Scottish procurement policy handbook

This handbook provides guidance on the rules and policies that apply to the procurement activities of public bodies in Scotland and highlights some key legal obligations.

9. Relationships with suppliers

It is important to have the right processes in place for working with suppliers in an open and transparent manner. This can reassure the marketplace that the public body conducts its business in a way that is fair, proportionate and transparent. It can also build confidence among wider stakeholders that the right steps are being taken towards achieving continuous improvement and VfM.

Effective use of procurement processes can help a public body to select suitable suppliers. These include:

  • pre-market engagement/consultation to assess the market
  • tender clarification where Procurement Officers can ask bidders about quality performance or the terms and conditions of contracts
  • post-tender negotiation where Procurement Officers can contact the preferred bidder(s) to refine and improve their bids. It is only available in limited circumstances
  • standstill period which aids transparency of the award decision process
  • debriefing where bidders can request feedback which allows them to make improvements for future bids.

Supplier selection and exclusion: the Single Procurement Document (SPD)

Public bodies risk delivery failure and reputational damage if they select suppliers which do not have the capability and capacity to deliver. Suppliers to the public sector must work professionally and meet high standards. They are required to comply with legislative and policy requirements on the environment, equality issues, health and safety, modern slavery, employment, prompt payment and taxation.

The SPD is a standard form that includes bidder exclusion and selection questions. It is mandated for use in all procurements covered by the 2015 Regulations, and it is best practice to use it in all other procurements covered by the 2014 Act.

One of the aims of the SPD is to simplify the procurement process by enabling bidders to self-declare that they have not breached any of the grounds for exclusion, and that they meet the relevant selection criteria. SPD Modules are available in PCS and PCS Tender (PCS-T). Guidance on the SPD can be found in the Procurement Journey and further guidance relating to construction can be found in Chapter 7 of the Construction Procurement Handbook.

When carrying out Regulated Procurements, Procurement Officers must take account of the mandatory and discretionary exclusion grounds which apply. Further guidance can be found in the Procurement Journey. In all cases a bidder will have an opportunity to provide evidence that it has taken remedial action to demonstrate its reliability (“self-cleansing”).

The following section of the statutory guidance may also help when assessing the suitability of potential suppliers: selecting tenderers and awards of contracts.

Gifts and hospitality

There should be specific guidance within public bodies on accepting gifts and hospitality for those working on tenders and contracts. This guidance should reflect internal human resources policy and the Bribery Act 2010 which outlines situations where a person can be found guilty of committing a bribery offence. Clear guidelines on gifts and hospitality can reduce the risks of this happening.


Complaints from bidders should be handled through a formal process in a professional, objective and timely way. This can have a positive impact on relationships with suppliers and provide evidence of equal and proportionate treatment. Each public body will have their own internal complaints handling process however there are also a number of external bodies, such as the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, who will investigate certain types of complaints. Effective analysis of complaints can also help deliver continuous improvement. The Scottish Government or Centres of Expertise can advise on complex complaints.

Single Point of Enquiry

Suppliers should seek to resolve issues relating to specific procurements with the relevant public body in the first instance. If issues cannot be resolved by the relevant public body, bidders/suppliers can contact the Single Point of Enquiry (SPoE) which listens to supplier concerns about specific tenders and looks to work with public bodies to resolve them. Working constructively with SPoE to resolve issues and making suppliers aware of the service can again demonstrate how a public body is treating suppliers in a fair and proportionate way while always looking to improve.

Further guidance

There is more extensive guidance on working with suppliers in various sections of the Procurement Journey. Public bodies may wish to ensure suppliers, especially SMEs, the third sector and supported businesses they engage with are aware of the support available to them in the Supplier Journey (including guidance on Public Procurement for SMEs and third sector suppliers) and the Supplier Development Programme (SDP).



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