Scottish Exchequer: fiscal transparency discovery report

This report seeks to understand the accessibility and connectedness of current fiscal information and data and describes how we could implement improved fiscal transparency services and the benefits that could generate.

5 To-be Planning

5.1 Proposed Project Activities

The Discovery has shown that progress in fiscal transparency will require significant investment over many years, and will need the involvement and active collaboration of many stakeholders. This section begins to map out an approach to progressing this, using an Agile approach that involves more detailed plans for the earlier project phases, and necessarily less detail in later phases. Five main phases are envisaged: Alpha, Beta, Procurement, Implementation and Enhancements. As per an Agile approach, the intention is to build the foundations of a service that can grow and be enhanced over time in an incremental fashion. The outline on the next page also recognises that there will be opportunities to invest in "quick wins" as well as need to invest in the underpinning architecture, systems and processes to deliver the project's vision over time.


2021 to 2025

The following sequential activities: Alpha Prep; Alpha part 1; Alpha part 2; Beta; Procurement; Minimum Viable Product live; Enhancements

Involving the following ongoing activities:

  • Programme governance – including project management and project tools
  • User engagement – including user research and stakeholder liaison
  • Capacity and capability - mix of existing Scottish Government, new recruitment and external procurement
  • Building firm foundations to achieve the programme vision
  • Investing in quick wins to improve fiscal transparency in the short term

Alpha Part 1

To be undertaken by the following Scottish Government resources:

  • A full time Delivery Manager – to lead the project activities;
  • A full time Product Manager – to take the lead in defining the purpose, objectives and scope for fiscal transparency;
  • A Business Analyst – to lead the research, analysis and design activities defined below.

Input will also be needed by subject matter experts for all the in-scope business areas.

Activity / Description

Project Governance

1. Establish internal public sector stakeholder liaison arrangements

Setup arrangements involving all the current public sector publishers and consumers of potentially in scope fiscal data, i.e.:

  • All relevant areas of the core Scottish Government, including the Scottish Exchequer, Financial Management Directorate, Communities, Economy, OCEA and Procurement. Health Finance should also be involved as they have a good knowledge of the data published by the NHS.
  • Other Scottish public sector bodies, including the Scottish Parliament's Information Centre, parliamentary clerks and/or committee representatives (especially Finance, and Public Audit and Post Legislative), Audit Scotland, Public Contracts Scotland, Equality and Budget Advisory Group, Scottish Fiscal Commission and Revenue Scotland.
  • The significant Scottish spending and delivery organisations, including Public Health Scotland, Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities to represent local authorities and/or the Improvement Service. Also potentially other spending agencies.
  • Her Majesty's Treasury and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.

The high level purpose of the engagement should be bi-directional knowledge sharing – to gather input on fiscal transparency approaches from the stakeholders and the information they hold, to consult and agree with them on the direction of the fiscal transparency project, and to keep them informed of project progress.

This is a large number of stakeholders, which could be unwieldy to work with in a productive way. Hence it needs to be decided if all organisations need to be included initially. There should be initial awareness raising sessions involving the maximum possible set of stakeholders.

For those involved in an ongoing way there needs to be an agreed single point of contact, a terms of reference for their role and an agreed means of engagement, e.g. meetings, email discussions etc.

2. Establish external stakeholder liaison arrangements

There is also a need to set up a mechanism to engage with a set of representative external stakeholders who will consume fiscal information (and in some cases transform and re-publish it). Core members could include the Fraser of Allander Institute, Institute for Public Policy Research, Institute for Fiscal Studies, Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency, academic representatives and third sector representatives. Synergies with the users of the Scottish statistics open data portal should be explored. One or two international organisations should also be included in order to provide a broader international perspective, including benchmarking/assessing proposals against international standards.

The external user group should not be treated in isolation from the public sector stakeholder group as they will often have similar requirements. Similarly, the purpose of the engagement should be a bi-directional exchange of information.

