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Draft Revised National Outcomes

– in the Scottish Parliament on 24th May 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-12324, in the name of Bob Doris, on the report on the consultation on the Scottish Government’s draft national outcomes. I invite members who wish to speak in the debate to press their request-to-speak buttons. I call Bob Doris to speak to and move the motion on behalf of the Local Government and Communities Committee.

Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

Thank you for the opportunity to open the debate. The kind of Scotland that we want to live in and our vision for the Scotland that we will leave for our children are the key focus of the draft national outcomes. Those outcomes, along with the Scottish Government’s purpose from its national performance framework, were refreshed in 2016, and, in late March this year, a revised set of draft national outcomes was laid in Parliament. The Local Government and Communities Committee was designated as the lead committee for consideration of those outcomes.

I know that members eagerly awaited the publication of our report last week, which has the rather snappy title of “Report on the Consultation on the Scottish Government’s Draft National Outcomes”. It is zingy, is it not, Presiding Officer?

The report might not sound like a page turner, but the draft outcomes and the policies that will flow from them will impact on every single one of us in Scotland for many years to come, so the work of our committee and the other committees that contributed their views for our report was extremely important. I therefore thank everyone for their diligent work in the area.

It is fair to say that not many of us could object to outcomes such as

“We tackle poverty by sharing opportunities, wealth and power more equally” and

“We grow up loved, safe and respected so that we can realise our full potential.”

The national indicators, which will be used to track progress against the outcomes, were equally of interest to the committee.

Before I turn to the committee’s recommendations, I will set out the scrutiny approach that our committee adopted. The draft national outcomes were laid on 29 March, which was the last sitting day before the April recess. The Parliament then had 40 sitting days in which to carry out the scrutiny. As it happens, today is the 40th day, so we are just in the nick of time. That timescale meant that the Local Government and Communities Committee had to seek views, consider them, take evidence and report by last week.

Given the broad range of 11 national outcomes, I wrote to all committee conveners, inviting them to consider those national outcomes that fall within their remits. In the time that was available, the Local Government and Communities Committee was unable to give any consideration to other committees’ responses, but we have published them alongside our report, so they should be seen as part of the committee’s report and form part of today’s debate.

Given the short timetable for scrutiny, it is unsurprising that one of the recommendations that was made—not just by our committee but by a number of others—was a plea for more scrutiny time in the future. The legislation provides 40 sitting days for scrutiny, but perhaps next time the Scottish Government could publish an initial draft well in advance of the formal laying date, so that we could engage more meaningfully with communities and stakeholders before the formal 40-day scrutiny process began. I would welcome the cabinet secretary’s views on how much more time might be provided for future iterations of the national outcomes.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

I will write back to the committee, as would be expected of the Government. However, I am flexible with regard to the specific matter of future timetables. I have complied with the legislation that the Parliament has approved, but I am open-minded on providing even more time. It is also important to reflect on the fact that there has been extensive pre-parliamentary scrutiny, which has helped to inform the process that we are now undertaking.

Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

That is helpful. Our report acknowledges that 16,000 people attended public events across the country and that 220 organisations engaged with the Government. However, our committee would also like to have some engagement with civic Scotland while the outcomes are in draft form. We would like to be part of that process.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

As the committee convener, does Bob Doris agree that pre-parliamentary scrutiny is not the same as actual parliamentary scrutiny and that parliamentarians should have had longer?

Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

What parliamentary scrutiny should look like is formally laid out in statute, and the Government abided by that. However, our unanimous committee recommendation is that we should go beyond that in pre-parliamentary scrutiny. That is what we signed up to as a committee, and I welcome the fact that the cabinet secretary has agreed to look at that in the future.

Given the challenges, I am especially thankful to all those who responded to our call for comments on social media and those who took the time to write to us with their views. I also thank the other parliamentary committees for responding to us with their comments. In our report, we call on the Scottish Government to respond to each committee on its comments and recommendations, and I hope that the cabinet secretary will confirm today that the Scottish Government will do that.

