Common Weal calls for a Scottish Statistics Agency

Ben Wray

Economic data in Scotland is mixed at best

COMMON WEAL has called for the establishment of a Scottish Statistics Agency to improve economic data collection in Scotland, as part of its response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on economic data collection, which closed today.

To read Common Weal’s consultation submission in full click here.

“Data has become an increasingly valuable resource and it is one which demands more attention, more scrutiny and more investment. Scotland therefore would greatly benefit from the creation of a single, dedicated Scottish Statistics Agency,” the consultation submission states.

The submission argues increased spending on a statistics agency could pay for itself in improved policy-making that could result in for instance closing the tax gap or improving economic performance.

Weaknesses in economic data in Scotland identified include sub-sets of UK data which have an extremely small sample size in Scotland, the lack of statistics on key issues such as Scotland’s trade balance due to insufficient data on imports, and lack of data on wellbeing indicators and household debt.

Commenting on the idea of a Scottish Statistics Agency, Common Weal Director Robin McAlpine stated: “Data and statistics have had a bad reputation of late because the managerial approach to government in Britain behaved as if statistics and data could replace human judgement. That is wrong. But it must not obscure the fact that one of the things that make human judgement effective is access to good data and statistics to inform decision-making processes. Scotland is simply not well served by data we have about our society and our economy. We should be ambitious and demand much more knowledge about who we are and how we’re doing.”