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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Unlocking procurement opportunities  

This opinion piece is 9 months old

Social Enterprise Scotland is keen to find out exactly how we can use public sector spending power to open up opportunities for social enterprises

Public sector procurement is a hot topic for a good number of social enterprises, charities and small businesses across Scotland.   

This is about local organisations providing goods and delivering a range of services across urban and rural areas - from catering to stationary, social care, employability services and much more.  

There are many new and important developments in public sector procurement reform, including the new Scottish Government Public Procurement Strategy 2023 to 2028.  

There's also a review of the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 by the Scottish Parliament Economy and Fair Work Committee.  

In terms of practical business support there’s the specialist sector support provided to the “enterprising third sector” by Just Enterprise.  

There’s the Supplier Development Programme too and social enterprises and others can sign up as a supplier and find more information about procurement on Public Contracts Scotland (PCS).  

However, many social enterprises and smaller organisations have yet to take part in public sector procurement, due to several factors.   

This includes sometimes complex procurement processes, lack of capacity to deliver, a need for training in order to bid, lack of smaller contracts and a public sector language and bureaucracy that organisations might find difficult to engage with.  

Social Enterprise Scotland is keen to find out exactly how we can better use public sector spending power to open up more opportunities for social enterprises and the people and communities they serve.  

We’re working in partnership with SCVO (Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations) to promote our new joint survey. We want to hear directly about the experiences of charities, social enterprises and community groups, from every corner of urban and rural Scotland.   

The aim is to gain new insights into the journey and views of those working in our respective sectors and help inform and improve government policy around procurement.  

We’re also hosting a webinar on the topic. Unlocking Procurement will be the first in a series of events around procurement opportunities, seeking to break down barriers, increase understanding and really unlock public procurement for more small, local social enterprises and voluntary groups.  

Of course, there are opportunities in terms of working with the private sector too. The world of procurement is changing and there’s growing interest in ‘social procurement’, with companies actively seeking to engage social enterprise suppliers of goods and services in their supply chains.  

This is much more than ‘best value for money’ procurement, more than a financial transaction, it’s a tool for driving business purpose and using purchasing power to create real, lasting social and environment impact. It’s worth checking out the Buy Social Business initiative to learn more.  

If you have any questions about public sector procurement and social enterprise please get in contact with and for private sector procurement   

Duncan Thorp is policy and public affairs manager for Social Enterprise Scotland.