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Challenges for business continue due to COVID-19, and the Supplier Development Programme is working hard to ensure you're prepared for upcoming contracts in the public sector.

SDP continues to work with local authorities and our other public sector membership organisations. To that end, SDP has moved all face-to-face training to webinar delivery wherever possible, until the end of May, and has kept cancellations of tender training to a minimum. SDP has also been working with buyers to consider what is critical in upcoming procurement to help them engage with you, the supplier base. This engagement is currently offered as free core tender training via webinar, as well as bespoke sessions that are aligned to specific upcoming contracts.

It is important to us that SDP continues to work with our members to ensure that public sector procurement continues to be as open and transparent as possible, despite the additional challenges our society is currently facing.

To get in touch with SDP, please email which will ensure that you get the quickest response – especially as the SDP Team is working remotely.

Carry on and keep tendering: a blog by Gillian Cameron, SDP Programme Manager

Gillian Cameron, SDP Manager

Once the initial questions are answered: “What business support is available? How am I going to pay my staff? How am I going to pay myself?” and others of high importance, you may be able to turn to one of the next great unknowns: “What is the next step for my business?”

In this strange COVID-19 world, it’s not “business as usual” except in the public sector: here, the procurement rules ensure that as much as possible, the public sector can continue to tender vital contracts for goods, services and works.

During these days, weeks, or maybe even months of containment, working remotely can have its benefits in providing capacity to spend time on learning or brushing up on your bidding skills.

“Why would I want to do that?” you might ask.

Along with the fact that the public sector won’t go bust, if you’re a small or medium sized business, you will also have to be paid within 30 days in Scotland. If you’re able to find and win public sector contracts with improved bidding skills, you’ll have access to a source of stability for your business’s future, which is particularly illusive in the current economic climate.

“It’s bureaucratic, labour intensive and tricky,” you might retort.

In addition to the fact that many things these days can be described as such, what if there was a free resource that helped you to get “tender ready,” showed you how to complete that dreaded European Single Procurement Document (ESPD) and the other documentation you may need?

Bidding is a process: learn how to do it once, and you can refine and shape your responses and key documents for almost every tender. The Supplier Development Programme (SDP) is a proven, free service that is here to help you by offering free tender training courses via webinar, as well as by working with public sector buyers and arranging bespoke webinar sessions that are aligned to specific upcoming contracts.

If you have not already, I encourage you to register with SDP. It is free to all Scottish SMEs, third sector and supported businesses.

SDP has produced a guide to webinars to help you understand what is involved in this training format. You can view upcoming courses by visiting Once registered, you can login and book the upcoming webinar training at your convenience.

If you still think tendering is not for you, why not hear more and read about some businesses that with SDP’s support, have grown their companies by winning tenders?

Stay safe, stay well. Carry on and keep tendering.

This blog was originally published on the SDP website on 25 March 2020. Gillian Cameron is the Supplier Development Programme Manager. You can follow her on Twitter. If you would like to contact the SDP Scotland Team, please email

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Last Chance to Register: Scottish Cyber Assessment Service (SCAS) Training with SDP

Scottish Government logo

Smaller public sector organisations often ask: "Why would anyone attack us?" but in this climate of ever increasing cyber threat, supply chains are often seen as an easy route to attack larger organisations, such as public sector buyers. The Supplier Development Programme wrote to all registered suppliers yesterday to highlight that this is the last chance to register to be among the first to be trained on the Scottish Cyber Assessment Service (SCAS) on Wednesday, 8 April by participating in webinars from the comfort of your own desk.

The Scottish Government has released the Scottish Cyber Assessment Service (SCAS) which seeks to improve supply chain cyber security by helping public sector bodies adopt a more consistent approach to cyber security during procurement. SCAS will also help suppliers to assess their cyber security against authoritative National Cyber Security Centre guidance.

According to the Scottish Government:

  • Completing a SCAS questionnaire can require time and effort, depending on (i) the risk profile of a contract and (ii) how well you understand your organisation’s cyber resilience arrangements.
  • It is vital that you leave sufficient time for your organisation to complete the SCAS questionnaire ahead of any procurement deadlines.

