Monday, 3 May 2010

Scotland's Latest Quango

Do you know about Scotland Excel? Its vision is: 'to be recognised, respected and trusted by local authorities and suppliers as the leading procurement organisation in Scotland'. It was created on 1 April 2008 as a non-profit-making organisation funded mainly by participating local authorities. Renfrewshire council is the lead authority for Scotland Excel.

I did not realise we had such an organisation in Scotland but I can understand having an umbrella structure to collate purchasing requirements for councils. This ought to save bundles of money because councils would not require the considerable staff they carry for the job.

So far so good.

Another question - have you ever heard of a country which tenders another country for the supply of of its school and library books?

A furious row has developed over moves, by Scotland Excel, which could see that occurring. The move would take £40m out of the Scottish economy over the next two years and seriously damage businesses in Scotland.

High Andrew, managing director of Birlinn Publishing in Edinburgh, is urging the industry to lobby the Government. He wants the SNP to intervene to prevent changes from the present system, whereby schools and libraries can purchase from local businesses, to being forced to buy from major suppliers.

He said: "The size of the contracts means there are only two realistic bidders, both are in England. Suppliers who win the contracts will be awarded a monopoly and could then turn on publishers to massively enhance the discounts they receive from them.

"This substantially affects our ability to operate successfully.

"The effects on the struggling independent bookshop sector will be substantial and negative."

Several local authorities are set to start receiving books through the process from August with others joining when current supply contracts end. Only four councils are not members of Scotland Excel, but are expected to join.

Robin Harper MSP, who was alerted by a librarian constituent, says it is "horrendous". He intends to put down a motion in the Scottish Parliament this week slamming the situation.

A Scottish government spokesman said: "This is a matter for Scotland Excel."

It is not a matter for Scotland Excel if there is such a serious dispute which cannot be resolved between the two parties concerned. It is a matter for government. Alex Salmond says he wants to discuss growing the economy. Is giving away £40m going to help with economic growth?

Whoever in Scotland Excel had the bright idea of changing the purchasing rules to the degree that no Scottish business was able to tender, should return to school and learn about economics. To deduct £40m from the economy to make a few millions in savings is nonsensical.

Many small bookshops survive only because their owners love books and want to share that with others, such as myself. Few, if any, make a living which could in any way be called luxurious. For some, without the stability of supplying local schools and libraries, their businesses will no longer be viable.

I will be keeping a close watch on the response to Mr Harper's motion.


BrianSJ said...

Do you want cheap or do you want local? What do you want your local authority to buy if it can't have both?

Oldrightie said...

Procurement under any political administration has unfortunate connotations!

Billy Carlin said...

We have a schoolboy, Derek MacKay, who has never worked in his life in charge of Renfrewshire Council so he is not that long out of school and has no experience of anything so no surprise there when it comes to a lack of economic thinking or anything else for that matter.

Jim Baxter said...

On the face of it it sounds mad but to what extent does it cut both ways? Do we lose out more from a global market than we gain? Protectionism doesn't work. We've tried it.

Joe Public said...

" This ought to save bundles of money because councils would not require the considerable staff they carry for the job."

C'mon SR. This is local-authority self-perpetuating employment.

What happens is that the local authorities retain all their staff, & actually employ more, in order to deal with Scotland Excel.

Martin S said...

This happened in the English council of Shropshire some years ago.

Schools could buy books from local bookshops. The County Council decided that this must stop and all books were to be bought from a central source in Staffordshire.

This caused several bookshops in Shropshire to close.

And it became clear that the central supplier would not order one off books (they dealt in large bulk orders, only) so the deal cost more money than it saved.

Martin S said...

Sorry, I meant to say English county of Shropshire.

subrosa said...

I want a service which provides Brian. As Thatsnews says this will cost more, in the long term, than it saves.

Some studies don't involve large quantities of books so these books will not be available.

subrosa said...

Indeed OR. Call me old fashioned.

subrosa said...

Thanks for the info Billy. I know next to nothing about Renfrewshire CC.

subrosa said...

The problem with this Jim is that it's not going to give the same quality of service. It will also deny anyone who loves books and uses bookshops their presence because the places will close down.

Then we'll be left with cheap paperback suppliers.

subrosa said...

Thatsnews, I'm sure all of us know where Shropshire is. I certainly do as I used to live there.

Conan the Librarian™ said...

Oh God, don't get me started...

banned said...

"This ought to save bundles of money" but it won't and the Scottish government refusing to say anything except "That is a matter for Scottish Excel" is exactly why quangos are created in the first place, it removes responsibility from ministers.

subrosa said...

You'll have known about this lot Conan of course. I'd never heard of them before.

subrosa said...

They maybe think it does banned but the buck stops with the government doesn't it.

I do hope there's a real stushie about this.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

What's the purpose of the book-buying process?

Is it

1) to acquire books


2) to prop up local businesses

Just wondering.

subrosa said...

