The Scottish Marketing Services Framework appears to have been delayed once again while is understood that the partnership bodies may consider turning to the London agencies on the UK marketing services framework should the standstill period rumble on.
The framework partners, which include the Scottish Government, Scottish Fire and Rescue, VisitScotland, The Scottish Police Force, Museums of Scotland, Blood Donation, and dozens more, have grown frustrated at the lack of a conclusion over the long drawn out procurement-led tender process.
The Scottish Government's procurement department has been the main target for agency frustration, with claims that 'anomalies' have been discovered by agencies, including 'anomalies' also being found in their corrections issued to agencies.
The Drum has learned that Scotland's deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon has now entered into overseeing the final framework announcement, delayed on three occasions in the last month following appeals by several tendering agencies, including Newhaven and Tangible Group and more.
It is thought that Sturgeon was behind the third most recent extension to the standstill period, which was set to expire at midnight yesterday (Wednesday 25 April).
However, no framework has emerged to the frustration of agencies and partner organisations alike. The public sector organisations that use the framework are now looking at alternative arrangements in order to service their marketing strategies, which has included discussions on turning to the previous framework, or looking out side of Scotland all together, towards the UK framework, announced in March. Such a move would mean that no Scottish public messaging would be created by an agency who had tendered for the framework as a result.
Should this occur, the London-based agencies on the UK framework would be found to be far fewer in number, although larger in scale than those north of the border. Some organisations are also believed to be considering leaving the framework all together, due to it being an opt-in decision.
The Drum had spoken to the Cabinet Office to determine whether the Scottish organisations could turn to the UK framework, which replaced the now disbanded COI framework. The Cabinet Office declined to comment however, due to uncertainty.
The Scottish Government has yet to clarify why the latest delay has taken place at the time of writing but did say to expect a statement today (Thursday 26 April.)
Meanwhile, The Drum has also attempted to contact Nicola Sturgeon for clarification on the status of the framework. The Scottish Government has also failed to explain Sturgeon's involvement in the framework decision at this stage, although insiders have said that the situation is proving an embarrassment for an SNP Government positioning itself as being capable of leading an independent Scotland.
The IPA recently revealed to The Drum the cost of agencies tendering for the UK marketing services framework,and has expressed its concern with the impact that the current tendering process is having on the marketing industry.