Scottish Economy

Weekly update: New reports, recurring issues, and the price of quiche

New report on data on people with learning disabilities in Scotland

This week is Learning Disabilities week and we produced a new report for Scotland looking at the availability (or lack) of data that can help drive forward change for this group of people. We presented our analysis at a conference hosted by ENABLE Scotland that kick-started their campaign on ensuring the voices of people with learning disabilities are at the heart of efforts to improve human rights protections. Those voices are critical but data comes a close second in importance.  The risk is that new legislation that aims to safeguard human rights becomes meaningless if there isn’t data there to show whether improvements are being realised.

Our report this week pointed to a number of short term actions that the Scottish Government could address to get us on track. We also looked at examples from beyond Scotland. You can read more about it here. 

Tackling poverty and joining up decision making

This week also saw a cross-party summit on poverty, at which the First Minister made clear that tackling poverty was core to what he wants his government to focus on in the years ahead. He stressed the way forward being characterised by ‘prioritising those most in need’ and making ‘tough choices’ (you can read the press release here).

On the same day, there were headlines about the continuing struggles around the Scottish Government’s finances, with a letter sent to the Education Children and Young People Committee to say that previously allocated monies to the Higher and Further Education sector were being taken back due to “new pressures on the Education and Skills portfolio since the 2023-24 Budget announcement”. We saw something similar happen last year with money on employability being recalled. However, that happened much later on in the financial year. For it to happen only a month in is quite extraordinary and does raise questions about the completeness of the budget process.

As an aside, taking money out of the education sector, particularly further education, does not feel very joined up with efforts to reduce poverty. Indeed, further and higher education feature in last year’s “Best Start, Bright Futures” child poverty action plan and will be particularly important for the young mothers priority group that the Scottish Government have identified as being core to efforts to meet the child poverty targets. No doubt, this recalling of funds falls into the ‘tough choices’ category but perhaps falls short of  ‘prioritising those most in need’. We can only hope the government took forward an impact assessment before making the decision so it at least internally understands the impact of its decision-making on government priorities.

Staying on Scottish Government decision making, this week the Finance and Public Affairs committee released a summary of discussions with former Ministers, Special Advisors, and civil servants held earlier this year as part of the Committee’s inquiry into effective decision making. It is clear that there are issues, many of which are longstanding. Processes are often “rushed, unclear and unstructured” with a “lack of consistency” on how policies are developed and decisions made. It’s well worth a read, and you can find it here.

Something for the weekend

If you find yourselves at a loose end over the next few days, the ONS have released a new interactive tool to show how prices in shops have changed over the past year. Apparently, we’ve all been clearing the shelves of quiche ahead of the Coronation, which according to the ONS has increased in price by 21% over the past year. How’s that for topical economic analysis? You are very welcome.

We hope you all enjoy the long weekend, whether it features quiches or not. We’ll be back next week with analysis from the Q1 2023 Business Survey.


Emma Congreve is a Principal Knowledge Exchange Fellow and Deputy Director at the Fraser of Allander Institute. Emma's work at the Institute is focussed on policy analysis, covering a wide range of areas of social and economic policy.  Emma is an experienced economist and has previously held roles as a senior economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and as an economic adviser within the Scottish Government.