3. Setup the project Governance

Create the arrangements required to manage an ongoing fiscal transparency project, including

  • Appointing a Senior Responsible Owner (SRO);
  • Appointing a Project Board;
  • Appointing a Product Owner;
  • Agreeing a project methodology, e.g. Agile;
  • Setting up the required project tools.

Occasional input will need to be arranged from subject matter experts for all the in-scope business areas, i.e. people who know where the data comes from and what it means.

There will need to be an agreement on ownership and funding arrangements between the key core Scottish Government areas, i.e. the Scottish Exchequer, Finance and possibly the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser.

Define purpose, objectives and scope

4. Agree long-term (e.g. 10 year) purpose, objectives and scope for fiscal transparency


  • Define the aspirational purpose for a single fiscal transparency portal, or a minimum set of sites holding fiscal data.
  • Define a target scope, in terms of:
    • The types of information defined as fiscal (see definitions in Section 2.1);
    • The breadth of information (e.g. from the NHS, Local Authorities and other spending agencies);
    • The depth of information (target granularity of delivery spend and outcome tracking).
  • Agree time based project objectives, in areas such as number of datasets published, numbers of users and government areas covered;
  • Identify performance metrics for the project, e.g. delivery of in scope objectives, budget, timescales and acceptable quality criteria. Metrics will also need to be agreed for the products as the project progresses;
  • Agree the role of the various current output sites in future, incl. the Scottish Government website.

5. Define a detailed strategy to achieve the long-term objectives in an incremental way

For example, by:

  • Implementation of a well-designed, accessible and attractive site, with a limited set of information (see suggested quick wins below, and risk (5) below);
  • Consolidation of as many current outputs as possible into the site, in their existing formats, but supported by explanations, an accessible structure, and a powerful search function;
  • Review how the current outputs can be better adapted to public consumption;
  • Improved linkages between the various government fiscal outputs;
  • Gradual development of new more accessible and better visualised outputs in selected high priority areas, e.g. the budget, the economy, local government, health etc., with appropriate categorisations;
  • Gradual improvements in categorisations, the granularity of outputs, and the range of data visualisations.

This is a suggested strategy only, which needs to be reviewed in more detail with stakeholders.

Research, analysis and design

6. Investigate possible long-term dependencies with the Shared Services Transformation project

The Shared Services Transformation project aims to replace several of the key internal platforms that contribute towards Scottish Government fiscal data. The project will be large, complex and span several years. More work is required to understand how the project could assist in improving fiscal transparency, e.g. in areas such as new solutions for budgeting, finance, procurement and data analytics.

7. Detailed review of spending and outcome documentation

Review the broad set of spending and outcome documentation from the delivery organisations, in order to better understand what sources of information are currently available, and what issues there would be integrating with these outputs, and signposting to them.

8. Analyse, design and implement a quick-win

In the current environment i.e. Scottish Government website – for example, income story over time or other data gaps identified.

Business case and budget

9. Define an outline tentative budget for the next stages of the project

Including budgets for:

  • The remainder of the Alpha phase;
  • The Beta phase and an implementation of a minimum initial solution;
  • Further enhancements and support for the initial solution.

At this stage budgets need to be driven more by what the Scottish Government is prepared to spend on fiscal transparency than estimated costs.

10. Write a strategic outline business case for the whole project

The case should consist of: the case for change; the strategic context; spending objectives; existing arrangements and business needs; the potential scope for the project; the project benefits, risks, constraints and dependencies

At this stage of the project it is not possible to estimate expected costs to implement a fiscal transparency portal with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

Alpha Part 2

To be undertaken by the same Scottish Government resources, with additional technical resources or supplier services. It is assumed will end with the procurement of an external supplier who will provide the services to build a technical proof of concept, followed by a production minimal initial solution.

