More public bodies sign up to source local

Work to ensure Scotland's school-children and hospital patients get to eat more locally reared, farm assured products is gathering pace with another two major public bodies signing up to source their produce locally.

Over the past three years, red meat promotion body Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) has been working alongside public sector buyers to help them alter their red meat contracts in-line with Scottish Executive guidance on sustainable procurement.

In the last two months, NHS Western Isles and Highland council have become the latest to bring local sourcing into their procurement practice.

The NHS Western Isles contract, which went live on the 1 April 2007, has been awarded to Stornoway-based Charles MacLeod butchers. The contract, worth around £30,000 a year, is set to run for the next 12 months.

The Highland council contract is still out to tender and will be awarded in the weeks to come. It will run for a minimum period of three years.

The QMS guidelines for public sector buyers were developed alongside the Scottish Executive and fit within a Scotland-wide sustainability initiative. The initiative is geared towards promoting a sustainable agricultural sector, encouraging small and medium sized enterprises to compete for public sector contracts and to promote farm assurance and high animal welfare standards.

QMS head of marketing, Laurent Vernet, said: "We understand the importance of local body contracts for local companies and communities, and we're working hard to ensure that Scotland's red meat businesses have a better chance of competing for these often lucrative contracts.

"We have also been working closely with the majority of Scotland's local authorities and continue to work with the rest when their contracts are available for renewal.

"We provide dedicated services to this market in the form of market updates, guidance on best use of the carcase, specifications for popular cuts, as well as hosting regular seminars to share best practice and help connect local bodies with the Scottish red meat industry."

A number of additional contracts will be going to tender over the next few months. These include the Scotland-wide NHS contract, as well as local authorities including the Scottish Borders and Dumfries & Galloway councils.