Scottish Parliament Election - 6 May 2021: guidance for the Scottish Government, its agencies and National Devolved Public Bodies

Sets out guidance for the Scottish Government, its Agencies and National Devolved Public Bodies ahead of the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary Elections.

Note 10: Statistics, Surveys, Social Research and Economics Analysis

1. This note gives guidance on the conduct of activities relating to statistics, surveys, social research and economics in Scottish Government Directorates and their Agencies and national devolved public bodies during the Scottish Parliament election. It should be read alongside the remainder of this election guidance which sets out general principles for handling business during the election period and processes for handling Freedom of Information requests.

2. Where further clarification is required or in cases of doubt, advice should be sought from the relevant Chief Professional Officer as below. They will consult Cabinet Secretariat as necessary:

  • Scottish Government statistics, research and economics staff should consult the Chief Statistician, the Office of the Chief Researcher or the Head of OCEA, respectively;
  • Staff in the General Register Office for Scotland should consult the Registrar General; and
  • Other Scottish Government and agency staff involved in statistical or survey activities should consult the Chief Statistician.

3. It will be business as usual in UK Government departments (see Note 3 above for further detail).


4. Official statistics releases (and planned revisions) should continue to be issued and published on dates which have been pre‐announced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics and the National Statistician's guidance booklet Publication and Presentation of Official Statistics.

5. The actual date must be announced no later than four weeks in advance. Staff should ensure that all publications due to be published between 25 March and 6 May have been pre‐announced (with exact date of publication) before 25 March.

6. In general, you should avoid bringing forward into the election period any release of information that does not fall into the above category. Equally, you should not defer any publication that does, except for technical reasons. If such a delay occurs it should still be published as soon as possible - if it was pre‐announced for publication before the election and (after the technical issues have been resolved) it is ready to be published before the election, it should still proceed. For statistics releases, you are reminded that changes of publication date have to be posted on the Internet site along with an explanation of the reasons for changes.

7. The existing arrangements will not impact the publication of regular COVID-19 statistics; it has been pre-announced that they are to be updated daily. However, given how the pandemic has evolved, and the need to provide relevant and timely statistics relating to it, there may be a need to publish new statistics during the pre-election period that have not been pre-announced. In this circumstance, the Chief Statistician will make the decision about whether to release un-preannounced statistics; this is strictly limited to statistics to do with the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences.

8. Commissioning and publication of social research can continue if the programme/project is already planned, has been agreed with the Minister and publicly known before the election is announced. Again, if you wish to proceed with commissioning or publishing a project that does not meet these criteria within the election period, please seek further advice from the Office of the Chief Researcher.

9. Where statistics or research publications are being released during the election period it is critically important that Ministers' Private Offices and Cabinet Secretariat are alerted to the intention to publish.

10. Regular, continuous and ongoing censuses and surveys of individuals, households, businesses or other organisations may continue; so may ad hoc surveys which are directly related to and in support of a continuing statistical series; and fieldwork which is part of an ongoing research or evaluation project. However, as these may give rise to controversy or be related to an election issue, directorates should consider postponing or cancelling them. Where survey or census questions ask about opinions or attitudes to the Scottish Government or the election in particular, or to politics in general, these should not proceed. Advice on these issues should be sought as indicated in paragraph 2 above.

11. Requests for information should continue to be handled in accordance with the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

12. Analysts should continue to brief Ministers. Special care must be taken over any face to face briefing for statistical, social research and economics publications/releases issued during the election period, and in producing commentary for inclusion in announcements concerning such releases and publications. Commentary that would be accepted as impartial and objective analysis or interpretation at ordinary times may result in criticism or controversy during an election. Ultimately, each case must be considered on its own merits and the content of the announcement left to the discretion of statistician/researcher/economist, seeking advice as indicated in paragraph 2 above. Care should also be taken with public presentation of statistics, research or economic analysis during the election period, and advice should always be sought.

13. Requests for advice on the interpretation or analysis of statistics, research or economics, and in particular requests to ascertain the costs or otherwise appraise parties' manifesto pledges, should be handled with care, and in accordance with the guidance set out above.

14. Requests for factual guidance on methodology should continue to be met.

15. Care should be exercised with Pre‐release Access to statistics in their final form during the election period. All Pre‐release lists should be reviewed, particularly with respect to any recipients who are special advisers, as some may resign as special advisers during the election period. Those who have resigned as a special adviser should be removed from Pre‐release Access recipient list. Some special advisers have Pre‐release Access to UK Department publications, and those who resign should be removed from the relevant recipient list.

16. Queries relating to updating the "National Performance Framework" during the election period should be referred to the NPF team.

17. Directorates should handle requests for factual information and advice from candidates, organisations and members of the public in accordance with general guidance.

18. Requests for small numbers of copies of leaflets, background papers or free publications which were available before the election period may continue to be met but no bulk issues to individuals or organisations should be made without approval from the Chief Professional Officer. Regular mailings of bulletins and research publications to customers on existing mailing lists may continue.

Further information

19. For further information, please contact:

  • Paul Matthews, Office of the Chief Statistician and Strategic Analysis
  • Rod Harrison, Office of the Chief Researcher



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