As described below data and technical architect resources will be required from the start of Part 2 of the Alpha, which may also need to be sourced externally, if they are unavailable from Scottish Government sources. The alternative is to source a full external supplier at the start of the phase. But this would on the basis of no technical preparation by the Scottish Exchequer – which is a high risk.

At least one User Researcher will also be needed to undertake the additional user research suggested below – these may be available from Scottish Government sources.

Activity / Description


11. Obtain resources for part 2 of the Alpha

The second part of the Alpha will require additional technical resources who may not be available from internal Scottish Government sources, and hence may need to be obtained from external sources:

  • A data architect or data consultant to assess the current data sources and agreed a consolidation approach as defined below;
  • A technical architect to define requirements for a publication platform and a target architecture (potentially this person could also do the data architect role if suitably skilled).

Input will continue to be needed by subject matter experts for all the in-scope business areas.

Initial Solution design

12. Further User Research

Undertake further user research with citizens, investigative journalists and businesses, and potentially tech companies.

13. Assess the current data sources and define a data consolidation approach

The data and information used in the current fiscal outputs is manually sourced from a wide range of data sources, either databases or spreadsheets. This is not a sustainable basis for a future fiscal transparency portal. There is a need for a central data repository that holds a consolidated set of data, and feeds an integrated publication platform. The data portal needs to enforce data quality, consistency and linkages.

The first steps to achieve these objectives are:

  • Define the data sources, flows and processes for the high priority data areas;
  • Define how the data could be consolidated into a data store to feed the publication platform;
  • Define an integrated high-level target architecture for a data consolidation and publishing platform;
  • Potentially undertake a data maturity assessment in line with the developing Scottish Government data maturity assessment model;
  • Review governance arrangements for sourcing good quality data in a timely fashion.

This activity does not involve the development of a full Digital Strategy for the Scottish Exchequer / Finance areas.

There needs to be a proper technical understanding of what the current systems are capable of delivering. This will help open up conversations about the internal changes and data sharing that is needed, and will avoid overpromising to potential end users.

Engagement with the Scottish Government's Data and Intelligence Network (D&IN) may be useful as part of this activity.

14. Research into the categorisation of outputs

Research the most desirable and feasible ways of categorising spend and outcomes (e.g. National Performance Framework components , equalities and human rights themes, policies, demographics, portfolios, economic sectors and geographies) – taking into consideration the data sources.

15. Agree branding and design strategy for a portal

It needs to be decided how a fiscal transparency portal would be branded, e.g. as core Scottish Government service, or with a distinct identity. It is assumed that Digital Scotland design standards will be followed, although the standards do not provide any guidance on data visualisation.

16. Define requirements for a publication platform and a target architecture

Define the detailed requirements for a publication platform, e.g.

  • Support for data visualisation and map based views;
  • Meets accessibility standards;
  • Content management;
  • Powerful search functions;
  • Integrated data feeds;

To be undertaken in conjunction with the definition of an integrated high-level target architecture for a data consolidation and publishing platform.

17. Agree preferred social media approach

This should be undertaken with the involvement of Scottish Government Communications team, and staff from the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser who currently use Twitter to publicise their economic outputs.

18. Agree a list of possible quick wins to be undertaken as a high priority in a subsequent Beta stage

This will demonstrate what is possible, raise awareness, help secure buy-in, and help uncover likely issues.

Possible candidate quick wins are:

  • Dynamic data visualisation of the level 4 budget data and/or the over £25k spend;
  • Dynamic data visualization of some of the data currently published by Revenue Scotland, e.g. the Annual Summary of Trends in the Devolved Taxes (already shown in a pdf format);
  • Data visualization of other data currently shown in the budget document, or from the Infrastructure Investment Plan.

Procurement Preparation

19. Procurement Preparation

Preparation for a procurement to procure a supplier who can deliver a technical solution to meet the defined requirements, in line with the target architecture. The activity includes decisions on what to procure, possible types of suppliers, likely financial value, best procurement channel, and the required inputs to a procurement.

