Statistics Group strategic priorities

The strategic priorities for the Scottish Government Statistics Group.

“To stand still is to fall behind”. 

These are the words of American author Mark Twain more than a hundred years ago.  

It feels very relevant to where we’re at in the production of statistics in Scotland as we’ve emerged from the pandemic. We’ve done an incredible job over the last number of years as a profession. But with the greater public focus on data on all policy areas we need to do things differently to maintain our relevance and sustain this momentum. This echoes points that Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) made in their recent State of the Statistical System report, based on their oversight of the UK statistical system from their regulatory work. 

Official statistics were highly sought after during the pandemic, but many other organisations and researchers also produce data and insights. The labels of official statistics or accredited official statistics provide some reassurance, but we need to work harder to guarantee our relevance in a world where there’s a lot of data out there. The risk if we don’t is that our high-quality statistics could be superseded by other data and analysis, potentially of lower quality, to support policy and decision making.    

The pandemic very clearly showed statisticians’ value on a public level, and we’ve seen this again with the Census, Ukraine and the cost of living crisis. We need to act now to build on this momentum where the stats group along with our analytical colleagues were seen as the trusted experts with the evidence of what is happening within society in Scotland. It’s important that official statistics in Scotland keep pace, if not lead the way, so that the excellent analytical work has the impact it deserves. 

We need to prioritise what work we do based on what adds the most value, and that we need to be smarter and more efficient about how we do it. This isn’t saying we do more with less resource; it’s reshaping the work we do and questioning even the most taken for granted tasks so that we can be sure that we are maximising our value. OSR blogged about the challenges of improving the production of statistics in the constraints of existing resources, but there are good examples where this has happened across the UK statistical system. 

Statisticians in the stats group have told us there is a real desire to embrace new ways of doing things and make the best use out of everyone’s skills. We heard this particularly from those who joined the stats group more recently. 


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