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Scotland goes for something new


Scotland is establishing its political administration model with an open mind and fresh insights. The country is preparing for an autonomy referendum which will take place in 2014. Scotland, with a population roughly the same as Finland, is fond of comparing its national success to that of the United Kingdom, but also to small independent economies such as Finland.

Finland continuously develops its administrative and political system. There are many kinds of development projects going on at the moment: the central administration project, impact and effectiveness programme, etc. A few years ago, the OECD prepared a country study on the governance model of Finland. In addition to many strengths, the report highlighted our challenges, which seem to be endless, one of the important ones being our poor ability to control finance and operational content in harmony.

We do our best to be inspired by other countries’ innovation and experiences. The Ministry of Finance, the Prime Minister’s Office and Sitra are jointly carrying out an experience sharing project with a few other countries, which as many as possible will hopefully know by the name Governments for the Future, or GF. The administrative model of Scotland is one of the partners in the project.

The slogan of Scotland’s model is “one organisation, one budget for planning and results measurement, one leadership.” We also consider these issues in the central administration reform. At the kickoff of the international GF project in London last June, Sir John Elvidge, the former permanent secretary in the Scottish Government, provided an inspiring introduction of the development cycle from a sector-based administration to a common one. Sir John says that a mindset change was needed – it was started during the minority government in 2007, and now continued by the majority government, adopting an entirely new course:

Sir John says that the government budget is seen as one of the tools for consistent governance in Scotland. This is important so that the common good of the nation is supported in a successful way. The top level of the secretary organisation still needs structures where responsibility is combined. We cannot afford to manage “in many directions”.

Scotland found it necessary to discontinue separate departments so the the success criteria of the civil servant management and politicians as well would be based on the joint success of the entire nation instead of personal performance. Scotland finds it important that instead of separate partial strategies, the government has one strategy which is also used for controlling local administration. Sound like intense centralisation?

However, a joint performance goal framework and set of indicators has been introduced as the “glue” in Scotland. ”Scotland Performs” is presented as a laminated A4 panel which is easy to hang on the wall of all civil servant offices. Within this goal framework, individual organisations and civil servants are given freedom to select the methods. We hear that it is essential for leading civil servants to perceive their identity through the national performance instead of their official status.

Sirpa Kekkonen, Counsellor, Prime Minister’s Office