The current set-up of the national performance framework and the national outcomes is not new. The framework was established in 2007 and created a 10-year vision for Scotland, which was refreshed in 2011 and again in 2016 to reflect both lessons learned from across the public sector and changing Government priorities.

When the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill was passed in this chamber, the national outcomes gained a statutory footing for the first time, which is why we are all here for this debate. Under the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, the Scottish Government is now required to consult the Scottish Parliament on any proposed revisions to the national outcomes and to give details of the consultation processes that it has followed.

I turn to my committee’s scrutiny. Although most of the 11 draft national outcomes can be linked to the remit of virtually every committee in the Parliament, we identified three areas that fall largely within our remit. I have already mentioned the outcomes of tackling poverty and growing up in a loving and safe environment. The third outcome is that

“We live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe.”

The views that we received on those draft national outcomes and the ambitions contained in them were generally supportive. It is hard to argue with them as a vision for Scotland. Having said that, our scrutiny of those three outcomes flagged up some issues in relation to which we have made recommendations that we want the Government to address.

It seems sensible to start with the stated overall purpose of the draft national outcomes, which is

“to focus ... on creating a more successful country with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish through increased wellbeing and sustainable and inclusive economic growth.”

That is the top-line national outcome. It is virtually the same as the purpose in the current national performance framework, but the words “wellbeing” and “inclusive” have now been added. During our scrutiny, we heard the view that the purpose seems to conflate the means and the end. It was questioned whether the purpose should be to create a more successful country with opportunities to flourish, and increased wellbeing and sustainable economic growth would be two ways of achieving that. We are perhaps conflating the tools to achieve the outcomes with the outcomes that we want to achieve—all in the same sentence.

During our evidence session with the cabinet secretary, he explained that he was content that the purpose is expressed in a meaningful way and that it gets across what the Scottish Government is trying to achieve. Nevertheless, we recommend that the Scottish Government look again at the wording of its purpose and separate those things out so that it can focus more clearly on the vision for the future of Scotland rather than on both the vision and the road map of how to get there—the tools that we have with which to achieve that vision.

I turn to the national indicators. Some indicators that are currently listed in the national performance framework are no longer listed under the new draft national outcomes. For example, the outcome around high-quality public services has vanished completely, although we all know that having high-quality public services is one of the Government’s top priorities. The committee is keen to ensure that progress against that outcome continues to be measured and reported on in some way.

Similarly, although the Scottish Government has committed itself to the United Nations sustainable development goals, which are globally agreed priorities for tackling poverty and inequality in UN member states until 2030, many of the indicators in the UN sustainable development goals have not been specifically included in the indicators for the draft national outcomes. We accept the cabinet secretary’s explanation that the national performance framework is not the place to measure the delivery of all the UN sustainable development goals, especially given that there are 232 indicators compared to the 79 that make it into the NPF. We have, however, recommended that information on progress against the UN sustainable development goals be made available alongside information on progress against the NPF outcomes indicators in one easily accessible place online, expressed transparently and in plain English, so that anyone with an interest can track the progress against them all. That is especially important given the cabinet secretary’s assurance that the revised national outcomes have been framed by the UN sustainable goals, which the committee welcomed.

Another concern that was raised with us was about how there will be meaningful measurement of the progress that has been made against some indicators. For example, how can we measure loneliness or how loved children feel? Many people questioned how meaningful those indicators are if we cannot demonstrate a measurement of them. If I recall correctly, the cabinet secretary said that a lot of that information would be contained in the 2018 national household survey and that there would be a matrix for measuring some of those things. However, a lot more clarity about how some of them will be measured would be welcome.

In evidence, the cabinet secretary told the committee:

“What is important to us as a society cannot always be measured, but we should still be able to express it and, if we can measure it, we should try to do so.”—[

Official Report, Local Government and Communities Committee

, 18 April 2018; c 7.]

That is a reasonable position. We know the right thing to do, even if it is not always easy or possible to measure it, so that is certainly a sentiment that the committee can agree with. We note that, although these things cannot be measured specifically, proxy measures can be used to indicate progress. Therefore, it is important that they are included in the national performance framework.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, the national outcomes will impact on every person in Scotland. It is, therefore, vital that the Parliament be given the opportunity to provide its views on them to the Scottish Government. The Local Government and Communities Committee will continue to monitor the direction of progress of the national outcomes, especially as part of the new outcomes-focused budget scrutiny process.

