Today, I submitted UNISON Scotland's response to the Scottish Government's consultation on the proposed Procurement Reform Bill.
Procurement is not the most exciting issue I have to deal with, but it is one of the most important. We should view it as an opportunity to ensure that annual procurement spending of nearly £11 billion in Scotland is used to deliver important social, economic and environmental benefits, including improved protections for workers.
The consultation proposals are, to put it generously, very modest. 'Business friendly' appears to be the theme with the wider benefits marginalised.
So today we have focussed on just one of our more radical proposals. Scotland should ban companies involved in tax dodging from public contracts.
It is entirely wrong that companies seeking to avoid paying their fair share of tax should be awarded public contracts. We think this is an important opportunity to do what some European cities such as Helsinki and Paris are already doing, in acting against companies using tax havens. Our message to the Scottish Government is that they should adopt a tax justice approach, finding ways, with appropriate legal advice, to bar companies involved in tax dodging from being eligible to bid. As SNP and Labour MP's at Westminster have supported this approach, we are hoping for something of a cross party consensus on this issue.
Recently public outrage has focused on big-name companies like Google, Amazon and Starbucks paying miniscule amounts of tax. But it is much more widespread as the Tax Justice Network has highlighted and I have covered in past blog posts. Richard Murphy is the UK's leading expert on these issues and he welcomed our initiative on his blog today.
Many companies investing in PPP/PFI projects are registered in tax havens and as the Scottish Government has the biggest PPP/PFI programme in Europe, this sort of measure could help change tax dodging companies approach to paying tax.
So let's send a very clear message - if you want contracts funded by the taxpayer, you have to pay tax like the rest of us.