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Public Sector Offers Major Opportunities for Rural Land-Based Businesses

Rural land-based businesses are being encouraged to look to public sector contracts as a way to make substantial returns, consolidate and grow.

Landowner membership organisation Scottish Land & Estates will explain how public contracts can be a great way to diversify land-based businesses and how the procurement process works at an event to be held at Hopetoun House, South Queensferry, on Wednesday 29 February.

Feedback has shown that rural businesses are often put off applying for public contracts as the process is perceived as complex. This is despite such contracts being lucrative – the market is worth around £9billion a year annually, payment is secure and demand is more predictable than other business opportunities.

Speaker Robin Gourlay, who is responsible for driving forward the Scottish Government’s National Food and Drinks Policy and who produced the report ‘Walking the Talk’ on public sector food procurement for the Scottish Government, recommends that landowners and farmers looking for new opportunities come along to learn more about this sector, which is valued at around £150million a year in Scotland.

He said: “The public sector is keen to increase its business with SMEs in Scotland and is adapting its contracts to encourage participation. Along with competitive pricing, Sustainable Procurement is a key policy for the public sector and businesses need to understand the key features of this.

“Scotland’s primary producers supply a quarter of all the raw materials into Scottish food and drink manufacturing and there is opportunity to expand.”

Other guest speakers at the event include Jonathan Ross of Public Contracts Scotland (PCS) who will provide an overview of the best method to source out public sector opportunities, guiding attendees around the existing free portal where 60,000 suppliers are already registered. Elaine Brown of Tayside Contracts will look at the option to collaborate, and explain how local suppliers must embrace compliance and best value, and David Wood of Plansafe Solutions will speak on the environmental and quality management criteria required within public sector contract conditions.

He said: “Good health and safety management is synonymous with good business management and the two are inseparable. Local and Central Government, in common with many large organisations in the private sector, are increasingly concerned about their corporate and social responsibilities and therefore they choose suppliers who can demonstrate their attention to such issues as health and safety, environmental and quality management.”

As owner of a land-based business who has benefited from public sector contract work Gordon Laing, of Laing Property Services, commented: “The public sector provides a range of new opportunities for all businesses, large or small. Delivering contracts for public sector agencies and utility companies has proved invaluable during the downturn in house-building. Whilst there are of course formal processes to go through in terms of becoming an approved contractor, they are not too onerous and the benefits of working with these companies far outweigh the hassle. I am a sole trader so people should not just think that this is all about large contracts for big companies; there are plenty of opportunities for small businesses.”

The event begins at 9.30am, opening with registration and refreshments, and will finish at around 3.00pm following lunch.

Those interested in attending should register with Joyce Karch at Scottish Land & Estates by emailing This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or telephoning 0131 653 5400.



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