All suppliers may be asked to use the SCAS in the future, so SDP is working in partnership with the Scottish Government to ensure that suppliers are prepared and "tender ready." SDP is also providing free training via webinar to public sector buyers that may require to use the tool in upcoming procurement exercises.

Two sessions will run 8 April 2020:

You can attend a webinar from the comfort of your own desk - wherever you are based, and the joining instructions and link will be emailed to you the day before this event. To learn more about how to access webinars, view SDP's Top Tips on How to Join a Webinar or read SDP's latest article on webinars.

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Live tendering and furloughing staff through the coronavirus job retention scheme

On average, the Supplier Development Programme receives hundreds of enquiries each month from businesses in Scotland. Last week, SDP staff received questions regarding how furloughing staff affects live tendering.This blog aims to offer expert advice on public sector tendering and answer related questions on options for SMEs and supported businesses while staff are furloughed in Scotland.

SME Enquiry Summary

In line with advice from the Scottish Government, last week, the SME business instructed all staff to stay home and closed the office. All staff were furloughed, in compliance with business support guidelines. The terms and conditions state employees cannot work in any capacity, or it would be in breach of the furloughed rules.

The business wrote to four Scottish councils to suspend live current tenders that it had already recorded an interest in responding to, and so far, only one has suspended the tender, until the furlough scheme ends and businesses are all back to normal working. Another three local authorities changed the deadline dates, but did not suspend the tender opportunities.

The SME business decided that changing the return date is irrelevant, as furloughed staff cannot work, and contacted the Scottish Procurement Single Point of Enquiry (SPoE) for advice. However, it is the decision of each local authority how it responds.

What are the available options for buyers during the coronavirus crisis? What are the options for SMEs that want to respond to tender opportunities while staff are furloughed?

Background: Official Coronavirus Procurement Guidance

Firstly, on 20 March, the Scottish Government issued a policy note, Procurement Regulations during COVID-19 Outbreakfor buying organisations, to raise awareness on handling some procurement related issues as a consequence of the current COVID-19 outbreak. In such exceptional circumstances, public bodies in Scotland may need to procure goods, services and works with extreme urgency, and the policy note provides information on options available to purchasers in these circumstances. On 26 March, the Scottish Government also issued a policy note on Coronavirus (COVID-19): supplier relieffor buying organisations, to provide guidance on options for payment to their suppliers to ensure service continuity during the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. SDP addressed what supplier relief means for current contracts, and outlined what steps Scottish SMEs and supported businesses can take to request consideration be given to advance payment from buyers.

Around the same time that the second Scottish Government policy note was issued, the UK Government launched the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This is a temporary scheme open to all UK employers for at least three months starting from 1 March 2020. It is designed to support employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19). Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, employers can use a portal to claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ (employees on a leave of absence) usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage. Employers can use this scheme anytime during this period. On 4 April 2020, the UK Government updated the guidance for employers on claiming for employee wages through the new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and issued separate guidance for employees.

In wider markets, the threat from the coronavirus outbreak has also resulted in the European Commission (EC), to issue guidance to public sector buyers on flexibilities in procurement rules.

The guidance focuses on procurements in “cases of extreme urgency” where public buyers may need to buy “within a matter of days, even hours, if necessary”. To address the needs of the crisis, the guidance highlights the choice of tendering procedures available to public buyers for the purchase of the supplies and services.

SDP Advice: furloughed staff and training

Gillian Cameron, SDP Programme Manager, said: “Though every business needs to make its own decisions at this extremely trying time, I do not believe that business advice is to furlough all staff if it is not required by the business’s needs. If bidding is a key business lead opportunity for your company, perhaps your business should consider identifying a member of staff(s) that can work (safely) on tenders while not on furlough, who could also identify new opportunities and perhaps manage existing contract requirements. Depending on the level of work you have, this staff member could also be tasked with doing market research through using PCS and reviewing the various local authorities published procurement reports that will have their forward plans in them, thus looking forward to when business will return to a semblance of normality and getting your business tender ready.

