Data about Scotland – make us count
Having good data and statistics about a country, its economy and its society is essential to being able to make policy for and to change that country. Scotland has patchy data – some good, some not so good, some missing altogether – and it is inconsistent and hard to find. A National Statistics Agency would massively improve the tools we have to measure how our nation is performing.
We live in an ever more data-rich environment and the data we gather and hold about ourselves is becoming ever more valuable to policy-makers. Good data underpins and drives effective policy so it is vital that Scotland makes the most of this resource in order to strengthen and enrich our society and our economy. It is also vital that we be transparent and make as much of this data as open and accessible as possible so that the government can be scrutinised, aided and, where required, held to account.
Data and statistics allow us to better identify what policies are needed and where they are needed. They allow us to monitor the effectiveness of policies as they are deployed and to recognise when they are not working or not longer needed. Public access to data and statistics allows transparency and accountability but also allow think-tanks, charities and other organisations to develop their own policies to the highest possible standards.
In a world of increasingly targetted political campaigning, data allows organisations to develop more nuanced political campaigns but also open the public up to the risk of being manipulated by "micro-targetted" propaganda on social media and elsewhere. So whilst the provision and gathering of data is vital so too is the protection and control of that data - especially the personal data about us that should below to and be solely controlled by ourselves.
Regardless of Scotland’s constitutional arrangements it should be universally recognised that better data can be used to produce better government policy and to better monitor policy as it is implemented.