14. The consultation paper "Improving Statistical Services in Scotland" proposed to extend to Scotland the "scrutiny and standards" aspect of the Statistics Board (subsequently re-titled the UK Statistics Authority).
15. Eight organisations and one individual responded to the legislation section of the consultation paper. Six, out of the nine respondents, explicitly stated support for the legislative proposals. The other three respondents were not against the legislative proposals but rather considered the impacts of the legislation and how it might be improved. Although there was overall support for the legislative proposals, there was concern on some aspects.
16. Support from respondents:
- 'We agree that the scrutiny, standards and data sharing aspects of the Bill should be extended to Scotland.' (Scottish Funding Council)
- 'Highlands and Islands Enterprise support the creation of an independent body responsible for promoting and safeguarding the quality and comprehensiveness of official statistics in Scotland.' (Highlands and Islands Enterprise)
- 'Legislation offers an opportunity to enhance the value of official statistics as well as strengthen public confidence in them.' (Statistics Commission)
- 'Its activities are not determined by Ministers who have operational responsibility for statistical production. We therefore welcome the reference in the memorandum to the role of the Scottish Parliament in directing the work of the Board and receiving reports rather than placing this power solely with Scottish Ministers; but would wish to see the Statistics Board having a more pro-active role in terms of assessing compliance.' (Scottish Museums Council)
17. Concern from respondents:
- 'Given the pivotal influence statistics have on whether policy-makers make effective progress towards achieving race equality, the CRE in Scotland would urge Scottish Ministers to seek reassurance that the proposed Statistics Board will be subject to these duties before extending its scrutiny and standards aspects to Scotland.' (Commission for Racial Equality in Scotland)
- 'We do have concerns about the logistics of applying the legislation to devolved matters, for example, education.' (Scottish Museums Council)
- 'There is the concern of providing the same information over and over again to different departments of the same body. Adding another body simply adds to the burden and cost.' (Stow College)
- 'Public confidence will best be enhanced if the rules for pre-release access to official statistics are determined by the Board as part of the Code of Practice, not - as the Bill proposes - determined separately by Ministers.' (Statistics Commission)
18. Ideas from respondents:
- 'To improve the level of public trust in official statistics, it is important that its (the Statistics Board's) scrutiny role is both independent and perceived by the public to be sufficiently independent of statistical production (including that by ONS).' (Scottish Museums Council)
- 'This legislation should seek to minimise any additional reporting requirements on data providers.' (Scottish Water)
- 'In order to ensure that public authorities make more effective and sustained progress towards the achievement of racial equality in Scotland both the Scottish Executive and the proposed Statistics Board must revise their existing data collection systems to ensure that accurate and detailed measures of Scotland's ethnic diversity and of trends in racial equality in the main areas of Scottish Executive activity are provided.' (Commission for Racial Equality in Scotland)
- 'We would also strongly encourage the Statistics Board to review the accessibility of statistical publications from the perspective of consumers and citizens.' (Scottish Consumer Council)
- 'We similarly share the consultation paper's recognition of the value of cross-border comparison of statistics and the need to address problems of inter-administration comparability. We believe that the new arrangements will support improvements in this respect - although they may need to be supplemented by further non-statutory agreements and arrangements to achieve this.' (Statistics Commission)
- 'Experience of the work of the Statistics Commission has been that there has been very little involvement with statistics in Scotland. The current Bill proposes that at least one member of the Statistics Board would be appointed after consultation with the Scottish Ministers. While this is welcome, it is unlikely to do much more than provide a link between one Board member and Scotland. We are therefore suggesting that a way forward might be for the Statistics Board to have a small sub-office in Scotland along similar lines to the Electoral Commission to provide more direct contact with Scottish users and providers of statistics. They could then oversee specifically Scottish statistics with the better understanding which could be gained by being located in Scotland where they would better understand the Scottish context and have closer contact with the statistics providers.' (Falkirk Council)
Finance Committee Scrutiny
19. The Finance Committee, in its consideration of the legislative consent motion, also showed wide support for the policy intention of the Act. Six organisations and five individuals responded to the Finance Committee's call for written evidence.
20. The Finance Committee recommended that the Scottish Parliament pass the motion, which it did on 1 February 2007.
Scottish Government Response on Legislation:
21. Scotland's inclusion in the Act, which commenced on 1 April 2008, means the UK Statistics Authority's remit extends to Scottish Official Statistics. 8The Act includes a number of special provisions for the devolved administrations - details on those for Scotland are at Annex B.
22. The UK Statistics Authority has an objective of promoting and safeguarding the production and publication of Official Statistics that serve the public good. A key tool to meet this aim is the Statistics Authority's Code of Practice for Statistics and its assessment of statistics for compliance with the Code. The new Code will be mandatory for National Statistics and advisory for other Official Statistics.
23. Statistics produced by Crown bodies such as the Scottish Government and the General Register Office for Scotland were automatically included within the definition of Official Statistics in the Act - and hence their National Statistics retained that status when the Act came into force on 1 April 2008.
24. The Official Statistics (Scotland) Order 2008, which was made on 18 March 2008, ensures that devolved National Statistics produced by the following non-Crown bodies could remain as such from 1 April 2008: 9
- Common Services Agency for the Scottish Health Service
- Higher Education Statistics Agency
- Student Loans Company Ltd.
25. The forthcoming Framework for Scottish Official Statistics will explore further what is and is not included in Official Statistics. This is not a straightforward issue given the amount of figures that are produced and published by government. We will consider with other Scottish public bodies whether or not their statistics can/should be included in Official Statistics, and hence the UK Statistics Authority's remit.
26. We are committed to considering how we can improve comparability of statistics across the UK, and indeed internationally. A new UK Inter-Administration Committee on Statistics has been set up - its membership includes the UK's National Statistician and the Chief Statisticians in the Devolved Administrations.
27. We agree with the idea that the UK Statistics Authority should have a presence in Scotland. The Authority is actively considering options for locating part of its assessment function in Scotland.
28. In response to other specific concerns raised by the respondents to the consultation paper:
- The UK Statistics Authority, as a public body, will be subject to the general and specific duties of the Race Relations Act as amended.
- The Framework for Scottish Official Statistics will provide a clear statement of what standards will apply to which devolved statistics.
- We are committed to reducing the burden placed on data providers. The data sharing provisions included in the Act should help us to access administrative data for statistical purposes, and the Scottish Government continues to move forward its work on the co-ordination and integration of large scale population and household surveys to deliver more efficiently collected and effective data. 10