Just when you think your country couldn’t get any cooler, Scotland pulls one out of the bag. Since 2007, the Scottish Government has been working on drawing a really big line in the sand. This line defines our values and aspirations, it can be measured by anyone and sends us miles beyond the old busted way of relying on GDP to tell us how we are getting on. This is called the National Performance Framework (NPF). It starts with…
We have a purpose:
To focus on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
We have values:
We are a society which treats all our people with kindness, dignity and compassion, respects the rule of law, and acts in an open and transparent way.
(drumroll please)…11 National Outcomes
These define what we want to achieve and the society we want to see:
- We grow up loved, safe and respected so that we realise our full potential
- We live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe
- We are creative and our vibrant and diverse cultures are expressed and enjoyed widely
- We have a globally competitive, entrepreneurial, inclusive and sustainable economy
- We are well educated, skilled and able to contribute to society
- We value, enjoy, protect and enhance our environment
- We have thriving and innovative businesses, with quality jobs and fair work for everyone
- We are healthy and active
- We respect, protect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination
- We are open, connected and make a positive contribution internationally
- We tackle poverty by sharing opportunities, wealth and power more equally
These seem like a nice bunch of platitudes. All 11 statements would apply to almost every country on the planet. But this is not everything let me introduce you to…
(trumpet sounds)…81 National Indicators
Here is where things start to take a small dip. The 81 National Indicators can be found in a list on their very new website: http://nationalperformance.gov.scot/. However, this website is so new that it appears to be incomplete and buggy. They don’t even have their SSL certificate in place and it has a habit of crashing if you wait longer than a few minutes.
Their original site is located here: http://www.gov.scot/About/Performance/scotPerforms and has been live since 2008 (so no they haven’t waited a decade to get a website working). The old site maintains a list of the original 16 outcomes and 55 indicators used up until 2017.
So instead of taking easy pot shots at something that obviously needs to be completed, we’ll start talking about what was before and what we’d hope to see changed in the new version when it comes fully online.
Old and Busted…New Hotness
In the old version of the National Performance Framework, the Scottish Government took pains to source, inform and display the data that was used. They didn’t pull punches when the country wasn’t measuring up and they did a pretty good job of displaying the data. It was the first pass, and I’m guessing that after a decade they were feeling like they could spice it up a bit.
However, in the old website, we see that the then 55 indicators are split out with data behind each one. There is a long section of text describing why the indicator is important, what influences the data, how the government fits into the indicator, how Scotland is currently performing and defines the criteria that move the indicator’s value. Here is an example: http://www.gov.scot/About/Performance/scotPerforms/indicator/marine
There are several problems here. The indicator is entitled “Improve the state of Scotland’s marine environment,” yet the data is looking at the value of fish stocks. Arguably this is an important indicator, but what about the quality of the water? Quality of the harbours? Marine life diversity? Nope, one specific measurement is used to pass judgment on a vast subject area.
Moving on, the source is listed as Marine Scotland, yet the data is hosted by the NPF. This could be to ensure that the data is always available, but it has the effect of requiring us to trust the NPF and its data which most likely is not original as it has been aggregated. This also prevents us from looking further into the data. Perhaps if we tracked down the data from the Marine Scotland website: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/marine
Turns out it’s a good thing NPF capture and hosted the data as it appears to be missing from the Marine Scotland website: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/marine/marine-environment/species/fish/demersal/tac
Overyai, no proveryai (Trust, but verify) – Russian Proverb
I’m happy to keep data high level, I’m happy for easy explanations, not everyone loves to dive into a wall of text explaining data issues in detail. But please build a route for this to be possible. Without the ability to audit or verify the NPF leave a mighty big chink in this amazing system. The current system is akin to me saying that 90% of all women say that I am a handsome man, I can even post the data: 90% of all women say Matthew is handsome. 10% of all women say he’s gorgeous. I could even say that the source of this information is a poll taken by myself. I’m sure you see the flaw.
Also, let’s spend time on explaining the detail behind why the data is aggregated. If the value is “event per 10,000 population” then why then is it 10,000? Why not 100,000? Or even 10? Let’s get more detail about how the data is collected, challenges in quality and calculation and start getting people to input their thoughts into the measurements we use to define our country’s success.
When we have the ability to verify via a direct link to the actual data sets when we can take that further and perhaps cross-check that data with third-party information. Then we’ll have something that can begin to measure our performance. Until then we have to trust. And while this is an amazing stride towards what is required, it still has a wee walk to get where it needs to go.