Single Procurement Document (SPD) - Word Document Retiral

Transition to a fully online SPD process from 1 April 2024

As per our previous correspondence, we would like to remind you that from 1 April 2024 the Word version of the Single Procurement Document (SPD) will no longer be supported or updated by Scottish Government

Following user research, the Word version of the SPD will be removed from the Procurement Journey website on 31st March 2024. All of the guidance relating to the SPD and the supplier selection process will continue to be available.

From this date, the fully online versions of the SPD, available within PCS and PCS-Tender, will be the only ones updated, supported, and maintained by Scottish Government.


Why are we making this change?

The precursor to the SPD, the ESPD, came into force in April 2016. In the eight years since then, the online capability of both buyers and suppliers has increased dramatically, just as it has for the general population, and the pandemic has further increased the rate of transition. The SPD was always intended to be an entirely online process, and this change will simplify the landscape, especially for SMEs, who have told us that continued support and use of the offline SPDs causes them issues when engaging with public procurement in Scotland.


What does this mean for me?

If you’re already using PCS-Tender, or the SPD module in PCS to run your procurement exercises, then you should continue to do so.

If you currently use the Word version of the SPD, (or any other offline version) to create your SPD requests, then you are advised to familiarise yourself with SPD functionality within PCS as soon as possible. 

The SPD module is intuitive and straightforward to use, and there are a number of additional resources to support users:

We are continuing to run a series of buyer awareness sessions to support buyers with the transition. You can book a slot here.


What are the benefits of using the SPD module within PCS?

The SPD module is designed to be ‘self-contained’ and this means that buyers can include any requirements specific to their procurement exercise, such as qualifications, experience, financial stability etc, within their SPD request. Buyers can also request and receive supporting evidence, such as copies of company accounts, certifications relating to quality management, environmental management and other ‘means of proof’, from within the system.

For suppliers, it simplifies and streamlines the selection process, enabling them see the buyer’s requirements within the SPD itself, without the need to cross refer to other procurement documents. Suppliers are also able to store and re-use their answers to standard SPD questions, and upload evidence documents, such as company accounts, once but use them multiple times.

The SPD module is integrated into PCS, so there’s no need to re-register or create a separate log-in.


What if I need to share my draft SPD with my user intelligence group members, or other stakeholders who don’t use PCS?

The SPD module with PCS enables you to export your SPD request in various formats, including PDF and Word, which can then be shared with other stakeholders for review or comment.


Does this mean I will no longer be able to use an SPD Word attachment in PCS?

Buyers will still be able to use a Word, or other offline version of the SPD, and issue it as an attachment, but this approach will not be actively promoted or supported by Scottish Government. It would be the responsibility of individual buyers and contracting authorities to ensure that any offline versions of the SPD remain aligned to the latest official Scottish Government versions within PCS and PCS-Tender and to seek their own legal advice to support this.


If you need any further information, please contact Laura Martin ( or Steve Patterson (


Innovation: Selecting a Procurement Process

There are no absolute criteria for defining the best route to market for innovation (every project is different) however in making your decision there are two important factors you should consider:  

  • the complexity of your project (including the ability of your organisation to adopt the innovation) and
  • the level of uncertainty, based on the nature and size of the research and development gap of the project

!! Stop and Think !! 

Appetite and Management of Risk

Appetite for risk in the public sector is usually low. This means that staff, including budget holders and senior decision makers, will often choose a procurement process which offers the least risk. Unfortunately, this can lead to using procurement routes processes that may not be optimal to deliver innovation.  

Whatever procurement process is chosen,  it is important to actively identify potential risks and create a mitigation and management plan from the outset.  Risk should continue to be managed throughout the process. This will involve good risk management of innovation projects with strong governance. 

    Level of Uncertainty (or the Research and Development Gap)

    There is uncertainty in all innovation projects, whether it’s related to the outcome of the project, or parts of the project that are unknown and cannot be accurately measured.  

    Unlike general regulated procurement exercises, for innovation you may not have fully documented specific background information and/or a history of potential products or services.  This is particularly the case when the innovation project involves creating new goods or services that do not yet exist.

