THE Scottish Government is being urged to change the law to ensure a set percentage of the jobs involved in building the new Forth Road Bridge go to local people.
The £1.5 billion project, Scotland’s biggest-ever construction scheme, is expected to create well over 1000 jobs.
But there is nothing to stop firms recruiting all their workers from other parts of the country or abroad.
Now Labour is calling for a Procurement Bill, which would allow tender documents for public projects to include a clause guaranteeing a proportion of the jobs for people living within a certain distance of the project and also requiring a certain number of apprenticeships to be created.
The party said European laws permitted such clauses.
Scottish Labour leader and East Lothian MSP Iain Gray said: “Changes to the law could allow the Scottish Government to set conditions on how the massive public investment in the new Forth Road Bridge, and other contracts, could be used to create local jobs.
“Contractors bidding for the work might be required to employ a certain number of apprentices and make sure small local companies get some of the work. That would be a real boost for Edinburgh.
“Although the initial bridge contracts have been signed, it is not too late for the government to use every lever in the book to help local firms take on staff. Some of this can happen now, but too often it does not.”
The proposal would not just affect the Forth bridge, but could be used in a wide range of public projects.
Mr Gray said: “Labour’s plan for a Procurement Bill would allow the government to reap the potential of its massive purchasing power for the benefit of local communities. What is more, such legislation could ensure that a proportion of public sector contracts go to sheltered employment companies. That could have saved BlindCraft in Edinburgh from closing.”
Yesterday, First Minister Alex Salmond announced he was to appoint a new minister to combat youth unemployment and given an extra £30 million to tackle the issue.
Infrastructure Secretary Alex Neil said the principal contract for the new Forth crossing included valuable commitments on training and employment opportunities and community engagement.
He said: “As well as supporting 1200 jobs at its peak, it will annually provide 45 vocational training positions, 21 professional body training places and 46 positions for the long-term unemployed.
“This means many more employment opportunities will be provided for school-leavers, graduate engineers and those currently out of work than originally expected. We will also be working with the contractor to maximise Modern Apprenticeship opportunities.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it already had a manifesto commitment to a Sustainable Procurement Bill, as well as delivering a record number of apprenticeships.
He said: “The Sustainable Procurement Bill will focus on the creation of training and employment opportunities through major public contracts as a priority.”