It has been my pleasure to open the debate.

I move,

That the Parliament notes the findings and recommendations in the Local Government and Communities Committee’s 7th report, 2018 (Session 5),

Report on the Consultation on the Scottish Government’s Draft National Outcomes

(SP Paper 317), and the other committees’ responses contained in the annexe to the report.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Thank you, Mr Doris. I call Graeme Dey, the convener of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, to speak on behalf of that committee.

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

I welcome the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee and to provide our views on the review of national outcomes.

In practice, having just 40 sitting days to complete parliamentary scrutiny of such an important document proved, from our perspective, quite inadequate, as it limited our engagement with stakeholders. We wrote to 12 stakeholders seeking their views on the revised national outcomes and the proposed national indicators within the committee’s remit and received responses from seven of those stakeholders. Those responses informed our deliberations and our interactions with the cabinet secretary and her officials when they appeared before us. The committee made best use of the limited time at its disposal but, self-evidently, the scrutiny process would be more robust if a more flexible approach could be deployed, as was discussed earlier.

In considering the review, members looked at the three key existing national outcomes that relate to the remit of the

Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee

, noting that those have been replaced with just one national outcome. We recognise the desire to have focused outcomes. However, Scotland has world-leading research capacity, for example, which underpins everything that we do. We would therefore welcome the Scottish Government’s view on the call for the reinclusion of research and innovation within the national outcomes before the framework is finalised.

We also looked at the national indicators to track progress in achieving the revised environment national outcome and those, too, have changed. The committee has a number of recommendations on the indicators. We ask the Scottish Government to give further consideration to including a climate change adaptation and mitigation-related indicator and an indicator of resilience from a climate change adaptation perspective.

The committee also heard calls for Scotland’s carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions in consumption to be a national indicator. We would welcome the view of the Scottish Government on that and on how it might be calculated. We will be considering the climate change indicators for greenhouse gases and Scotland’s carbon footprint, and the target against which to track progress, within our scrutiny of the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill.

We heard concerns about the absence of an indicator relating to land ownership by type. Some thought that that was a missed opportunity in light of the renewed policy emphasis on land reform as a driver for sustainable development in Scotland.

The committee itself had concerns about the indicators for the green economy and resource efficiency and we would welcome further information as to why the indicator relating to growth in the green economy was not included; why there is no resource efficiency or circular economy indicator; and why the indicator to increase renewable electricity production has been dropped.

The committee recently completed an inquiry into air quality in Scotland and we would welcome further consideration of the need for, and the benefit of, including an indicator that assesses the reduction of pollution and the impact of that on the health of the population.

The committee will be focusing particularly on the marine environment over the next three years and there are three additional indicators associated with that. We consider the health and cleanliness of the marine environment to be a priority and an overall assessment of the marine environment requires additional indicators. However, we question the usefulness of an aggregate indicator for Scottish seas, as it could mask problems in specific locations. We sought assurance that, in reporting on the sustainability of stocks, the Scottish Government will focus on specific issues and areas of concern in addition to reporting on the general trend.

Although the new indicator relating to the sustainability of fish stocks is an improvement, we wonder whether it alone is sufficient to provide a good indication of the health of Scotland’s marine environment. We understand that the biodiversity indicator is to be revised to include terrestrial and marine biodiversity and we welcome that. However, we note that there is no clear descriptor for that indicator and we are disappointed that that has not been included in the review.

The committee explored how the outcomes and indicators will be measured and what further work is planned in relation to that. We are concerned that the proposed draft NPF does not specify targets and we consider that it could be improved by better connecting the outcomes to the underlying targets. More work needs to be done to ensure that the indicators are more specific and measurable.

The committee expects environmental indicators to be embedded across all outcomes and welcomes the alignment of the NPF with the sustainable development goals. We encourage the Scottish Government to consider further opportunities to connect the NPF more closely to the SDGs and reflect that in the final framework.

