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Empowering SMEs

Friday May 21st, 2010


By Morven MacNeil, GO Features Editor

The Supply Scottish SME Conference 2010 – Empowering SMEs – provided delegates with important information on how to work more effectively with the public sector in order to maximum supply chains. 

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are an important driver in the Scottish economy. There are approximately 300,000 SMEs in Scotland, employing around one million people; this represents 99 per cent of all enterprises and 52.8 per cent of all employment. Some 50 per cent of the £8.2 billion public procurement spend in Scotland goes directly to SMEs.

The Supply Scottish SME Conference 2010 – Empowering SMEs – held recently at the Thistle Hotel, Glasgow and supported by the Scottish Government, highlighted the ways in which SMEs can work with the public sector and how collaborating can improve SMEs’ chances of winning business.

Speakers at the conference included Mike McNally, Community Benefit Programme Manager, Glasgow City Council; Alistair Merrill, Director of Procurement, Scottish Government; and Jim Miller, Director of National Procurement. 

Government Opportunities (GO) magazine Managing Editor Grahame Steed (the media sponsor of the event) chaired the Conference. He told delegates that we could be entering the most interesting period for public finances and public spending in decades.

Mr Steed said: “Public spending has bubbled along for years in relative obscurity but now it has erupted into the public consciousness with arguments ranging about how much should be spent, where it should be spent, where cuts should be made and what impact any reductions in spend will have upon the end users of public services and, of course, the businesses that provide them. However, whatever the size and shape of spending in the future, the fact remains that the public sector will continue to be a large and potentially highly attractive customer for business and one you really can not afford to ignore.”

Alastair Merrill argued that procurement reform is a key enabler for economic recovery. He said: “The efficient delivery of public services is increasingly reliant on professional procurement. And if there’s one message I’d like you to take away, it’s this: that building a vibrant SME sector is at the very heart of the Government’s approach to public sector procurement in Scotland.

“Transforming procurement means changing behaviours – not just within the public sector to improve purchasing capability, but also by suppliers to improve their competitiveness. You have a right to expect a level playing field in public sector contracts; access to contracting opportunities; transparency in your dealings with the public sector; clear and available guidance and support; regular engagement by purchasers with the market; and a minimum of process and bureaucracy.

“Through the Procurement Reform agenda, we aspire to create an environment where Scotland’s SMEs can flourish, and where public contracts are opportunities for businesses to develop their skills and competitiveness, and contribute to the economic recovery through increasing sustainable economic growth.”

Stuart Laing, Sales and Marketing Director at Scottish Development International, spoke about the cross-border opportunities available to Scottish SMEs. He said: “We fundamentally believe that international growth is the biggest opportunity to establish the level of growth that Scotland aspires to. Understanding your own product and your own market is important; there are various research tools to actually understand the market opportunities. These tools will help you identify potential customers and help with the engagement process.”

Mr Steed, in his concluding remarks, hoped that the conference had provided ample information for those SMEs and organisations not already engaged with the public sector to begin to do so – and for those already doing so to continue with their successful engagement.

Full speaker list…


  • Grahame Steed, Managing Editor, Government Opportunities


  • Hugh Carr, Interim Head of Strategic Procurement, Scotland Excel
  • Stuart Laing, Sales and Marketing Director, Scottish Development International
  • Ian McCoull, Director of Innovation, Scottish Enterprise
  • Mike McNally, Community Benefit Programme Manager, Glasgow City Council
  • Craig McNaughton, Area Director of Commercial Business, Bank of Scotland
  • Alistair Merrill, Director of Procurement, Scottish Government
  • Jim Miller, Director of National Procurement
  • Owen Paterson, Head of Relationship Management, Scotland Excel
  • Jonathan Ross, Supplier Development Manager, Scottish Procurement Directorate
  • Paul Serkis, Commercial Director – Infrastructure, Brookfield Europe
  • Bill Smith, Senior Business Development Manager, dbda Pin Point
  • Pauline Wallace, Senior Project Development Officer, Supplier Development Programme

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