In an era where groups and businesses can often find themselves struggling to procure necessary goods and services, members of  Scotland Excel have full access to everything they need as well as  guidance and expertise


YOU don’t have to look far for the headlines.

In December last year the Herald reported that thousands of jobs were set to be axed across the public sector in Scotland in the wake of huge cuts to frontline services – including to housing and public transport – with an acknowledgement by the Scottish Government that financial challenges could not be met through tax alone or by delivering public services in “traditional ways”.

It is, of course, a UK-wide challenge: Birmingham, England’s second city, became effectively bankrupt last year, highlighting the severity of the wider situation. 

One vital area in which organisations can find themselves with a reduced capacity is that of procurement, explains Shelly Kilgour, Scotland Excel’s Category Manager, Flexible Procurement. 

Procurement, she adds, is the foundation to any organisation’s sourcing strategy, enabling them to source the wide range of goods and services that they need. “Organisations increasingly find themselves with a shortfall in their procurement team or may be allocated money for a short-term project which requires tenders to be developed, actioned and awarded in a tight timeline,” she says.

As a Centre of Procurement Expertise, her team at Scotland Excel can step in to deliver procurements in a timely fashion while being fully compliant with procurement regulatory requirements, which are crucial in the process. 

“Our service has helped deliver goods, services and works within various areas of council, housing associations, ALEOs (Arms Length External Organisations )  education bodies, governmental agencies and public corporations.”

Scotland Excel, she says, was established as the Centre of Procurement Expertise for the local government sector in 2008. “We’re a leading non-profit organisation serving Scotland’s 32 local authorities and over 150 associate members from across the public and third sectors.

“The principle is that all 32 local councils buy better together.  If they combine their spend, they can do better, both in the value that they get and in the relationships they build.”

The organisation  has a large portfolio of frameworks in place to help its members to source a wide range of goods and services and these frameworks have been through the tender process, which means they are ready to use by members.

“This means we oversee the procurement process and contract management for frameworks once – so that councils don’t then need to do each of them 32 times. This saves public resource.”

Scotland Excel’s Flexible Procurement Service, which was formed in 2021, is one that can be “hired” by members. “We have a team of procurement experts who can deliver a range of bespoke work packages – a service unique to Scotland’s public procurement sector as it gives organisations the opportunity to purchase a procurement resource, over a timescale that suits them,” she says. 

This can also be done in ways that accommodate the clients’ specific needs. “The hosted model allows organisations to hand specific pieces of work over to us to deliver while the agency model allows members to purchase the procurement time they need on a day-to-day basis and Scotland Excel also offers a consultancy service that offers guidance, expertise and recommendations.” 

Everyone is aware that the public sector is now dealing with shrinking budgets, adds Shelly. “And everyone must now accomplish more with less. However, there’s still a need for qualified procurement professionals to do very strategic things and manage supply chains that are faced with all the challenges of recent years. 

“The more complex the world becomes the more our ability to buy within a reasonable value is impacted and essentially, shrinking public budgets mean organisations need solutions that are flexible and cost effective.”

The Herald:

Public spending is of course constantly under scrutiny: “It’s very high visibility and when organisations experience particular areas of stress our Flexible Procurement Service is something of a release valve, allowing us to step in and ramp up the necessary resource that allows them to get these projects over the line. 

“It removes the need for them to go out to hire new staff and take on the burden of running a recruitment campaign.  They can come to us and say, ‘Can you help us for six weeks?’ And that’s a huge relief for many of our clients.”

These clients, she says, can range from Scotland’s largest city councils, perhaps dealing with the procurement and implementation of a new IT software programme that will be in place for 10 years to projects for local housing associations. 

“We have, for example, supported a council in rationalising product usage from 350 items to 150 core items, bringing significant annual savings and creating a unique consultancy framework that helped 30 local buying organisations secure services compliantly.”

There can also be some diverse requirements. “When Dundee hosted Radio 1’s Big Weekend in the city last year, they needed to procure lights, generators and other items so we were able to step in, make the phone calls and find out who could fulfil the requirements on these specific dates, helping them with all the elements they needed to make that event a success,” says Shelly.  

To date, Scotland Excel’s Flexible Procurement team of seven has been engaged on nearly 200 projects – averaging around 75 projects delivered annually.  Within those the team has delivered various ‘direct awards’, quick quotes and call offs from national frameworks but also conducted 45 open tenders and further established four client frameworks.

For many organisations, using Scotland Excel has brought major benefits that include cost savings and increased efficiency and by outsourcing procurement activities they can utilise its expertise to streamline processes and negotiate better deals with suppliers.

“We do procurement, we do it well and follow the regulatory requirements while bringing along our stakeholders, the experts within the organisations that are requesting help,” she says.   

“We do the work for them and become part of the team, giving support and guidance, value for money and, crucially, offering a service by the public sector for the public sector. We want to make sure we are spending the public money wisely and doing everything we can to meet budgets – which is very much the focus right now.”


Local authorities excel in reducing carbon emissions

By Sarah Gadsden, Chief Executive, Improvement Service 

The Herald:

THE Improvement Service (IS) has an established relationship with Scotland Excel’s Flexible Procurement Team to deliver procurement services. 

With this arrangement having delivered three business critical software contracts in the past, we approached the team to procure a common data platform to be utilised by the Scottish Climate Intelligence Service, all 32 Scottish councils and Scottish Government, to support the design and delivery of effective programmes of area-wide emissions reduction across Scotland.

We relied on the extensive procurement knowledge of the team, who utilised and developed standard processes and templates to support the process. 

The team worked seamlessly alongside key stakeholders, 
including the Scottish Climate Intelligence Service, to understand the requirements of the data platform. 

The Herald: A new common data platform has been effective in pollution reduction across Scotland

This is a first-generation contract and as such, required extensive market engagement to not only prepare the market but to define specifications that were achievable by the market.

Scotland Excel identified the appropriate route to market as well as developing a procurement process that would ensure best value. They fully supported us through the whole process. 

The team are now in the process of finalising award prior to going live in April 2024.

We are delighted with the work. We would not hesitate to put in place a similar arrangement for the future procurements that we will