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

Do I have time, Presiding Officer?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

You are in your last minute, but I will let you make up the time.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

Before it turns into a trend, I make the point that the sustainable development goals are absolutely aligned to and fundamental to every aspect of the national performance framework. All members should be aware of that.

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

I thank the cabinet secretary for that clarity.

The committee considers that it would have been helpful if the review had clearly set out the criteria that were used for assessment of the indicators and it recommends that the Scottish Government includes them in future review documents. However, overarching all our consideration is a concern that reporting progress in meeting the indicators on aggregate may—I stress that word—mask problems or issues in particular areas and in meeting specific targets. Therefore, we would welcome assurance that information on specific areas of concern will be highlighted when reporting on indicators at an aggregate level.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I call Gordon Lindhurst, who is convener of the Economy Jobs and Fair Work Committee, to speak on behalf of the committee.

Photo of Gordon Lindhurst Gordon Lindhurst Conservative

I will begin with the bard—not that one, the other one. To paraphrase from “Twelfth Night”, some are born niche, some achieve nicheness and some have nicheness thrust upon them.

The Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee is on rather a run. Whether we are natural born anorak wearers I will leave for others to judge, although that can be dangerous. However, earlier this year we completed an inquiry into the joys of economic data, and our 90-page report is the talk of the steamie—in the statistical community at least. Currently, we are examining European structural and investment funds, the regulations for which are 600 pages long. That is just nuts—NUTS, nomenclature of territorial units for statistics. I thank the officials for my copy of the mere five-page jargon buster. Then along came the opportunity to consider the national outcomes consultation. How could we resist?

I will cover three areas from my committee’s perspective: consultation, alignment and national indicators.

The Confederation of British Industry, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry and Women’s Enterprise Scotland provided input to the consultation. However, the extent to which the views of the wider business community were sought is unclear. For example, it is unclear how small and medium-sized enterprises—the mainstay of the Scottish economy—were encouraged to have their say. Those that were consulted said that they wanted something simpler, shorter and more accessible. Therefore, the fact that the number of indicators has gone from 54 to 79 raises a collective eyebrow. How will the Scottish Government ensure that the tally is manageable and meaningful?

The second area is alignment, which has been a bit of a buzzword since the enterprise and skills review. A key role of the new strategic board, which is chaired by Nora Senior, is better aligning the enterprise agencies. We are told that that covers prioritisation, avoiding duplication, reviewing performance and encouraging joined-up thinking.

It can also mean clarifying terminology. Pinning down the meaning of “inclusive growth”, for instance, has been something of a hobby for us. Last year the chief economist said that there was

“no single measure”,

that it was

“multidimensional and” that

“it challenges you to look beyond GDP”.—[

Official Report

,

Economy Jobs and Fair Work Committee

, 14 November 2017; c 22.]

Nora Senior told us in February:

“There is a discussion to be had on the definition of inclusive growth and whether it should focus on gender, geography or generation.”—[

Official Report

,

Economy Jobs and Fair Work Committee

, 27 February 2018; c 6.]

On 1 May, Keith Brown informed us that the fundamentals were “distribution, equity and fairness”.

I trust that the enterprise agencies are all following that and, indeed, following all of this.

A further aspect of alignment concerns the UN’s sustainable development goals. The cabinet secretary described them as “a fundamental building block” of the national performance framework, and his officials said that reporting on the main goals will be done through the Scotland performs website and the annual budget statement. Our question—particularly for devolved policy areas—is whether the Scottish Government intends to report on progress in a way that is disaggregated from the United Kingdom.

The third area is the national indicators—the level down from outcomes. As we move away from previous time-based purpose targets, our concern is impact and measurement. What will the benchmark be, and how should policy be tracked and monitored without a timeframe? In the words of Montesquieu,

“Success in the majority of circumstances depends on knowing how long it takes to succeed.”

The NPF is seen as an international leader for approaches to wellbeing in public policy, but it remains merely a means of improvement, not the improvement itself. That said, we welcome the aspirational dimension of the national outcomes and the NPF review.