    You may not for example have:

    • product or service costs (either new or those from existing goods and services)
    • supply chain partners in place or
    • definitive solutions to solve the problem

    Even if some research has been carried out in the Discovery and Definition phase, it is normal that levels of uncertainty remain.  You may still be uncertain as to what the final solution will be, however you will have your research information to inform the most appropriate procurement process for your project. 

    The further away from the market the potential goods or service is from implementation, the larger the R&D gap will be for the project.

    Understanding the current Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of the goods or service helps to assess the gap between the current status of a product and the desired outcome.  

    TRL’s help those involved in R&D to make decisions concerning the development and transitioning of technology. There are a number of online tools available to assist users in defining the TRL level such as those for Horizon Europe

    Having defined the gap, you need to detail the R&D steps and resources required to close this gap.

    The greater the uncertainty in closing the gap,  the more likely it is that specific R&D is required to reduce that level of uncertainty. 


    Complexity refers to both organisational complexity and the technical complexity of the project.

    It relates to areas such as the:

    • project scope
    • differences in user’s needs
    • organisational dynamics and structures
    • policies and regulations affecting the project e.g. legal, data, systems integrations
    • new technology complexity and
    • skill sets of staff (both within the project and with entities outside of the project)

    These factors will help you determine the type of procurement process that should be used. Please note the above is not a comprehensive list – every situation will have differing areas of complexity which need to be considered.

    An example of differing complexity:

    An Innovation project within a single organisation is required to develop a new automated technology to receive payment for a visitor attraction.  This offers little complexity.

    Whereas a project to create and codevelop highly specialised zero emission vehicles, based on data from 3 pilot areas, for all public sector organisations, each with differing requirements, may present both technical and organisational complexities that require different consideration from a procurement process.

    The below diagram shows how the level of complexity and uncertainty influences the procurement process chosen for your procurement exercise:


    The above diagram is a matrix with two axis.  The x axis shows increasing complexity and the y axis shows increasing uncertainty due to an increasing research and development gap.  

    A combination of the complexity and uncertainty axis result in four possible outcomes in terms of which procurement process to use.  These possible outcomes are:

    Outcome 1: Low complexity and low R&D gap.  This can result in using either an open or restricted procurement process or the possible use of an existing Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) or existing Framework Agreement.  The use of an existing DPS or Framework Agreement are subject to the applicability of the original terms of the Contract Notice and terms.

    Outcome 2: High complexity and low R&D gap.  This can result in using a procurement process involving negotiation where the highly complex aspects of the project would be better undertaken through a process of negotiation working in partnership with contractors.  

    As a result there are a number of negotiated procurement process options that can be used.  These include -

    • Competitive Dialogue.  To use this procurement process the buyer may not have a precise understanding of the requirement and will use the competitive dialogue process to describe: the need; to set out their minimum requirements; and define the award criteria that will be used.  Competitive Dialogue allows bidders to submit initial solutions after being successful at the selection stage.  It allows buyers to negotiate proposed solutions with bidders.  Here the specification requirements concentrate on the buyer's needs without having to detail the nature, characteristics or solutions to be offered.
    • Competitive Procedure with Negotiation or a Negotiated Procedure without Prior Publication.  Competitive Procedure with Negotiation is a complex procurement situation where the buyer may be unable to define how to meet its needs technically and/or cannot specify the legal or financial requirements of the contract.  A Negotiated Procedure without Prior Publication should be limited to cases where publishing a call for competition e.g. a Contract Notice, has been unsuccessful, is not possible or would take too long in an extreme emergency such as the pandemic.
    • Innovation Partnership.  This will be used in complex cases where there is no current solution available on the market to meet the need of the buyer.   Buyers can proceed with one or more partners undertaking separate R&D activities.  Innovation partnerships are structured in successive phases, based on the R&D steps undertaken e.g. design, manufacturing, etc., and you (as the buyer) may set intermediate targets that need to be met.

    Outcome 3: Low complexity and high R&D gap.  This is where there is a large gap between what the market can supply and your need. In such cases a research only phase may be used to determine whether the need can be met.  This research only phase (a Pre Procurement Process) can produce the necessary data to allow you to then carry out a further procurement exercise for implementation. 

