Coronavirus (COVID-19) Learning and Evaluation Oversight Group minutes: January 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 14 January 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Linda Bauld, Interim Chief Social Policy Adviser (Scottish Government), and Professor of Public Health (University of Edinburgh) (Chair)
  • Andrew Watson, Director for Budget and Sustainability, Scottish Government
  • Ben Cavanagh, Head of Covid 19 Research, Scottish Government
  • Gary Gillespie, Chief Economist, Scottish Government
  • Mary McAllan, Director for Covid Recovery, Scottish Government
  • Jennie Barugh, Director of Performance and Outcomes, Scottish Government
  • Michael Kellet, Director of Population Health, Scottish Government
  • Andrew Kerr, Chair of SOLACE
  • Maia Angel, University of Edinburgh
  • Claire Sweeney, Director of Place and Wellbeing, Public Health Scotland
  • Emily Lynch, Programme Manager for Performance Management and Benchmarking, Improvement Service
  • Jim McCormick, Chief Executive, Robertson Trust
  • Nick Watson, Professor of Disability Studies, University of Glasgow
  • Nicola Dickie, Director of People Policy and Health and Social Care COSLA
  • Patricia Findlay, Professor of Work Employment and Organisation, University of Strathclyde
  • Sarah Davidson, Chief Executive, Carnegie UK
  • Sarah Skerratt, Director of Programmes, RSE and Professor of Rural Society and Policy, University of Edinburgh 
  • Steven Marwick, Director, Evaluation Support Scotland
  • Kay Tisdall, Professor of Childhood Policy, University of Edinburgh
  • Vittal Katikireddi, Professor of Public Health, University of Glasgow
  • Tom Lamplugh, Head of Social Policy Unit, Scottish Government (Secretariat for the Covid-19 Learning and Evaluation Group)

Apologies were received from:

  • Audrey MacDougall, Chief Researcher and Head of Covid-19 Analysis, Scottish Government
  • Rebekah Widdowfield, Chief Executive, RSE

Items and actions


The Chair welcomed everyone to the first meeting of the Covid 19 Learning and Evaluation Oversight Group. Members of the Group were invited to briefly introduce themselves, outlining their current role and background and the experience they bring to the group.  

Terms of reference

The Chair invited the Group to comment on the circulated term of reference. The subsequent discussion raised questions relating to: 

  • the remit of the Group and the extent to which it extends beyond Scottish Government decision making
  • how the group can best support other Covid 19 related work (both in relation to pandemic response and recovery), and
  • whether papers and outputs from the group would be published

Action: Secretariat - it was agreed that the terms of reference would be amended to: 

  • make it clear that the remit of the group extends beyond SG decision making 
  • place a stronger emphasis on the importance of networks and partnerships
  • clarify how this work ‘fits’ with wider Covid 19 related response and recovery work

Amended terms of reference will be circulated and agreed by the Group

Action: Secretariat - papers and minutes of the group will be published

Scope for the group

Tom Lamplugh presented a slide setting out four areas considered ‘out of scope’ for the Group. This included: 

1) Questions relating to Scottish Government internal decision making 
2) In-depth analysis of learning relating to individual services 
3) Questions that fail to inform future policy development and delivery 
4) Work explicitly focused around Scotland’s short term Covid response 

The Group noted in relation to point 2 that there would be a need to have an eye on studies on individual services and sector-specific plans and ask challenging questions relating to recovery responses.

Covid Recovery Strategy and National Strategy for Economic Transformation

Mary McAllan gave an outline of the Covid Recovery Strategy and Gary Gillespie provided an overview of the National Economic Transformation Strategy.

Key points covered in the subsequent discussion included: 

  • the extent to which Covid-19 had exposed inherent weaknesses in our system and models of delivery
  • the focus on rebuilding public services vs re-designing public services
  • approaches to monitoring and evaluating actions within the respective strategies
  • the importance of framing this work in relation to human rights

Grant funding

Tom Lamplugh talked through a proposal to award a number of grants to fund a series of expert reviews. It was proposed that the grants were grouped around three themes: 

  • mapping of Covid related evaluation work in Scotland  
  • learning from international responses and recovery approaches 
  • learning from public service innovation

The following key points were raised in discussion: 

  • suggestion that a fourth strand to synthesise evidence on inequality impacts
  • importance of broadening the call for proposals to beyond Universities
  • need to be clear how work would feed into and support Covid-19 response and recovery
  • avoid explicitly ruling out primary data collection or discounting evidence from outside of Scotland

Action: Secretariat – to revise and circulate Call for Proposals in response to comments.

Action: Group members to invited to comment on Call for Proposals

Any other business

No matters were raised.

Next meeting

The next meeting will be scheduled for late February/early March. The focus of the next meeting will be on mapping Covid-19 related work and agreeing the forward priorities for the group.  

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