In the data inquiry, we called for a more agile, imaginative and ambitious approach. The national outcomes must be an integral part of that. The principle should be to consider not only what is readily measurable but what could more usefully be measured. As the Carnegie UK Trust put it, “Measure what we treasure”, because what might seem a niche topic can shape decisions.

As I come to my close, we are back where we started. With decision making comes accountability. A person does not have to be an anorak to work here, but it can help.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I am just getting over the anorak reference.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

I know that the Deputy Presiding Officer is in awe of Gordon Lindhurst’s use of poetry and the bard in setting out the evangelisation for the national performance framework. Me, too. I was thinking about which bard he was going to use and could only think quickly of Rabbie Burns in relation to the national performance framework.

I will make the connection. Rabbie Burns said:

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us

To see oursels as ithers see us!”

That is important—it was not scripted, of course—because we have engaged comprehensively with the public to establish what kind of country the public want Scotland to be, and I have followed the parliamentary process and gone beyond my statutory requirements in that regard. We did not simply leave it to the self-selecting people who might complete every survey; we went out, and there was great work done by Oxfam and the Carnegie UK Trust, which we commissioned to undertake the exercise for us.

There are things that can be measured, such as economic growth and, absolutely, inclusive economic growth, but what came across was about the sense of wellbeing and kindness that people want to ensure that we instil in our society. This is about actions across society, and about the cultures that we create.

The first national performance framework, which is over 10 years old, changed how the Government did business, and how we helped to direct our agencies and departments and worked with partners such as the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and local government. So far, the proposed national performance framework has been exceptionally well received by environmental organisations, human rights organisations and many others, not the least of which is COSLA. They have unanimously backed the proposition that we have put forward.

I accept that more parliamentary scrutiny—more than the proposed 40 days—would be welcomed by Parliament, and I have already said that I am open to that. However, let us not diminish the pre-parliamentary scrutiny by community groups, stakeholders and the cross-party forum on which all political parties that are represented in the chamber have been represented for a while. That forum has been totally engaged on the direction of travel, the consultation exercise and the process that I undertook as lead minister. I appreciate that the Local Government and Communities Committee has been the lead committee, and I am very grateful for the work of all the committees, which I will respond to shortly.

The national performance framework sets out the vision and purpose, how we intend to deliver our outcomes, and the measurements that we will use, while recognising that not everything can be measured. A culture of collaboration has helped to transform how we do business in the public sector, but the national performance framework actually goes much further. It is a purpose and vision for the whole nation, so that all partners and stakeholders—private, public and third sector—can collaborate and align our efforts to create the kind of country that we want to be

Bob Doris was right to say that the outcomes are beyond objection, but that is because of the nature of the collaboration through which we arrived at them. Let us bear it in mind that the first time a national performance framework came out there was minimal parliamentary scrutiny. This is a much-enhanced process. It is absolutely up for refinement and improvement, but there has been a far better process of engagement than anything that we have had before.

I am unapologetic about some of the new indicators that we propose. There is an interesting difference already between those who argue for fewer or the same number of indicators and other conveners who have said that there should be more, and have asked why we have not included other indicators. There has to be a balance in what we measure for the purposes of the framework, and we should recognise, as the convener of the Local Government and Communities Committee has appropriately done, that many other measurements will still be undertaken but reported elsewhere.

I know that Andy Wightman will probably make reference to the UN sustainable development goals. He would be right to do so, but I want to impress upon members that our indicators are absolutely aligned and fundamental. Some of the indicators that we have already met, such as basic sanitation, are more appropriate to other nations than they are to Scotland, so our focus need not be on them, but we know that we must make far more progress in other areas—gender inequality, for example.

Some of the new indicators and measurements are so important because they represent the progress that we want to make as a society. There are new and improved indicators relating to issues such as child wellbeing, happiness, ability to influence local decisions, engagement with trade unions and work-related ill health, and I think that they speak to our purpose and to the values that we want to express. We have 11 new national outcomes describing what we want to achieve, and we want to set out in an open and transparent way the progress that we make towards them.

