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Accreditation in public procurement offered

15 August 05

New specialist accreditation available in public procurement law; and a note of further pending changes

by Duncan Osler


Solicitors advising bodies in the public sector are called upon to advise on many areas of the law. One particular set of legal rules was created by EU directives more than a decade ago to govern how contracts for building works, supplies, and services must be awarded by public bodies, when they procure these resources externally. These EU public procurement rules are designed to ensure that private sector undertakings have a fair and equal opportunity to bid for contracts awarded by the public sector in the EU, regardless of where those undertakings are based.

These rules have wide application, covering everything down to the supply of coffee and biscuits. If you think that is a bit small-scale, you might be surprised by a recent Scottish Executive report which found that in 2004, local authorities and the NHS in Scotland spent some £80m on food alone.

The importance of the EU procurement rules gained wider recognition in relation to the Holyrood building project, culminating in Lord Fraser’s report recommending that no one should be put in charge of any public project without a demonstrable appreciation of what is required under EU procurement rules. Add to that the tendency of Government to look to the private sector to perform activities previously carried out within the public sector and the increasing importance of the EU procurement rules becomes even clearer.

As well as helping the public sector comply with EU procurement rules and other applicable elements of law, solicitors with the necessary expertise may also help authorities to procure competitively and increase the value for money which is delivered. The Law Society of Scotland recently created a new panel to assess applications from solicitors for accreditation as specialists in public procurement law, a further sign of the increasing importance of this area of legal practice. This accredited specialism is also notable in its appeal to solicitors working within the public sector.

Further areas?

There are now 20 specialisms accredited by the Society, from family law to employment law. Professional negligence will become a specialism in the autumn and the Society welcomes suggestions for other specialisms as it recognises that the law is becoming increasingly complex, creating demand in niche areas of practice.

From 1 October 2005, the old style application forms for becoming a specialist issued before 1 May this year will no longer be accepted. To make a suggestion for a new specialism or to obtain an up to date application form please contact James Ness, Deputy Director, Professional Practice (tel 0131 226 7411; email jamesness@lawscot.org.uk or sharonmcfarlane@lawscot.org.uk).

Duncan Osler, Partner, MacRoberts Solicitors