“According to the scheme’s details, employees cannot do any work for employers whilst they are on furlough. They can do volunteer work, or training if this does not provide services to or for the employer, or generate revenue for the employer. (Please note: the guidance points out that if workers are required to, for example, complete online training courses while they are furloughed, they must be paid at least the National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage for the time spent training, even if this is more than the subsidy.)

“The scheme isn’t clear on whether businesses can rotate employees on furlough or if they would have to choose some employees to be furloughed while others stayed at work. However, since employees can be placed on furlough more than once, it suggests that employers can rotate employees on furlough, so long as each employee spends a minimum of three weeks on furlough. This would mean, for example, that a business could select an initial group of employees for furlough while a second group remains at work. The first group could then come back to work while the second group takes a turn on furlough. So applied to a real life situation, an example for tendering could be that while on furlough, staff could potentially volunteer to attend SDP’s range of tender training courses to become “tender ready,” and when not on furlough, staff could work to find, win and keep public sector contracts. This is only an example, and SDP encourages all businesses to follow official advice as well as make your own decisions for the longevity of your business needs.”

All active SDP trainers on the SDP Training Framework were also asked to respond to this SME’s query. You can read the full blog on the SDP website.

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SDP postpones Meet the Buyer event to 2021

Meet the Buyer logo

The Supplier Development Programme (SDP) has postponed the 12th annual Meet the Buyer event until next year due to disruption caused by the coronavirus. The announcement was made in conjunction with headline partners Scottish Government and Scotland Excel.

More than 2,000 attendees, largely made up from small, micro and medium sized businesses, were expected to attend the Meet the Buyer gathering that was set to run in Edinburgh on 2 June this year.

The new date has been announced as Tuesday, 8 June 2021 at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

While the delay was almost inevitable in the light of coronavirus, some public sector procurement officials believe there may be a silver lining.

Councillor Peter Henderson, Chair of the Supplier Development Programme Board, said:

“Scottish businesses are facing unprecedented difficulties in the weeks and months ahead. The supplier pool that buyers hope to engage with to fulfil upcoming public sector contract opportunities at Meet the Buyer each year has dramatically changed and indeed, may never be the same again.

“Government at local, Scottish and wider UK levels are already planning to spend vast amounts to boost the economy once the pandemic is over. Meet the Buyer is a vital conduit for public sector buyers to connect with small, micro and medium sized businesses to unlock the potential of innovation from the Scottish business base for future procurement, and ensure that public money is spent on sustainable and renewable projects.

“SDP will work closely with public sector buyers to meet the increased demands for increased spending by consistently raising awareness of public sector contract opportunities. Meet the Buyer 2021 will provide free access to public sector buyers and the wider supply chain to contribute to open and transparent procurement practices throughout Scotland and the UK.”

“The Supplier Development Programme is free to all Scottish SMEs, third sector and supported businesses. As it has for years, SDP continues to offer robust tender training to Scottish businesses via digital webinar delivery in the short-term.”

Suppliers that registered for the 2020 event have had their bookings moved to the new date in 2021. Businesses of all sizes are invited to book free tickets for Meet the Buyer 2021 by visiting

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SDP Welcomes Strathclyde Partnership for Transport

SPT logo

The Supplier Development Programme (SDP) has welcomed Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) as an affiliate member.

In joining SDP, SPT will place engagement with more than 16,000 SDP registered micro, small, medium and supported businesses across Scotland at the heart of procurement for transport planning, operations and project delivery for the region.

Kenny Govan, SPT Senior Procurement Officer, said:

“SPT is delighted to join the Supplier Development Programme and we look forward to a long and productive partnership.

“The crucial services that SPT commissions through Public Contracts Scotland, particularly those within the bus industry, are delivered by large numbers of small and micro enterprises that sometimes have limited tendering experience.

“SPT hopes that this new relationship with SDP will offer these companies the chance to greatly enhance their capabilities, become more competitive and to grow their business by winning a bigger share of the contracts offered by SPT and other buyers in the public sector.”

Gillian Cameron, Supplier Development Programme Manager, said:

“SPT has previously engaged with thousands of suppliers through SDP’s annual Meet the Buyer event with great success, and passenger transport is an area of procurement that depends heavily on proactive relationships with suppliers.

