The paper has been welcomed by the former Scottish Office Chief Statistician, Jim Cuthbert
ESTABLISHING an independent Scottish Statistics Agency (SSA) could provide a significant boost to the economic management of the country, a report published by Common Weal has argued.
‘Scotland’s Data Desert: The Case for a Scottish Statistics Agency’ is authored by Common Weal head of research Dr Craig Dalzell, and can be read in full here.
While Scotland has better data provision than the UK as a whole, it lags far behind comparable European countries. The gap in Scotland’s data provision is one of the leading causes for the annual controversy surrounding the GERS statistics, which serve as an estimation of Scotland’s finances within the United Kingdom.
However, the report argues, “Regardless of Scotland’s constitutional arrangements… it should be universally recognised that better data can be used to produce better government policy and to better monitor policy as it is implemented”. The enhanced data could allow the Government to better target income tax and other ways to raise money while the SSA could create hundreds of high paid jobs, granting a boost to Scotland’s economy.
“it is absolutely right that Dr Dalzell’s welcome paper makes the case for a Scottish Statistics Agency. It is also right that the paper does not draw firm conclusions about how such an SSA should be structured, but sets out options.” Jim Cuthbert
The paper also states that better and more transparent data, placed into the public domain, could enable the Scottish Government to benefit from “specialist groups” who might otherwise be locked out of decision making, such as think-tanks and academic researchers.
An SSA could, moreover, solidify and expand a Code of Practice “kitemark” to indicate whether data meets the standards required for policy making, especially where third parties are involved in data gathering. It is expected that the standardisation of data provision from the Statistics Agency would increase public trust in the data, leaving less room for manipulation when it comes to important political, and constitutional debates.
Jim Cuthbert, former Scottish Office Chief Statistician said:
"There is a real need to review the arrangements for providing official statistics in Scotland, particularly given:
- The data requirements for the operation of the new fiscal settlement, and the absolute priority under that settlement for the Scottish Government to manage the economy so as to achieve optimal economic performance.
- The need to overcome the fragmentation of statistics as government relies increasingly on agencies and other bodies to deliver public services.
- Not to mention the potential for further constitutional change, and the statistical requirements that would pose.
It is therefore absolutely right that Dr Dalzell’s welcome paper makes the case for a Scottish Statistics Agency. It is also right that the paper does not draw firm conclusions about how such an SSA should be structured, but sets out options. What is needed now is an active debate on how statistics in Scotland should be organised in a changing, and challenging, world."
“Good data underpins and drives effective policy so it is vital that Scotland makes the most of this resource in order to strengthen and enrich our society and our economy.” Dr Craig Dalzell
Craig Dalzell, Head of Research for Common Weal said: