Public Service Innovation

Public Service Reform has been our central policy concern for well over a decade. Not only are public services the place where citizens interact with the state but they are a critical feature of the Scottish economy. Yet, they desperately need to change. 

Policy background

Read our Public Service Reform supplement, Reshaping Scotland, to find out how our thinking has developed.

Our argument for innovation is threefold:

  1. Intense budgetary pressures necessitate significant reform with public expenditure in Scotland, as any projection shows, not returning to 2010 levels in real terms for at least another decade.
  2. Top-down, identikit interventions have created a fundamental disconnect between citizens and the structures that govern them in the places where they live, work and socialise.
  3. Rapidly changing demographics require innovative approaches to cope with increased demands and the legacy of failed, reactive policy.

It is our view that processes and structures should be adapted in a way that reflects the varied social and demographic context of different parts of Scotland and that, at the same time, reconciles the appropriate provision of various services with a much greater level of engagement by citizens and residents in determining the form and provision of such services.

The old template mentality so beloved of public administrations must end. The reliance on claims of simply increasing supply to meet ever increasing demand has to be reviewed. This populist approach [1000 more police officers; 1000 more nurses] to public policy simply does not work. Scotland’s public service family must reform. New approaches to service design, development and delivery are required. Innovative funding models are urgently needed to meet increasing user expectations, rising demand and a widely held political desire to deliver co-produced, localised services.

There is an emerging consensus across Scotland that our public services need to radically change in the aftermath of the Christie and Beveridge reports. We argue for reform that will:

  1. Tackle the real Postcode Lottery, breaking the bond between where you live, your health and your life outcomes.
  2. Develop new ways of driving change through better public engagement, e.g. installing accountable, bottom-up processes and utilising new technologies to reach out to a generation far more comfortable with electronic media of all kinds .
  3. Learn the lessons of centralisation and regionalisation of key public services, such as the Police, Fire and the Further Education sectors, both positive and negative.
  4. Ensure that the producer interest does not dominate service design and delivery, e.g. through the creation of integrated health & social care provision.
  5. Diversify public service provision to better suit local characteristics, e.g. through the introduction of Single Public Authorities for our island areas.
  6. Acknowledge that we don't need to redraw the lines on the local government map in order to see councils working more closely together. Allow local service provision to be developed across administrative boundaries, with responsive governance arrangements and accountability mechanisms, e.g. as education and social work provision are developing across Stirling/Clackmannanshire.
  7. Develop leadership across the Scottish public services family, e.g. through the creation of a National Leadership College.
  8. Improve public policy debate, e.g. by funding paid graduate internships or creating more graduate traineeships to support decision makers across the public service family.
  9. Allow far greater diversity in the provision and running of public services, e.g. by creating a level playing field in procurement as was argued for in the Christie Report.


Within the sphere of public service reform, healthcare and the integration of health and social care are areas of interest and expertise for the CSPP. 

Policy background

Our past work promoting health service reform includes our August 2014 “provocation paper” titled 'Is there a National Health Service for Scotland – or do we have an empty umbrella?'.

Recent developments

We are currently working on exploring the effective impact of ‘realised universalism’ to compare the extent of the presence of this with ‘declaratory universalism’ as a central characteristic of discussion about public policy. 

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Centre for Scottish Public Policy
c/o Digby Brown LLP
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