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Shattering the myths around tendering

Graphic targeting tendering

With £11 billion of public sector work up for grabs in Scotland every year, successful tendering can bring many benefits. Here, we shatter some of the most popular myths about the process and reveal how careful planning can help you take your first steps on the ladder

For small, micro and medium-sized businesses in Scotland, deciding which routes to take to market can be difficult.

In Scotland, there is an annual public sector spend of £11 billion, all of which is advertised through Public Contracts Scotland, the national public sector tender portal for Scotland.

Contrary to popular belief, contracts do not always go to the same suppliers. Transparency is required for the procurement of goods, services and works, so public sector buyers are required to be open, fair and honest.

There is a robust audit trail for public procurement in Scotland, and it is a right of suppliers to express any concerns they may have about a specific tender exercise through the Scottish Government’s Single Point of Enquiry (SPoE), which offers independent advice.

It’s also a myth that SMEs are not a priority in public sector procurement. Written into Scots law as the Sustainable Procurement Duty, buyers have a duty to engage with SME businesses to support local employment and retain wealth locally.

The benefits to winning public sector contracts are many, including:

  • No debt risk as public bodies have a legal duty to pay SME supplier invoices within 30 days, or ten days if the SME has a cash flow issue

  • Stability for your business through potential uncertainty, such as the current coronavirus crisis, or economic downturns. Public services still need to be delivered, so your business will benefit from a relatively stable and durable customer base

  • Marketing mileage from having a large customer like a public body.

The Supplier Development Programme (SDP) was set up in 2008 by Scottish local authorities as a free service for bid support and tender training for SME businesses. It’s now grown to become a partnership of all 32

Scottish local authorities, Scottish Government and other public bodies that work together to bring free support in all aspects of tendering to Scottishbased SMEs.

SELECT joined SDP in 2019 as its first trade association member and has already hosted one free tender training course late last year. SDP helps businesses that are often too small to have dedicated bid/tender resources to contemplate bidding for a public sector contract. Through a programme of free training and events, it aims to help them become “tender ready” and improve their prospects when competing for opportunities.

What is Meet the Buyer?

Meet the Buyer connects the Scottish business base with senior procurers, decision-makers and influencers from across local and central government and the wider public sector. Partnered by the Scottish Government and Scotland Excel, Meet the Buyer is held on an annual basis. SDP is following the latest COVID-19 advice issued by the Scottish Government and it is unlikely that the next event, due to be held on 2 June at the EIC in Edinburgh, will go ahead. However, Meet The Buyer events allow buyers to engage with suppliers looking to enter into, or grow their share of, the £11 billion Scottish public procurement market.

Unlike most exhibition events, the essence of exhibitions is to promote your goods, services and works in a unique ‘reverse-expo’, i.e. the buyer hosts an exhibition space and you make your way round to meet them face-to-face and discuss upcoming opportunities.

How do I access training in bid writing?

SDP is the foremost free training programme for procurement and bidding in Scotland, with almost 16,000 businesses registered. Its introductory training helps companies, supported businesses and social enterprises with little or no experience of tendering to decide if it’s for them and, if so, how to go about it.

The most popular courses break down Public Contracts Scotland into manageable steps, give tips on finding contract opportunities, and how to publish the Supplier Finder profile – a must if you want to be invited to participate in a ‘quick quote’.

The intermediate level of SDP training is aimed at businesses that have some experience of tendering, but would like to become more proficient. Finally, companies and social enterprises with plenty of experience and success of tendering can access advanced training that helps them explore potential new markets (including overseas), routes of redress and contract management.

SMEs are encouraged to self-select training from any level, in any order.

After registering for free on the SDP website, they can attend any training event in Scotland. Usually offered in two formats – face-to-face and digital via webinar – SDP is concentrating on digital delivery from the comfort of your own desk for the foreseeable future.

All training is delivered by qualified, scrutinised trainers who successfully bid for the SDP training framework through Public Contracts Scotland.

Some of the same private consultants who offer paid-for bid writing are the experts who help SME businesses for free through SDP.

By Jennifer Payne,

Development Officer, Supplier Development Programme


SELECT will be hosting an Introduction to Tendering webinar later this year. To find out more about tendering and Meet the Buyer, visit or call SELECT Training on 0131 445 5577. ​


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