    And finally Outcome 4: high complexity and high R&D gap.  This is is where a possible innovation project would benefit from trials or pilots to gauge its possible success or scalability.  In such situations it is usually thought that the project has potential and, as a result, other funding methods have been found.  For example to conduct trials or a pilot you may have sourced finance via grants, endowment funds, charity funds, etc.  Where a pilot or trial has been carried out a further procurement exercise may be required to scale up the project.

    !! Stop and Think !!

    Please note before selecting any procurement option:

    • an open innovation must exist and
    • work should have been carried out to assess the market

    Please note that other procurement processes can be used for innovation.  Examples are direct awards, the light touch regime and Voluntary Ex-Ante Transparency Notices (also known as VEAT).  However these other processes can be used only where appropriate conditions apply and where regulations permit.

    Innovation: Routes to Market Introduction

    What Procurement Processes Can I Use?

    Identifying a potential innovative product or service does not automatically provide a route to market.  You will need to choose the best procurement route to follow to achieve your objective. 

    Before proceeding you are asked to read the guidance on the Procurement Journey with regards to:

    Innovation Approval

    Approval of your innovation project will be subject to your local governance procedures.

    It should be clear at the point of initial funding and the commencement of every project:

    • what is intended to be delivered
    • what contractual method is intended through successive phases of a project, including how this will be funded.  This is also relevant for research and development (R&D)

    When using procurement processes, the approach taken must adhere to the principles of transparency, equal treatment and non-discrimination, proportionality and mutual recognition.

    Innovation Attributes

    Irrespective of the procurement process you chose, for innovation to be successful it will normally need to satisfy three essential criteria: 

    • Desirability a product or service that the organisation or individual wants or needs
    • Viability – a product or service that is affordable and cost effective 
    • Feasibility a product that can be created and delivered and solves the problem

    If innovation projects do not contain data or information on these three criteria implementing the innovation becomes more risky and expensive with an increased risk of failure.

    Providing evidence of these criteria can be extremely challenging particularly in complex organisations.

    Number of Innovation Processes Required

    Your innovation project may involve moving through varying stages e.g. from fundamental research through to solution design, prototyping, testing and ultimately commercialisation.  

    The overall aim is to commercialise the product or service i.e. bring a successful product or service to market that is commercially viable.

    Please be aware then that, as a result, it may be necessary to undertake more than one procurement exercise e.g. a procurement to undertake Research and/or Development and then a later procurement exercise to buy the product/service.


    The above diagram shows that there are two alternative approaches to innovation once the Discovery and Definition Phase of Innovation have been completed. 

    Option one is a pre-commercial procurement.  This means that a procurement exercise will need to be undertaken regarding research and development activities (R&D).  Then, if the project is deemed to be viable, you will conduct a procurement exercise to cover the route to market.

    Option two uses a regulated procurement process to cover the route to market (sometimes referred to as Public Procurement of Innovation (PPI)). This route to market can include research and/or development activity.


    For more information on routes to market for innovation please refer to Innovation: Selecting a Procurement Process

    Minimum Standards

    Where you have determined that minimum standards are applicable (either within selection or award criteria) they must relate to and be proportionate to the subject matter of the requirement.  This must be clearly detailed in the appropriate documentation.

    When you wish to apply minimum standards to limit the number of potential suppliers to be invited to tender, minimum standards or objective criteria must be specified or referred to in the Contract Notice. This must be detailed in the procurement documentation to allow the rejection of potential suppliers.

    Similarly if a pass mark can only be obtained by a response that meets the minimum requirement, this must be clearly stated within the scoring guidance provided to suppliers. 

    New Australia/New Zealand Trade Agreement

    Information Notice

    We recently mentioned some upcoming changes regarding the new UK Trade Agreements with Australia and New Zealand. These legislative changes are now live.

    These changes will update guidance on the following areas:

    • using PINs (Prior Information Notice) as a call for competition (any references to such are now being removed)
    • estimating the prices of contracts and 
    • terminating contracts

    Please refer to Scottish Public Procurement Note Public procurement – Australia and New Zealand Free Trade Agreements (SPPN 1/2023) for more information on these changes.