I am content with our purpose. We are not just adding words for their own sake. Defining our mission around wellbeing and inclusive growth is, in fact, world leading. This Government and this Parliament are internationally recognised for those efforts. That is why, when we launch the framework, there will be a great deal of international interest, just as there was for the inclusive growth conference that the Government hosted earlier this year, with attendees from other Governments, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Monetary Fund. People are watching our strategy closely, and are recognising that we want to deliver sustainable economic growth in a fairer, more progressive and more inclusive way. Wellbeing is multidimensional, but we are clear that we want to align all our public sector agencies, the private sector and wider society towards that goal.

Work that I have done with local government, trade unions and charities has been particularly constructive, and we have already relied upon the extensive consultations that took place earlier, including the fairer Scotland and healthier Scotland consultations, which has meant not just that there were tens of thousands of participants at public events, but that hundreds of thousands of people were engaged and reached online. It has not been just the consultation churn that we usually go through, in which we go back to the same people: we have drawn on the range of engagements that the Government has had with Scottish society. It is interesting to note that 220 organisations were invited to our consultation activities, in order to ensure that we left no stone unturned in identifying the priorities for the people of Scotland.

I know that Parliament and the committees will ask us to do more and will, rightly, probe us on what we should be reporting and trying to achieve, but we are substantially aligned so far on what we want to achieve as our purpose and the outcomes for our nation.

Let us not try to find ways to divide over the process. In a cross-party and cross-sectoral way, we are trying to set out what we want to achieve for our country, so that we can positively align all our efforts to create a fairer and wealthier society in which we tackle inequality in a cohesive and confident manner. In that regard, I look forward to the rest of the debate and to presenting the completed national performance framework to the Parliament and people of Scotland.

Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

I am delighted to participate in the national performance framework debate this afternoon as a member of the Local Government and Communities Committee. I acknowledge the work that other committees have done to support the process.

The national outcomes are the Scottish Government’s broad policy aims. They are part of the national performance framework, which sets out the Scottish Government’s purpose and provides a way to hold the Scottish Government to account against its stated aims. The national indicators are high-level measures that show how the Scottish Government is performing.

However, the new outcomes are slightly vague and ambiguous. That gives me cause for concern, because it might prevent effective scrutiny of the Government’s performance, which is what we want. As we have already heard, the outcomes were originally set in 2007, with other outcomes added in 2011 and 2016.

The Scottish Government chose to seek views in phases and gathered opinion from the general public and from a range of experts. We have already heard that tens of thousands of individuals and hundreds of organisations engaged in the process. It is very encouraging that we have such support and that kind of mechanism, which I welcome. Those people included stakeholders from many organisations, adults and young people, as well as Scottish Government officials and ministers. The consultation asked for people’s views on what kind of Scotland they want to live in, which is a good question to ask. It is important that we understand, reflect on and challenge those views.

There are 11 national outcomes, but the Local Government and Communities Committee was involved in considering only three of them. They included:

“We live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe.”

That is very good. We should take that on board, but it is slightly vague and ambiguous.

Another outcome that we considered was:

“We tackle poverty by sharing opportunities, wealth and power more equally.”

Nobody can disagree with any of that, but it is about how that is managed and effected.

A further outcome that we considered was:

“We grow up loved, safe and respected so that we can realise our full potential.”

Exactly. Everybody should have the opportunity to unlock their potential, but it is difficult to gauge what “loved” and “safe” are in some situations and it is important that we understand that. The outcomes are all well and good, but it is sometimes difficult to equate some of them, due to their ambiguity.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

Does Mr Stewart agree that some things, such as kindness, are worth expressing, even if they cannot be measured? We might not be able to measure kindness, but if people want it and there is a joint aspiration for it, it is still worth saying.

Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

They are all aspirations and nobody would deny that. However, when the Government is trying to manage, group and organise what it and the nation wants to achieve, the aspirations are very difficult to equate, so we need to do more to make that happen. I hope that the cabinet secretary will consider expanding the whole process.

