Public Procurement and Property

Showcasing SMEs during Living Wage Week!

November 16, 2021 by No Comments | Category Fair Work, Scottish Procurement, Supplier Development Programme

Scottish Government is committed to improving access to public contracts for Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), the third-sector and supported businesses – a key part of our approach to meeting the sustainable procurement duty. One way which we achieve this is by supporting the Supplier Development Programme (SDP) which helps these organisations that are based in Scotland to improve their performance in winning public sector contracts by offering free information, resources, support and training events.

As part of our Living Wage Week celebrations, we welcome a guest blog from SDP and hear from some SMEs they have supported to win public sector contracts – showcasing the art of the possible.

Following on from the Scottish Government’s recent announcement that the real Living Wage will be a requirement within its new contracts, it got us to thinking: how many of the SME businesses registered with SDP are committed to paying the real Living Wage?

We undertook some research and found that there are over 500 Scottish SMEs, supported businesses and third-sector organisations registered with SDP, paying the real Living Wage. Of these – in the last three years to August 2021, 189 of those suppliers won 882 contract award notices over the three years through Public Contracts Scotland (PCS) – Scotland’s national advertising portal for public sector contracts.  Additionally, 53 of those suppliers won Quick Quotes in the same period.

So, how do they do it?  Let’s take a closer look at three case studies to learn about their success!

Case study One: Remarkable

Background: Formerly known as Investors in People Scotland, Edinburgh-based Remarkable is a small business that specialises in business advisory, consultancy, leadership and organisational development.

Improving lives through fair pay: On being an accredited Living Wage Scotland employer, Remarkable said: “It makes good business sense to us! This investment in our people is based on our values, one of which is We Care, and our belief is that if we look after our team, with competitive pay and great working conditions, our people want to work for us and provide a great experience to our clients. When tendering, we are proud to include that we are a real Living Wage employer!”

Activity: Since first registering with SDP in 2018, Remarkable was successful in bidding for a contract from Perth & Kinross Council to supply a leadership development approach known as Intent Based Leadership (IBL).  Remarkable says the training and guidance the company received from SDP was instrumental in submitting a robust and effective bid.

Alan Gebbie, IIP Specialist, said: “After deciding to actively submit tenders to win business we realised that there was not sufficient in-house expertise to submit a credible tender, and it all seemed rather daunting. A lot of work goes into submitting a tender and we did not want to trip ourselves up by being eliminated on a technicality or by not providing the level and breadth of detail required. With the support of SDP’s training courses, we began to understand what was required and gained an understanding especially around the SPD which helped us to build our knowledge and level of confidence.”

Case study Two: Dundee Science Centre

Background: Dundee Science Centre is a charity and lifelong learning resource for the community. It helps families learn together, and supports the formal school curriculum, with the purpose to bring people together and enjoy science.

Improving lives through fair pay: For Dundee Science Centre, 2021 was a landmark year; it turned 21 years old, re-developed its facilities, exhibitions and outdoor areas to become more accessible and inclusive for a wide range of audiences and became a Living Wage accredited employer. As an organisation, Dundee Science Centre is committed to fairness and equality across both our audiences and our staff. Dundee Science Centre said: “During Lockdown, we changed how we engage with audiences and correspondingly we wanted to support our staff. Our original goal was to implement the Scottish Living Wage, so we are very proud to say that we have achieved this while protecting all jobs throughout the pandemic with no redundancies. We passionately believe in providing an excellent, inclusive working environment for our team and we felt incredibly proud to become a Living Wage Employer, demonstrating our commitment despite a difficult financial year. Becoming an accredited Living Wage employer allows us to diversify our business model and bid for contracts that previously we would have been excluded from previously.”

Activity: With no previous experience of public sector tendering, Dundee Science Centre was recently awarded onto Dundee City Council’s ‘Flexible Framework Agreement for Education & Social Support Services (Children & Families)’ after attending the Supplier Development Programme’s aligned tender training webinar event with Dundee City Council at the end of 2020.

Lorraine Lemon, Head of Business and Operations, said: “Participating in the tender training from SDP was essential in supporting both the company’s set up and tender application process. It also allowed us to reach a wider market than we were previously able to reach. The training provided detailed information about the upcoming tender that allowed us to complete our business profile on Public Contracts Scotland, as well as the tender documents we had to submit. We found the training session easy-to-follow, with lots of practical advice on how to deal with different aspects of the tendering process.”

Case study Three:  Concept Northern

Background: Concept Northern is a small business employing 19 people that provides assistive technology and training to help individuals achieve their work and study goals by supplying equipment and support to make a profound difference to their daily lives.

Improving lives through fair pay: Concept Northern is an accredited Living Wage Scotland employer, and won its first public sector contract with the University of the Highlands and Islands in 2021 to provide Text Help software, ‘Read Write Gold’. Concept Northern said: “Being a recognised Living Wage Employer helps us show that we have a commitment to help support local communities, and demonstrate good and fair work practices to our employees and customers.”

Activity: Concept Northern first engaged with SDP in 2016 at a supplier event then over subsequent years partook in a number of training workshops and ‘Meet the Buyer’ events.

Jamie Graham, Concept Northern’s Business Engagement and Relationship Manager is neurodiverse and benefitted greatly from the training available:

“I wanted to understand Public Contracts Scotland (PCS) better as well as how the public sector buys through procurement.  SDP has given me a clear structure in the bidding process and helped me understand how to go about things better.  I’m pleased for my colleague who submitted Concept Northern’s first successful bid and I’m looking to do the same now, and I feel better prepared because of the Supplier Development Programme.”

During Living Wage Week, it’s a perfect time for businesses to consider what more they can do to contribute to Fair Work. Particularly when preparing to bid for future public sector opportunities, and SDP can help! For example, watch a presentation from Meet the Buyer North 2021 on the Circular Economy, Fair Work First and Net Zero. Some of the key issues and challenges businesses face, as well as free toolkits and resources that can help.

To equip businesses with what they need, SDP recently refreshed its training offer to ensure that Scotland’s small businesses are adequately prepared to future-proof their bids by proactively addressing low pay in public sector contracts to begin to support better outcomes for staff.

SDP also signposts to practical tools to use at key stages of the procurement process, such as the Scottish Government’s toolkit on Fair Work practices in procurement.

Scottish businesses of all sizes are encouraged to register free with the Supplier Development Programme by visiting, and to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube for the latest news on future tendering opportunities, events, training and resources.

Thank you very much, SDP! It’s excellent to hear how the Power of Procurement is being used to support SMEs across the country to engage with the public sector and that they are actively committed to paying the real Living Wage to their workers whilst doing so – creating positive workplaces and improving the lives of employees.

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