Procurement, Beta and Production

20. Procurement

Procurement of supplier who can deliver technical solution – including the writing and issuing of the tender documents, evaluation of response, and contract agreement/award.

21. Implement a Proof of Concept solution

Based on the defined approach to data consolidation and publication platform, implement one or more of the agreed quick-wins in a pilot version of the target architecture in order to resolve the key technical challenges as early as possible in the project.

22. Build minimal initial solution in Beta

Using lessons learned from the Proof of Concept, build a minimum initial live solution. This will include the definition of detailed requirements for the minimum initial solution.

23. Enhance Beta solution in Production

Enhance the Beta solution into a full production solution.

5.2 Summary Roadmap

The scales on the diagram below are not an indication of relative timescales.

The following sequential phases:

Alpha Prep, consisting of:

  • Review scale/ pace of next steps
  • Agree Alpha objectives, resources
  • Agree Alpha Statement of Wok
  • Obtain resources

Alpha Part 1, consisting of:

  • Set- up project governance
  • Set up stakeholder liaison
  • Ongoing stakeholder liaison (carries on to the end of the programme)
  • Agree scope, purpose and objectives
  • Define detailed strategy
  • Review spending and outcome documents
  • Do quick wins
  • Define Next stages budget
  • Write Strategic Business Case
  • Investigate SST dependencies
  • Obtain Alpha Part 2 resources

Alpha Part 2, consisting of:

  • Procurement preparation
  • Refine business case
  • Ongoing stakeholder liaison
  • User research
  • Branding strategy
  • Social media approach
  • Define requirement
  • Categorisations
  • Access data and define consolidation
  • Define data and publication architecture
  • Select quick wins

Procurement, consisting of:

  • Procure supplier
  • Ongoing stakeholder liaison
  • Refine business case

Beta, consisting of:

  • On-board supplier
  • Ongoing stakeholder liaison
  • Build data and publication platforms

Implementation, consisting of:

  • Build data and publication platforms
  • Implement Proof of Concept
  • Implement minimum initial solution

Enhance solution , consisting of:

  • Several incremental releases

5.3 Internal and External Partners

The project should engage with the following internal and external partners:

Scottish Government

  • Scottish Government Open Data unit - re approaches and platforms;
  • Scottish Government Communications – social media approaches and use of accessible language;
  • Digital Transformation Services - Alpha resources and digital guidance;
  • Shared Services Transformation project – dependencies as describe above;
  • Scottish Government Accessibility experts – Digital accessibility approaches.


  • Potentially the Open Data Institute or Open Knowledge Foundation re open data (although the Scottish Government Open Data unit should be the first point of contact);
  • Global Institute for Fiscal Transparency for advice on fiscal transparency approaches and international best practice.

As described above, many of the proposed internal and external stakeholders already publish and use Scottish fiscal information, and hence will be able to offer advice to the project.

5.4 External Dependencies

Dependency / Description

1. Shared Services Transformation project

The project could replace several of the solutions that would feed data into a fiscal transparency portal. Hence the fiscal transparency project should engage with the Transformation project in order to achieve new solutions that will support the fiscal transparency in the long-term, as well as broader improved operations in the Scottish Exchequer and Finance.

2. Other owners and publishers of fiscal information

The success of a fiscal transparency portal will be dependent on the willingness of the various owners and publishers of fiscal information to share data for use in a fiscal transparency portal, and to coordinate their outputs with the portal outputs.

3. Availability of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)s

It is important that SMEs are made available on a part-time and occasional basis in order to explain where the source data comes from and what it means.

4. Relationship with the Scottish statistics open data portal

The processes and formats for supplying open data to the Scottish statistics open data portal needs to be agreed.

It also needs to be agreed if open data will be published on the Scottish statistics open data portal (as a central place for Scottish Government open data) and on a fiscal transparency portal (as is done on many overseas portals).



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