In a sensible economy it's both Yachtsman.

Grogipher said...

SR, just a slightly tongue in cheek comment here - with your decent post about the treatment of the over 60s in this election. I would agree that there is more to be done to fight agism, especially in the workplace.

However, would you agree that agism works at either end of your life? What with "Billy's" comments there.. Cllr Mackay is 24 years old I believe, married with two children. He is not a schoolboy, and by most standards is doing a pretty reasonable job down there.

Yes, we should respect the over 60s, but as someone in the much loathed 18-24 age bracket, it would be nice once in a while to get some respect back - it works both ways.

subrosa said...

I get your point Grogipher. Remember, I too was young once. :)

Now that I'm a miserable pensioner, I can say I think 30 it young enough for anyone to enter politics. It's not a career and I've met very few under 30s who I would call knowledgeable enough to make important decisions on my behalf, and as in many cases, without my consent. I include my own in this by the way.

Respect does work both ways - or it did when I was young. As youngsters we moved off the pavement to let an older person past. We held open doors for them. We gave them our seat on the bus. We didn't expect thanks. We treated every one of them like we treated our own grannies.

Older people have respect for the young, but we notice the lack of manners in many today. I worked with 16-24 year olds in the latter part of my career so understand them reasonably well. When I met a new group I used to tell them nobody was welcome unless they were used good manners towards their colleagues and also myself. Some didn't understand my meaning and had to have it spelt out for them. But, after the giggling ceased and the weeks went on, both they and I could see their esteem rising because they knew their peers had begun to respect them, give them praise when they did well etc.

Did I say I loathed that age bracket? I don't think so, quite the contrary. My sympathy goes out to them in many ways. Their education (in my groups) was poor and that reflects on our education system. Few had parental support and that reflects on our society.

Our education system has removed their ability to find themselves work, removed their independent thinking. True there were more jobs around when I was young, but let's face it, you don't make a success of a job if you're doing one you don't like.

When I was younger (and older) I job searched. Nothing fancy, just endless hours of going through the yellow pages and writing/telephoning companies which employed people with my interests. I once sat in the visitors room of a very large company for a full day waiting to speak to someone who would speak to me about a job. My desperation wouldn't allow me to be fobbed off. I needed a job, one and liked because I needed to survive.

That's what is missing today. Only recently I was talking with a friend whose son wanted a job in a specific area so I told her to give him her car and go round all the places he would like to work. Don't bother with letters etc they don't seem to work except in specific areas of employment. He wasn't happy doing that and said it was stupid. His mother insisted and said she would stop feeding him if he didn't make the effort.

For the past few months he's been learning something which has always intrigued him and is doing well. He says it was down to me but I've told him it was nothing whatsoever to do with me. It was all his efforts and his alone. He put in the leg work, his mother ensured he was dressed smartly at all times and we both advised he wait as long as it takes to speak to the person concerned.

He's now on his way to being an independent thinker and will never feel hopeless again.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Shropshire Rosa - Much Wenlock?

As to the blog - Amazon is doing more to wipe out the small independents than any other single faction.

As to single sourcing - like everything it depends how its run, whether its efficient in both product and cost or degenerates towards the nudges of jollies, golf club memberships or the sleight of brown envelopes.

That said books cover a very wide spectrum and for them to sourced from a single procurement base could lead to a centralised attempt at generalisation of stock lists.

Finally very few independents publish, commission or print books, so the vast majority of that £40 million has been leaving the Scottish coffers for years.

subrosa said...

No RA, first Donnington, then Leegomery then near Ironbridge.

I was told the same thing today RA. We have lost our publishing houses over the years and that has caused the decline in bookshops, which will continue sadly.

Now there is only one bookshop in Perth. Watersons. You can wait 2 to 3 weeks for an order to arrive - if it does.

Billy Carlin said...


"He is not a schoolboy, and by most standards is doing a pretty reasonable job down there."

He is a boy who has never worked in his life. Also you think he is doing a pretty reasonable job then - like what? Wait till the next local elections and you will see how Derek MacKay and his fellow corrupt cronies have alienated the SNP vote in Renfrewshire.

Derek MacKay is only where he is by backstabbing fellow cuncillors, committing illegal acts to get them thrown out of the party and like a few of his fellow SNP colleagues has been reported to the procurator fiscal for fraud while others have been reported to the police.

He also has a crook who has ripped off the banks, St Mirren FC, Renfrewshire Council etc as an SNP councillor - someone who was not allowed to go through vetting and stand because of this.

They have hardly any members left in Renfrewshire now because of all this. SNP in Renfrewshire is just as crooked as Labour has been.

subrosa said...

Billy,I can't say anything about East Renfrewshire as I don't have any knowledge of the council.

Billy Carlin said...

Renfrewshire Subrosa - was another of Labour's rotten burgh's so only the administration has changed, nothing else.

subrosa said...

Sorry I got it wrong Billy.

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