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Paper 3rd October 2001 - BESAC(01)4



1. The remit given to us through the SCOTSTAT arrangements requires us to:-

a) Identify the key strategic statistical information required by all interested parties and,

b) develop and implement a strategy for prioritising and meeting these needs taking account both of the burden on data suppliers and the need for information which is fit for purpose.

2. This paper sets out some thoughts and seeks the views of committee members on how we should structure our approach to tackling this part of our remit.

Identifying key statistical information required by all interested parties

3. Membership of the committee should provide a good coverage of interested parties, but we can't assume that we will account for all interests. The SCOTSTAT website will provide those who wish, to register an interest in the work of the committee and will give us a means to communicate electronically with those who register. If we are going to consult within the committee and externally on key statistical information requirements, it might be useful to develop a structured framework within which requirements can be identified and assessed.

4. While the committee will be mainly interested in the need to develop new statistics and improve existing statistics, at this initial stage it might also be worthwhile to identify information requirements in the round, including those which are being met satisfactorily (or to a fair degree) from existing sources.

5. One possible starting point might be for members of the committee representing specific user interests to provide the committee with a short paper their needs for statistical information, how well these are met at present and views on priorities for improving existing sources and extending the range of statistical information available. Annex 1 provides an outline of a possible initial format for papers identifying needs and requirements.

1. Members are invited to comment on this suggested approach to developing a framework for identifying the key statistical information required by all interested parties, how far existing statistical sources meet these needs and requirements for improvements and additions to available statistics.

2. If the approach seems reasonably, members are invited to comment on the outline framework at Annex 1.

Strategies for prioritising and meeting the needs etc.

6. At this early stage in the work of the committee we are not going to be immediately faced with the problem of prioritising between competing claims for improvement/ development. However, we are likely to come up against this fairly quickly.

7. A key purpose of the SCOTSTAT committees is to influence the development of statistics by the Scottish Executive and, where relevant by other providers and users to ensure a coherent and well informed approach to development. It therefore seems unlikely that the committee will end up drawing up a precise ranking of priorities for improvement/ development. The committee will, however, wish, if possible to come to a consensus about what is important and why, or if this is not possible, at least to an agreed understanding of the key drivers of need and associated issues of quality and coverage of the available statistics. The framework discussed in the previous section will clearly be central to these processes.

8. Within the SCOTSTAT framework, we will approach this, in part come through the requirement to consider issues raised by the Board, through discussions on the annual report which the committee is required to make to the Board and through the committee's consideration of the Scottish Executive statistics plan and other relevant plans.

3. Members of the committee are invited to comment on the above description of the way in which the committee could influence the development of statistics produced by the Scottish Executive and other users/ providers of statistics.

The Scottish Executive Development Department

September 2001

ANNEX 1 - A possible structure for papers on statistical information needs


This would be a broad description of the need, covering both w hat information is needed? distinguishing information relevant to the work of this committee and any which might be relevant to the work of other SCOTSTAT committees; and w hy the information is needed ? identifying the policy, operational and other uses for which the statistical information is, or would be used.

Currently available statistical information:

This would be a brief assessment of the range of information currently available which addresses the identified needs, showing:-

  • the currently available statistical information which is useful, drawing out the key characteristics of the information which make it useful;
  • key weaknesses in the currently available statistical information which limit its usefulness; drawing out desired improvements and the benefits which these would bring.

Gaps in the available statistical information:

This would specify the information needed to fill key gaps when comparing the information needs identified in the first part with the assessment of currently available information in the second. For new statistical information the following headings might be a useful starting point for identifying the requirement:-

Subject: what is to be measured.

Frequency: how often (e.g. monthly, quarterly, annual, biennial).

Geography: at what level would data need to be available (e.g. all- Scotland, local authority, localities).

Source: which bodies or agencies would have the information (if any)?

Responsibility: which bodies or agencies should collate the information?