Scottish Strategy for Autism: outcomes and priorities 2018-2021

Document setting out the priorities for action through to 2021 to improve outcomes for autistic people living in Scotland.


The Scottish Strategy for Autism was published jointly by Scottish Government and COSLA in 2011. The Scottish Government originally committed £13.4 million over four years to improve the lives of autistic people and their families and carers and to build on improvement to autism services and access to them. The original document set out 26 recommendations and the vision that by 2021 'individuals on the autism spectrum are respected, accepted and valued by their communities and have confidence in services to treat them fairly so that they are able to have meaningful and satisfying lives'. [1]

In 2014 the Scottish Government published a report on the progress made by the autism strategy during its first two years entitled - The Foundation Phase. [2] Significant progress was made during this phase. Key developments included the development of a Menu of Interventions – a guide to help people on the autism spectrum and their families and carers identify available advice and support. [3] A mapping exercise was also conducted, which sought to 'map out' local autism services and to improve their coordination. [4] This exercise coincided with the one-off investment of £35,000 for each local authority in Scotland to develop local autism strategies and action plans. Alongside this investment, £4.5 million was set aside for Autism Development Funds, the purpose of which was to encourage local and national organisations to develop projects to improve the delivery of local autism services. [5]

In the year following the publication of the Foundation Phase Progress Report, Scottish Government and COSLA refreshed the autism strategy and reframed it into an outcomes approach for the period 2015 to 2017. These new outcomes – healthier life, choice and control, independence and active citizenship – and their attendant priorities ensured the Scottish Strategy for Autism was better placed to drive forward the realisation of the strategy's vision for autistic people and their families.

Now, after passing the strategy's halfway point, and conscious of the significant shifts that have taken place in Scotland since 2011, including the devolution of new powers, the Scottish Government sought to engage with autistic people, their families and carers and those with a professional interest on the development of the strategy's next and final phase.

Progress and achievements

Our achievements since 2015 include:

  • Supported the development and promotion of the Autism Training Framework – Optimising Outcomes – for those working in health and social care, as well as other resources including a learning space to inform workforce development. [6]
  • Invested over £2m in more than 40 autism charities and projects which have reached and delivered positive outcomes for some 6,000 autistic people, their families and carers. [7]
  • Invested in Autism Network Scotland to promote the work of the strategy and share good practice with autism professionals, third sector, autistic adults and family carers in Scotland.
  • Invested in the National Coordination Project which supported the development of local autism strategies and action plans.
  • Invested in a pilot of six One Stop Shops to provide early intervention post diagnostic support to autistic adults, children and their families. [8]
  • Invested in a diagnostic improvement programme, which has shared good autism practice across services.
  • Launched a Knowledge Hub to support networking, collaboration and informing sharing among the professionals working with autistic people.
  • Supported the development of Scottish Autism's Right Click programme for Women and Girls.
  • Supported the development and promotion of the Principles of Good Transitions 3 and the autism supplement as guides to good practice for transitioning young people with additional needs.
  • Continued to promote the Autism Toolbox for teachers and school support staff.
  • Showcased the strategy at Autism-Europe's 11th International Congress in Edinburgh 2016. [9]
  • Developed a number of employment resources, led by the strategy's Employment Network. [10]

Purpose of this document

This document sets out priorities for action through to 2021 to improve outcomes for autistic people living in Scotland. [11]

These priorities attempt to reflect the key issues raised during a short period of engagement with autistic people and their families, practitioners working with autistic people and members of the Scottish Strategy for Autism Governance Group. Our analysis of the issues raised during our engagement activity has been published separately, and can be accessed here.

As well as our direct engagement with autistic people and their families and practitioners working in the field, we have taken account of national evidence to inform our actions, in particular the newly published Micro segmentation report on the economic costs of autism in Scotland, which establishes a robust national Scottish autism prevalence rate of 1.035% (103.5 per 10,000). This means there are approximately 44,133 autistic people in Scotland.


The collection of information and data on the health and healthcare of autistic people is important. This information and data can then be turned into meaningful health intelligence for practitioners, commissioners, policymakers and the wider community. To achieve this we need to increase the visibility of autistic people within Scotland's routinely collected data and generate high quality evidence to build the understanding of the health and health inequalities experienced by autistic people. There are a number of routinely collected data sources for example GP, Health and Social Care, Mental Health, Housing and Education. Statutory bodies need to work together to link this data into meaningful intelligence that will inform policy and change practice.

Who is the audience for this document?

Integration Authorities ( IAs) are responsible for the strategic planning and decision making for all functions delegated to them, including diagnostic services for autistic adults in line with their statutory responsibilities under the Public Bodies (Scotland) Act (2014). [12] This means they have a major role to play in designing and delivery of local autism strategies and action plans, alongside NHS Boards and local authority colleagues in housing, education, and other relevant local services which may not be delegated to the IA, and services delivered by other community planning partners. Therefore, this document should be read by anyone with a role to play in leading and implementing changes that improve outcomes for autistic people and their families.

While most of the actions detailed in this document will be led by delivery partners, the contribution of autistic people, their families and carers, and professionals in the field is essential. We would encourage autistic people, their families and carers to engage both at national and local level in the planning of autism services.

As in the original Scottish Strategy for Autism published in 2011 this document recognises that the autism spectrum is wide and autistic people are diverse. This document recognises that autistic people are represented within the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. It also recognises that autism is lifelong and that autistic people will require support across their lifespan.

Graphic Artist

In an effort to provide a graphic depiction of our engagement events we commissioned graphic artists. The cartoon graphics used in this document were produced during our engagement exercises by graphics artist, Graham Ogilvie - These depict the conversations that took place.


Back to top