tool that can be used to achieve various policy ends – including supporting economic recovery from the virus.

“Importantly, it does not require any new systems to be set up. All the elements of a better procurement system are there. Relatively small tweaks could open up opportunities for smaller firms in Scotland who are on the brink.

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“Procurement should be seen as part of not just building resilience for the long-term, but as a practical, immediate tool to support Scottish firms.”

However, a UK bill, which is being brought in to ensure there are common frameworks across the UK after Brexit in areas such as public procurement, animal welfare and consumer standards, does not allow public sector bodies to give any geographical weighting when it comes to awarding tenders.

The UK internal market bill states: “The non-discrimination principle will be a requirement not to discriminate between individuals or businesses based on residence or origin within the UK.

“Direct discrimination is where an individual or business is treated differently and unfavourably by

another administration, in an explicit manner, compared with local operators

when operating in another part of the UK, expressly on the grounds

of residence or geographical origin.” The SNP, which has been critical of the UK internal market bill as it wants the Scottish Parliament to have power over areas such a public procurement, seized on the contradiction.

It says the UK internal market plans amount to a power grab on Holyrood.

Depute leader Keith Brown said: “Douglas Ross’s plans have been shown to be utterly hollow in the middle and to fall foul of his own party’s so-called ‘UK internal market’ plans, which he supports.”

“He also seems determined to pretend that Brexit isn’t happening, which is a luxury thousands of businesses across Scotland simply do not have.

“This is typical of the Tories who are more interested in sound-bites than coherent policy proposals, and constantly put the survival of their own party over the survival of Scotland’s economy, jobs and livelihoods.”

Ross was also unable to say how much the proposals would cost, or how many jobs they would either create or safeguard.

He said: “These are proposals both short term and long term I think we can have to secure jobs and get people back into employment. It is a series

of measures I think both in the

short term could immediately be activated and longer term worked towards to get the economy going again during this recession and as we come out of this pandemic at the

other side.”

Among Ross’s other economic proposals is the introduction of new sector-specific job security councils, based on a similar scheme in Sweden to help workers who have been laid off find new work. He also calls for

a town centre rescue plan to help

local shops, and a hardship fund for businesses that have to deal with more localised lockdowns.

His plan also proposes an integrated transport system, with an Oyster card-like payment method that

would work across all public


Further plans include the M8 motorway between Glasgow and Edinburgh to be upgraded to three lanes.