Media release: More than 1,000 Scottish small businesses supported at Meet the Buyer North


THE Supplier Development Programme (SDP) and the Scottish Government have supported four Meet the Buyer North events since the annual day was established in 2018.

In advance of the fifth annual Meet the Buyer North event to be held next week on Wednesday, 7 September, at the Alexander Graham Bell Centre for Digital Health on the UHI Moray campus in Elgin, SDP is looking at how small businesses in the north of Scotland have benefitted so far.

“More than 1,500 CEOs, directors, sole traders and staff from 1,275 micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) based in Scotland have collectively attended Meet the Buyer North since 2018,” said Gillian Cameron, SDP programme manager.

“Of these, more than 500 SMEs based in Highland Council, Moray Council, Orkney Islands Council, Shetland Islands Council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Argyll and Bute Council and both Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City Council came along to Meet the Buyer North in person and to virtual events in the last four years.

“In considering bidding for public sector contracts, some businesses prefer to talk to a real person to have a conversation and introduce their business, but since staff in the public sector face serious challenges in finding the time and resources to do this, Meet the Buyer North offers a perfect opportunity.

“It works. Feedback from the four events shows that 94% of Scottish SMEs, supported businesses and third sector organisations said they were more likely to bid for public sector contracts after attending a Meet the Buyer North event.

“To inject innovation and sustainability into public sector procurement, which accounts for a £13.3bn spend annually in Scotland, it is essential to facilitate open and transparent dialogue with buyers and larger contractors with supply chains so that small businesses across the North of Scotland don’t miss out. Meet the Buyer North does just that.”

Ivan McKee MSP, Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, said:

“The North of Scotland, Highlands and Islands are full of economic potential, skills, ambition and innovation. As well as investing in the development of these areas, we want to ensure businesses here have fair access to public sector contracts. With £13.3bn spent each year through Scotland’s public sector, winning a public contract can transform a business.

“Using local suppliers is key in growing strong local economies, as well as building jobs and skills for workers. Meet the Buyer North is all about developing business opportunities and helping suppliers to show that they can offer valuable impact as well as value for money. I’m pleased to see the fifth annual Meet the Buyer North bringing business, opportunity and inspiration to Elgin!”

Local businesses across the region are asked to register in advance for the free event, which will enable network with procurement and support staff from the Scottish Government, as well as buyers from Moray Council and the Shared Procurement Service at Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, and Highland Councils.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), Historic Environment Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, APUC (Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges), and the Northern Lighthouse Board also want to speak with small businesses that can provide goods and services locally.

Health boards will feature at Meet the Buyer North for the first time, with NHS Grampian and NHS Highland looking to engage with small businesses across the north of Scotland about upcoming contract opportunities.

Additionally, the Scottish Procurement Alliance, PfH Scotland, Scotland Excel will be available to talk about framework opportunities.

One of the UK’s largest public sector buying organisations, Crown Commercial Service and the UK Ministry of Defence’s representatives for its Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) will be in attendance to talk about how small businesses can get involved in the recently-launched Defence Technology Exploitation Programme (DTEP), a £16 million programme to boost SME defence innovation. Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd, based in Thurso, will also exhibit.

Businesses in the construction sector can connect with Mitie, Ogilvie Construction, Robertson FM, hub North Scotland and Transport Scotland about supply chain opportunities for several current and upcoming contracts covering buildings, schools and other developments across the Scottish mainland and islands.

For businesses that want to connect with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and RJ McLeod, a video conferencing option is available on an individual’s personal or business smartphone or computer.

Staff from Public Contracts Scotland (PCS) will be available to discuss the online advertising portal, and Living Wage Scotland staff will also be at the event to talk about how to become accredited employers who choose to pay staff more than the government minimum.

Two local supported businesses, The Inkwell, run by the Elgin Youth Development Group and The Bow Café, a drop-in community café run by Quarriers Arrows Service in Elgin, will have light refreshments on offer, and all proceeds will to support the work of each individual social enterprise.

The Meet the Buyer North event on 7 September is free to attend.

Businesses must register for free tickets via in advance.


Notes for editors:

  • SDP is a publicly-funded partnership led by local authorities, working in conjunction with Scottish Government and other public bodies, to bring Scottish small and medium-sized enterprises, supported businesses and third sector organisations support in all aspects of tendering. By assisting businesses to become tender for public procurement, SDP improves all-round efficiency, sustainability and market potential.
  • In Scotland, there is an annual public spend of £13.3billion. In the UK, there is an annual public spend of £330 billion. SDP Scotland offers free training throughout Scotland to Scottish SMEs to support and champion them tendering for this work.
  • Membership of SDP provides:
    • early market awareness and promotion of potential tender/supply chain opportunities;
    • support at the organisation’s tender-related supplier engagement events;
    • additional participation in the organisation’s tender and supply chain opportunities; and
    • assistance to organisations to promote the availability of the Supplier Development Programme’s free procurement training to the organisation’s supply base.
  • In total, 4,058 bookings have been registered on the SDP website for the four Meet the Buyer North events (2018 – 2021). There have been 2,074 actual attendees across all North events, included within this number are 1,542 attendees from 1,275 unique Scottish SMEs, supported businesses and third sector organisations.
  • With Meet the Buyer North being an event that focuses on supplier engagement in the North of Scotland – attendance from those businesses located in local authorities in the North of Scotland accounted for 42 per cent of all Scottish SME attendance across all events (541 unique Scottish SMEs have attended from Highland Council, Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, Moray Council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Argyll & Bute Council and both Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City Council).
  • The highest attendance was recorded at the in-person Meet the Buyer North event held in 2019 when a total of 718 attendees from 534 unique Scottish SMEs attended the event at the Macdonald Aviemore Resort.
  • Collectively, there have been a total of 124 in-person or virtual stands with 431 exhibition staff/buyers in attendance across all Meet the Buyer North events. These have included not only public sector buyers but also some supply chain contractors, including RJ McLeod, hub North Scotland, Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd as well as various business support organisations, Business Gateway, Scottish Procurement Alliance and Scottish Enterprise.
  • The collective post-event surveys have highlighted that 94% of Scottish SMEs said they were more likely to bid for public sector contracts after attending a Meet the Buyer North event (285 responses received for this question).
    • 89 per cent of those respondents rated their overall experience at these events as either ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’ (291 responses received).

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