Measuring what matters

Thursday 19 May 2011

Scottish Government needs to be better at measuring the well-being of the nation, according to a new report.

The report of a Round Table, chaired by Professor Jan Bebbington of the University of St Andrews, has given a number of recommendations aimed at improving the way Scottish Government gathers statistics and measures progress as part of its National Performance Framework.

The findings of the Round Table are centred around a collective purpose of improving the nation’s well-being and quality of life.

Among the recommendations presented to the Scottish Government are a shift of emphasis from measuring economic production to measuring people’s well-being.  This includes better ways of measuring inequalities in health, housing and education which are central to quality of life.

The report also suggests that Scottish Government needs to measure the contribution of the household to the Scottish economy, better methods of illustrating the distribution of wealth and consumption and a better climate change indicator.

The report urges the new Scottish Government to take forward ground-breaking work it started in 2007 to measure ‘what matters’, even though it will take many policymakers out of their “comfort zone”.

It comes in the light of growing recognition that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – accepted for years as the best indicator for evaluating improved prosperity –fails to reflect factors that are just as important as economic output such as life expectancy, wellbeing, inequality, environmental damage and use of natural resources.

The report is published by a Round Table of authors brought together by the Carnegie UK Trust.

Round Table Chair, Professor Jan Bebbington, commented: “The short-comings of GDP as a measure have been well recognised by the Scottish Government which has already started the move to more sophisticated approaches to being able to track the broad impact of policies on Scotland’s people and environment.

“Our group has developed the ideas put forward in the report of the Stiglitz Commission, set up by the France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, and see how they might work in Scotland.  We believe that Scotland now has a real opportunity to develop further its robust mechanisms to measure more of what actually matters to the nation as a whole.”

Round Table Vice Chair and Vice Chair of the Carnegie UK Trust, Angus Hogg says it is essential for policymakers to have access to the right types of data if they are to make the right decisions:

“Scotland is leading the way on this work and we look forward to other governments being inspired by their approach.  It has long been recognised that what is measured is what gets done.  In recent years the Scottish Government has worked to share information through its Scotland Performs website to allow citizens to track progress on a series of indicators as part of its National Performance Framework and, in turn, hold policymakers to account.

“Nobody is underestimating how challenging this could be when so many governments and commentators have put so much faith in GDP alone for so long.  Our hope is that our recommendations, which recognise that prosperity and well-being are as important as economic growth, will help inform policies that help Scotland achieve its ambitions.”


Notes to Editors

Professor Jan Bebbington is available for interview on 01334 462348 or email [email protected]

For media inquiries on the report, please contact Keith Small on 0131 557 7727.

Issued by the University of St Andrews

Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227, email [email protected]

Ref: Measuring what Matters 190511

Category Government

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