Developing Performance Indicators for Rural Scotland: A Scoping Study

Scoping project assessing suitability of existing performance indicators to rural Scotland.

6.0 Summary of Issues

This chapter briefly summarises the main issues to be considered when developing performance indicators for rural Scotland:

  • Making full use of existing indicators
    It is not the case that a completely new set of indicators needs to be developed in order to measure and monitor success in rural Scotland. The National Performance Framework provides a sound base against which to assess progress in rural Scotland, comparative to the rest of the country. Other existing indicators can complement that set.
  • Identifying outcomes and causal links to inputs and outputs
    When developing performance indicators, one must bear in mind that indicators often serve multiple purposes: to assess the effectiveness of policies overall; and to provide an important field for discussion across different tiers of government. Therefore it is important to detect, as far as is possible, the causal links between outcome, output/result and the action or policy concerned. The starting point is to carefully consider the outcomes to be achieved from rural policy.
  • Identifying and focusing upon key rural themes
    This scoping study uses the 10 rural themes from the OECD Rural Policy Review of Scotland which are considered to be of particular relevance for rural monitoring. These themes could also be used as the basis for identifying outcomes:

1 Agriculture and forestry (as key 'triggers' of other rural and urban industries (for example, manufacturing and food processing).

2 The rural economy beyond agriculture and forestry- including 'green jobs' (renewable energy etc), diversification of agricultural activities and tourism.

3 Demography (for example, the % of elderly people, young people) and human resources (skilled labour force, % of people at working age).

4 Access to affordable housing, or increasing the availability of affordable housing.

5 Access to services and mobility (travel times, public transport, internet/broadband availability).

6 Social capital, as an indicator of the resilience of rural communities.

7 Community empowerment, stimulating local people to create novel solutions to local challenges.

8 Living standards and income levels, including the price of housing.

9 The quantity and quality of the physical environment/landscapes/cultural and natural heritage.

10 The degree of innovation and collaboration/partnerships in business.

It was noted in Chapter 4 that the indicators identified in existing strategies were not inclusive of all of these key themes.

  • Reviewing the availability of data
    There may be a need to augment existing datasets so that indicators can be reported at the required geography and with the required frequency.
  • Selecting a comprehensive but concise set of indicators
    The scoping study suggests that there is no immediate need to develop new performance indicators for rural Scotland, given that there is already a long list of potential indicators. There is, however, a need therefore to consider how a comprehensive but concise set of indicators could be selected and reported against. This requires applying the criteria for good indicators, consideration of how indicators in the set relate to each other as well as identifying desired outcomes and how indicators relate to those outcomes.
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