The new roster features 3x1 Public Relations, Muckle Media, Pagoda Public Relations (also known as Pagoda Porter Novelli), Smarts, and Stripe Communications, according to a notice published on Public Contracts Scotland, which lists public sector contract opportunities north of the border.
PRWeek understands that previous incumbents included Weber Shandwick, The Big Partnership and Four Scotland. Golley Slater, which was acquired by Scottish PR agency Clark Communications last summer, and their teams subsequently merged under the Clark name, is another incumbent not on the new roster.
Sixteen submissions were received by the deadline of December last year, the notice states.
The tender covers planning, creative, delivery and evaluation of all PR for the Scottish public sector, lasting for four years. Agencies on the roster will be able to tender for individual campaigns or ‘clusters’ of campaigns.
The criteria for choosing agencies was weighted 60/40 in favour of "quality" over price. One agency source expressed concern about the focus on price in the tender, saying it encourgaed agencies to make unrealistically low bids.
One bid is rumoured to have priced the services of an account executive at £19 per hour. "I have no idea how you can make money from that," said the source.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for The Big Partnership said: "While we held a lot of our rates, it was clear from the scoring that price was a major determining factor."
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "Effective PR is a key part of our communications with the public and stakeholders which helps shift attitudes, change behaviours and improve the lives of people across Scotland.
"We have a strong track record in this field, with many award-winning campaigns. We intend to build on this and will be working closely with all agencies involved to ensure their work for us is robustly evaluated in line with industry best practice and standards, to deliver maximum impact and value for money for taxpayers."
This article was updated at 2.30pm on Wednesday with a comment from Big, and later with the statement from the Scottish Government.