Renewing Scotland's public services: priorities for reform in response to the Christie Commission

The Government's response to the Christie commission on the future delivery of public services.

Renewing Public Services


The people of Scotland attach the highest value to their public services. The quality of those services is part of the bedrock on which our society and future prosperity depends, and is crucial in shaping a flourishing, productive and equitable Scotland.

But the future sustainability of Scotland's public services is being challenged as never before by huge financial cuts from Westminster and by changing patterns of demand.

Support in Challenging Times

These are uniquely challenging times with a fragile world economy, sustained pressure on family budgets and savage reductions in the real value of the Scottish budget. Tough times are forcing difficult decisions in homes throughout Scotland. Many workers have received a wage freeze and there are inevitable constraints on public spending.

Yet, in such times, the power of public services to improve people's quality of life and enhance their opportunities is especially important. The Government is ambitious for Scotland and for our public services despite these challenges; protecting our vital health, education and community safety services will be the embodiment of our partnership with the Scottish people.

We will continue to honour our pledges to the nation. We are committed to a Social Wage for the people of Scotland supported in large part by measures such as the Council Tax freeze and the abolition of prescription charges. And we will keep university education free for Scottish students so that access to higher education is based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay.

The Social Wage is a key part of our tangible commitment to building a fair and strong society. Our actions provide the security and opportunity for people to face the future with confidence. We are committed to continue improving conditions for families, communities, the vulnerable, the elderly and the young.


To maintain the quality of public services we want, we need to do things smarter and better. The financial context and demographic trends are such that incremental improvements in public services are no longer adequate: fundamental reform is essential. We have good evidence about what works, including the importance of investment in early years and early intervention. Our reforms will build on this knowledge.

We have already introduced many innovations in the design and delivery of our public services and led an open and inclusive debate on the nation's budget priorities and the future direction of public services. We have begun major resource shifts to release the nation's potential and to address Scotland's long-term needs.

In this Spending Review period, we will go further and intensify efforts to realise the full benefits of social partnership and closer collaborative working.

We do not claim to have a monopoly of wisdom; we will learn lessons from the best and continue to be informed by independent expert analysis and advice.

In 2010, we asked the Independent Budget Review ( IBR) panel to report publicly on areas where savings might be made. [1] Their authoritative analysis presented a wide range of saving options, many of which we have adopted. The IBR report was particularly useful in stimulating public debate across the country about the financial challenges that Scotland faces and building consensus around the need to renew public services.

In June this year, the Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services (the 'Christie Commission') reported its findings based on a long-term analysis of the challenges facing public services. [2] The Commission recommended actions that would improve the quality of public services provided in Scotland and ensure their future financial sustainability.

Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services (Christie Commission)

The First Minister established the Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services, led by Dr Campbell Christie, in November 2010.

The Commission was asked to undertake a strategic review of public service delivery in Scotland and to provide a road-map to guide the future reform of public services. The Commission was tasked specifically to make recommendations that would improve the quality of public services in Scotland and ensure the lasting financial sustainability of public service provision given the significant challenges ahead.

In June 2011, the Commission published its conclusions stating that the four key objectives of a reform programme must be to ensure that:

  • public services are built around people and communities, their needs, aspirations, capacities and skills, and work to build up their autonomy and resilience;
  • public service organisations work together effectively to achieve outcomes;
  • public service organisations prioritise prevention, reducing inequalities and promoting equality; and
  • all public services constantly seek to improve performance and reduce costs, and are open, transparent and accountable.

For each of these four key objectives of reform, the Commission made a number of specific recommendations.

The Christie Commission's report makes a major contribution to debate on the future direction of our public services by presenting a radical roadmap to better public services.

This document presents our response to the Christie Commission and outlines our approach to and priorities for public service reform.

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