A streamlined construction procurement process in Scotland could be ‘up and running within a year’
The claim by RIAS Secretary Neil Baxter follows a pledge by Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to introduce a raft of measures designed to speed up and simplify the country’s public construction contracts.
Speaking at Holyrood on Wednesday, Sturgeon said her SNP government would bring in recommendations made in October’s ‘root and branch’ Review of Scottish Public Sector Procurement including 30-day payment terms, the trialling of project banks and a more streamlined PQQ process.
RIAS Secretary Neil Baxter welcomed the move and said: ‘I am in no doubt that we will see the full effect across Scotland within a year.’
‘We are much more fleet-of-foot than Westminster. It has to be taken into Scottish legislation, but they tend to do these things relatively rapidly,’ he said.
Singling out the government’s pledge to tackle the current regime of repetitive and bureaucratic PQQs, Baxter said all architects and professionals should welcome the news:
‘There will be a single PQQ for all public contracts in Scotland. So apart from a few tweaks, firms would only ever have to do one form,’ he said.
RIAS president, Iain Connelly, described the announcement as ‘among the most positive announcements that this proactive government has made on construction procurement’.
But Paul Stallan of Glasgow–based Stallan-Brand sounded a note of caution and warned that he could see ‘nothing… that will improve the culture of commissioning design led projects in Scotland.’
‘What the recommendations miss,’ said Stallan, ‘is the greater potential for economic and cultural agendas to be linked.
He added: ‘The quality of our built and natural environment for a country as small and as unique as Scotland should be paramount. It is not that there is some political conspiracy that keeps the procurement silo and the culture silo in Government separate its just that they each talk a different language and remain suspicious of each other.
‘[Given] Edinburgh was the seat of the Scottish Enlightenment that produced great thinkers like Adam Smith and David Hume you would hope that a culture and economy that produced places like Edinburgh’s New Town would build on this.
‘The design led example provided in the [aforementioned] review cites a mental health hospital project that is delivered through [procurement vehicle] Hubco on deferred fees, by a civils contractor working with a Canadian architect.’
Gordon Duffy of Glasgow and Skye-based Dualchas said he hoped the government would take the opportunity to create a standard procurement template based on the OJEU procurement process, but ‘without the onerous requirements for insurance.’
Duffy said: ‘A template that every client has to work with is needed. At the moment they are all slightly different and that is not sensible.’
‘There needs to be clear guidance; at the moment the language used is perverse and obtuse.
‘Will this work?’ he added. ‘While being circumspect, I am an optimist. If you are an architect, you have to be to be.’
Read all the recommendations here.
Read the review here.
Alan Dunlop Architect
It does not go far enough. As a new studio, it’s a complete waste of my time and money submitting for public projects and I can’t see that changing. I’m off to China again next week, there’s more opportunities for me there than Scotland.
If the Scottish Government are genuine then a radical restructuring is absolutely required. One which values design quality; has less form filling and where PQQ’s are assessed properly by competent, experienced individuals. Where the emphasis is no longer placed on tick box requirements and the ridiculous requirement of £10m PI cover for even small projects.
Where the quality of previous work is considered as important as low fees or the number of similar projects a practice has completed, no matter how good or bad.
Gareth Hoskins Architects
Germany has a different approach to procurement. They pre-select four to six practices and also shortlist four to six from the OJEU process. They are all put in a pot.
That gives local and younger practices a chance. It is something that we suggested should be adopted.
But anything that improves the onerous UK procurement process would be welcome.