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Print Scotland blasts government contract plans

Print Scotland, the trade association for the country’s graphic communication industry, has hit out at the national government for seemingly ignoring Scottish companies when awarding major contracts.

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Iain Robertson, director and vice-president of Print Scotland, warns print in the country could go the same way as shipbuilding, deep mining and the car industry

The main focus of concern for the organisation is the new Print and Associated Services (PAS) Framework Agreement, which will come into effect from March next year, covering the print needs of around 53 public bodies.

However, Print Scotland says companies in the country have been left in limbo on the agreement, claiming to have received no feedback from a consultation by Scottish Procurement on whether the agreement should be structured as a single supplier or a multi-supplier portfolio.

The deadline for information on the arrangement was August 17th.

Iain Robertson, director and vice-president of Print Scotland, says: “The industry is unanimously in favour of a multi-supplier approach, since the alternative would create, in effect, a monopoly which would defeat the government’s public aim of wider access, smaller contracts and a bias towards SMEs.”

The government has, wittingly or not, created an enduring monopoly

Robertson also highlighted the Publishing, Print, Design and Associated Services (PPDAS) agreement, which, announced in July, saw print work for the central government, blue light agencies, universities, the third sector and other public bodies awarded to incumbent, Manchester-based APS Group.

“By the time the current arrangement—which is advertised as worth £70m—expires, the APS Group will almost certainly have held the contract for 15 years and there will be no printer left in Scotland big enough to challenge for it,” Robertson says.

“The government has, wittingly or not, created an enduring monopoly.

“Is the same thing about to happen with the PAS agreement, the only other significant, Scottish Government controlled source of income for what remains of Scotland’s indigenous print industry?

Put bluntly, the Scottish print industry is in the process of being offshored

“Put bluntly, the Scottish print industry is in the process of being offshored.”

Robertson went on to cite concerns over rising paper prices, Brexit volatility and the squeeze on suppliers, and also criticised large Scottish businesses and Scottish financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies for spending more than £100m on print outside of Scotland.

“It is not too late for Scottish Procurement to listen to the concerns of a sector which, given a level playing field, could be viable, vibrant and a social and fiscal contributor,” Robertson says.
“Many traditional Scottish industries such as coal and steel have disappeared over the years but print need not fall into that category. Our industry could be saved if all of, or at least the majority of, the print generated in Scotland was produced here.
“The alternative is to watch it go the way of shipbuilding, deep mining and the car industry and to our members, and the wider print community, this is unacceptable and avoidable.”

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