Education and NHS spend, Local Government employment data and business support: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

You asked for information on Scottish Government spend on education and the NHS, Local Government employment data, and actions the Scottish Government has taken to support businesses.


Your constituent asked about comparisons with the rest of the UK, in terms of spend and performance.

We do not hold information on Scottish Government spending on education and NHS as a percentage of tax revenues compared to the UK Government. Comparative information on per capita spending by country/region for Health and Education is available in the annual UK Government Country and Regional Analysis (most recently in December 2023 UK Treasury’s December 2023 Country and Regional Analysis, see supporting excel tables).

We are unable to provide full information on NHS performance comparisons between Scotland and UK as NHS services across the UK are large and complex organisations and it is not possible to make overall direct comparison of performance. However statistics on NHS Scotland performance can be found here Public Health Scotland.

The Scottish Education system and associated policies differ from other parts of the UK which means it is not possible to directly compare results between countries.

However, the results of the PISA assessments (Programme for International Student Assessment PISA - PISA ( ) offer international and UK education comparisons. PISA is an international assessment of the skills and knowledge of 15 year olds in maths, reading and science which takes place every three years. 81 countries/economies took part in PISA 2022, including Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

In PISA 2022, Scotland’s overall performance was:

  • Higher than the OECD average in Reading, and similar to the average for Maths and Science
  • Similar to England in Reading, but lower in Maths and Science
  • Similar to Northern Ireland in Reading, Maths and Science
  • Higher than Wales for Reading and Science, and similar for Maths
  • Across all UK countries, overall performance in maths and reading was lower than in PISA 2018, but similar in science.

Your constituent also asked for a summary of local authority employment numbers and costs, including a comparison with when the SNP first formed the government. These are given in the following table.

Total Local Government (excluding Police &Fire) 2007-08 2022-23 Source
Employees (headcount as at 31 March 2008 & 31 March 2023) 287,000 263,000

Table 7 of Public Sector Employment in Scotland web tables

Employee Costs (cash terms) £6.585 billion £9.306 billion

SLGFS 2007-08 Table 3.1 and Annex FSLGFS 2022-23 Table 2.3

Note: SLGFS 2007-08, Table 3.1 gives employee costs totalling £7.638 billion. Police and Fire employee costs from SLGFS 2007-08, Annex F, total £1.053 billion. Excluding Police and Fire gives Local Government employments costs in 2007-08 of £6.585 billion.

Your constituent also asked about specific support for businesses, especially the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors.

The Scottish Government is supporting the retail, and tourism and hospitality sectors through respective strategies: Getting the Right Change, Retail Strategy for Scotland; and Outlook 2030. Delivery of both these strategies are being taken forward through separate Industry Leadership Groups that bring industry, government and union representatives together to agree a coordinated approach to the sustainable and fair development of these vital sectors for Scotland’s economy. This is essential work to ensure these sectors remain competitive, resilient and innovative in the developing wellbeing economy.

These strategic forward facing actions sit alongside the current significant package of business rates support offered to businesses through the Small Business Bonus Scheme, Rural Rate Relief and Islands and Remote Areas Hospitality Relief, which continue to offer equitable and generous business wide support, particularly for our small and rural businesses.

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Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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