"It also integrates with local authority commitments, and SDP will continue to facilitate this interaction to ensure that Scottish SMEs and supported businesses are best placed to find, win and keep public sector contracts.”

SMEs and supported businesses in Scotland will be able to view additional details on SPT within the Scotland's Buyers section on the SDP website.

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Upcoming training and events

scottish gov logoSupply Chain Cyber Security Tool - training for Buyers - WEBINAR

Wednesday 8 April 2020, 9.30-10:30am


If you are working in procurement, this free webinar will help you understand the Scottish Government's Scottish Cyber Assessment Service (SCAS) which seeks to improve supply chain cyber security by helping public sector bodies adopt a more consistent approach to cyber security during procurement.

scottish government logoSupply Chain Cyber Security Tool - supplier training- WEBINAR

Wednesday 8 April 2020, 11.15am-12:15pm


If you or your suppliers rely on digital services or products to deliver public services, the services you provide to the public are at risk.

hard-hat1.1 Introduction to Tendering - WEBINAR

Wednesday 15 April 2020, 10.00-11:30am


Begin to look at the tender process in detail at this Level 1 workshop

hh-right1.2 Using PCS and Other Portals - WEBINAR

Tuesday 21 April 2020, 9.30am-12:30pm


Learn how to make the most of Public Contracts Scotland (PCS) and other e-tendering systems at this introductory workshop.

East Renfrewshire Council logoEast Renfrewshire Meet the Buyer Day

Thursday 30 April 2020, 10.00am-4:30pm

Giffnock Partner Event

East Renfrewshire Council are hosting a Meet the Buyer day for suppliers to find out about contract opportunities from the Council and how they can become a supplier.

laptop1.2 Using PCS and other portals - WEBINAR

Thursday 30 April 2020, 2.30-4:00pm


Learn how to make the most of Public Contracts Scotland (PCS) and other e-tendering systems at this introductory workshop.

standing0.1. Introduction To Working With The Public Sector

Tuesday 5 May 2020, 10.00-11:30am

Webinar SDP Event

This Level 1 (Beginner) workshop is a first step to tendering for new or inexperienced bidders

angle-midPostponed: SDP's Bidding Masterclass

Postponed – future date TBC

Glenrothes SDP Event

This practical, hands on, one day course is for experienced suppliers that want to build their capability in public sector tendering.

angle-mid2.3 Improving Your Bid Score - WEBINAR

Thursday 7 May 2020, 9.30am-12:30pm


This Level 2 (Intermediate) workshop will help you get the highest possible score in your tender bid

laptop2.1 Tender Procedures and the ESPD - WEBINAR

Wednesday 13 May 2020, 2.30-4:00pm


Understand the various types of tender and examine the new ESPD at this Level 2 workshop

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Latest from our website

10DRLive tendering and furloughing staff through the coronavirus job retention scheme

This blog aims to offer expert advice on public sector tendering and answer related questions on options for SMEs and supported businesses while staff are furloughed in Scotland.

Meet the Buyer logoSupplier Development Programme postpones Meet the Buyer event to 2021 with partners Scottish Government and Scotland Excel

The Supplier Development Programme (SDP) has postponed the 12th annual Meet the Buyer event until next year due to disruption caused by the coronavirus. The new date has been announced as Tuesday, 8 June 2021 at the EICC.

SPT exhibited at Meet the Buyer 2019.Strathclyde Partnership for Transport Joins Supplier Development Programme

The Supplier Development Programme (SDP) has welcomed Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) as an affiliate member on 1 April 2020.

PCS and 10DRNew Scottish Procurement Policy Note (SPPN) - Coronavirus (COVID-19): supplier relief

The Scottish Government has issued a new Scottish Procurement Policy Note (SPPN) regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) and supplier relief.

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Tell us your SDP success story!

Has your SME business won a contract after participating in SDP training? Would you like to share your success story? The SDP Team is looking to tell your story!

Contact, and your business could be SDP’s featured business of the month. You can also check out other case studies on the SDP website.

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Contact us

Supplier Development Programme