This report was commissioned jointly between LARIA and the Scottish Government and examines the statutory and non-statutory drivers for research in central and local government in Scotland and considers the impact of demands on current capacity. It provides a legislative map of statutory requirements for research. Based on focus groups and interviews with researchers in three local authorities and with analysts in the Scottish Government, it suggests a number of possible actions to relieve pressures on research capacity.

The report, carried out on behalf of LARIA (the Local Authorities Research and Intelligence Association) and the Scottish Government by Hexagon Research and Consulting, highlights the importance of an evidence-based policy environment that increasingly demands robust evidence about policy outcomes from both local government researchers and Scottish Government analysts.

It also identifies a wide range of other demands for research in Scottish local government, including: the introduction of Best Value and an increasing focus on performance management, statutory requirements for plans and impact assessments, the need for consultation and stakeholder engagement, the introduction of the National Performance Framework and Single Outcome Agreements, and the requirement to respond to requests for information from ‘third parties’, such as ‘Freedom of Information’ requests.

The report cites examples of effective working between local authorities, between community planning partners, local and central government. It also identifies ways to improve the efficiency of research across the Scottish public sector. In particular, it suggests that there should be greater join up both between central and local authorities and, more specifically, between local authorities to share data and avoid duplication of effort.

The report is welcomed by LARIA and the Scottish Government, who are committed to strengthening the capacity for, and value of, government research at all levels. Both bodies are committed to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government research, and work is already in hand to progress this objective, such as the Scotstat Analysts Network.

Paul Davison, Chair, LARIA in Scotland, said: “This report drives home the central role that research plays in government decision making in Scotland, but sends a real warning that these requirements have grown considerably over recent years and may not be met if authorities do not ensure that research is sufficiently resourced.”

The report is available to download here