Scottish Ministers wrote to the Scottish Green MSPs on Wednesday of last week, making a commitment to review the M74 procurement process, currently subject to a formal complaint to the European Commission for potential anti-competitive practices and illegal state aid. (1) Just one week later, Ministers say they have already completed that review, and have awarded the contract to the Interlink M74 consortium, which is also subject to a complaint under EU law prohibiting cartel activity.
Under the terms of EU competition law, the Commission have the powers to void the contract if they believe it breaches these regulations. In December 2007 European law was specifically tightened up to tackle “illegal direct awards of public contracts”, which they define as “public contracts awarded in a non-transparent and non-competitive manner to a single bidder”, which is what the complaint identifies as having happened with the M74 Extension. (2)
Ministers have provided no information about the review process, and there is no evidence they have done any work beyond simply asking the same civil servants who drew up the flawed procurement process to check their work. Greens have today filed a series of parliamentary questions covering both the tender process and the review. (3)
Condemning today’s decision, Patrick Harvie MSP said:
“Today is a dark day for Glasgow, and a dark day for all those campaigning to tackle climate change. A sham tender process has been concluded with a sham review and an entirely irresponsible decision, given that the European Commission may pull the plug on the process altogether. Whatever the Commission decides, and whether or not the project goes ahead, Ministers have today made an expensive mistake.
“The Greens were the only party to accept the independent report on the M74 which showed this project would be a costly disaster for Glasgow, would fail to tackle congestion, do nothing for employment across the region, and undo attempts by Ministers to tackle climate change. The carbon cost alone of the M74 makes this a decision equivalent to demolishing a substantial windfarm. (4) Ministers made a commitment to the Greens, prior to last week’s budget vote, that they would conduct a comprehensive review of the M74 process, and that pledge now looks to have been insincere.” (5)
1. Complaint filed by a long-standing campaigner against the scheme. Copies available on request.
3. Parliamentary Questions filed today:
To ask the Scottish Executive what processes were used to review the tender for the M74 Northern Extension.
To ask the Scottish Executive what external advice was taken during the review of the M74 Northern Extension tender process about the legality of its under EU competition law.
To ask the Scottish Executive whether Ministers would place the contract award process for the M74 Northern Extension on hold if the European Commission move to a formal investigation of the tender process.
To ask the Scottish Executive what their response would be if the European Commission decide to nullify the award of the contract for the M74 Northern Extension to Interlink M74 under Section 2 of Article 81.
4. The reporter identified an annual increase in carbon dioxide emissions of 135,000 tonnes. The Cairn Uish windfarm, Scotland’s largest when built in 2005, was predicted to save just 92,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
5. The letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth stated:
“We have spoken separately about the M74 and the government’s position in relation to the complaint that has made to the European Commission.
“Clearly Scottish Ministers are in a unique position. The Scotland Act specifies that we must at all times act within European law. We are therefore taking this complaint seriously. We will co-operate fully with the European Commission (EC) if they decide to investigate the M74 procurement process and must comply with any instructions or conclusions even if that has consequences for the timetable.
“We are confident that the process in relation to the M74 has been properly conducted but to ensure that our processes are robust and sound I have asked for them to be reviewed ahead of any potential investigation from the EC. The tender will not be signed before this internal review has been carried out.
“If the EC do intend to pursue this complaint, which could be a lengthy process, we will be required to re-examine our position. I am happy to expand on these points, on the record, in Parliament.”
Media and Communications
Scottish Green MSPs
Edinburgh EH99 1SP
Tel: 0131 348 6360
Mob: 0790 99 33 074
Fax: 0131 348 5972
Contact: James Mackenzie
Phone: 0131 348 6360 or 0790 99 33 074