Case Study - Historic Scotland

Few public sector organisations can claim to have a more interesting or specialised range of goods and services to procure than Historic Scotland. Tasked with sourcing everything from costumed interpreters to archaeology services, the organisation’s procurement department is an established user of Public Contracts Scotland.


Historic Scotland is an agency within the Scottish Government and is directly responsible to Scottish Ministers for safeguarding the nation’s historic environment and promoting its understanding and enjoyment.
Responsible for over 300 historic properties across Scotland, the organisation spends £32 million annually on major projects, specialist staff and craftspeople, building and ground maintenance work, as well as stock for its retail outlets.
The Palace Project, a £12 million investment to refurbish the royal apartments at Stirling Castle to how they may have looked in the mid-16th century in all their renaissance splendour, was completed in 2011, and, is one example of the kind of project the Historic Scotland procurement team is often involved in.
In charge of overseeing the organisation’s buying activity is Keith Downie. Trained as a chartered surveyor and gaining experience of procurement for private sector building projects, Keith joined Historic Scotland 20 years ago and is now head of procurement.
He said: “We operate a mixed-economy approach within the organisation – the central procurement team is responsible for spend above £50,000 and anything below this threshold can be dealt with directly by teams in local areas.
“Historic Scotland adopted Public Contract Scotland in 2008 when it was first launched. It has significantly reduced the amount of administration we need to carry out and has helped support our strategy of allowing local teams to buy directly. In particular we have found Quick Quote particularly useful for low-value, low-risk contracts.
“60 per cent of our suppliers are SMEs and we are keen to support them in accessing our contract opportunities – particularly those which work out with an office environment and may not be comfortable with accessing tender documents online. We are currently planning to join with Visit Scotland and Supplier Development Programme – a local authority partnership programme – to network with suppliers and offer training on how best to engage with us.
“As a team we have lots of interesting projects to work on – during the refurbishment project at Stirling Castle, for example, we sourced a rug from Pakistan which then had to be stored in a freezer for three weeks to destroy any bugs which could affect other furniture, upholstery or tapestries.
“I’m sure the Bannockburn Battlefield Project to mark the 700 year anniversary of the Battle will produce some interesting procurement challenges!”
Photo caption: Interior of refurbished royal apartments in Stirling Castle