The new outcomes show a shift by the Scottish Government away from hard targets towards vaguer promises. If the Government was committed, it would welcome serious and rigorous scrutiny to determine its success. In fact, the challenges give the impression that the Government does not want to be held to account.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

Can Mr Stewart give an example of a specific indicator in which we are trying to be vague, rather than deliver progress?

Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

As I have already said, there are lots of indicators that want prosperity and other things to happen, but they can happen only if the Government delivers and puts funding behind the process to make it happen.

Moreover, it is increasingly important that any changes to the national indicators do not mean that they are no longer comparable with the previous indicators, so that we can check that year-on-year progress is being made.

Scottish Conservative members are disappointed that the majority of the United Nations sustainable development goals have not been included in the revised indicators. It is important that those goals are realised.

Although the Scottish Government might argue that it has gone beyond what is required by the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 with regard to the provision of details of the draft outcomes and indicators, the 40-day consultation period was seen as insufficient. As other members have indicated, it was inadequate—

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

That is what the member’s party voted for.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

It would be helpful if you would intervene, cabinet secretary—

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

No, you will have to ask.

Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

I have already taken two interventions, and I want to continue. [

Interruption

.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Heckling does not help. On you go, Mr Stewart. You are stirring it up a wee bit.

Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I am passionate about the whole process, so I want to ensure that we have a good debate.

We must take on board the fact that the consultation period was inadequate. The Local Government and Communities Committee has recommended that the Scottish Government take steps to extend the timescale for parliamentary scrutiny of the next draft national performance framework, and I strongly support that request.

In recent years, Audit Scotland has highlighted concerns about the extent to which public sector bodies contribute to the achievement of the national outcomes. Many public sector bodies have failed to include national outcomes in their reports, which has made it difficult to determine what impact their activities and their expenditure have had on those outcomes. It was therefore encouraging to hear the cabinet secretary’s commitment to ensuring that, in the future, the national performance framework will be fully embedded in the public sector.

The inclusion of reference to poverty in the national outcomes is, of course, welcome, but in common with many other members, I still feel that the wording of the relevant outcome is a bit ambiguous. The Child Poverty Action Group has questioned whether tackling poverty is an outcome, and has suggested that it is a means to achieving the goal of eradicating poverty. In addition, the outcome does not make reference to the drivers of poverty and is limited in its approach.

We welcome the opportunity to debate the committee’s report on the draft national outcomes. Although we have certain reservations about the new draft outcomes, we welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to ensuring that the national performance framework is embedded in public policy. I hope that what is said in the debate will lead to the Scottish Government confirming that the data that is provided on the national outcomes will remain comparable. That will ensure that progress against the national outcomes can be properly evaluated by the Parliament, which is extremely important.

I thank members who have participated in the debate so far, and I look forward to listening to the rest of it. [

Applause

.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Oh! I thought that peace must have broken out when I was not looking.

I call James Kelly to open for Labour. You have six minutes, Mr Kelly.

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

I will do my very best to support the consensus, although I have noticed that the cabinet secretary has been a bit grumpy at times, which is not like him.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the Local Government and Communities Committee’s report. I commend not only the committee’s work, but the work that has been carried out by all the Parliament’s committees as part of the consultation on the national outcomes. I also commend the work of the round table and the important work that was done in the consultations that took place before the parliamentary consultation.

As Bob Doris said, the national outcomes are not a recent concept but one that goes back to 2007, when Scotland performs was introduced. At that point, there was a feeling that, eight years into devolution, vast sums of public money were being allocated in budgets without there being any measure of whether that expenditure was producing successful outcomes. That was the genesis of the debate on the national outcomes that we are having today, which is very welcome.

In a previous life, before I became an MSP, I was a business analyst, and I welcome the fact that we have measures and evidence and can look to assess whether the public money that we are investing is achieving the sort of outcomes that we want to see in relation to all the issues that we debate in this Parliament. From that point of view, this work is absolutely essential.

On the outcomes, I do not think that anyone can disagree with the suggestion that we want people to be well educated and healthy and that we want to do things such as tackle poverty. Crucial to what we are doing is that there must be a strong link to the budget process. There remain massive challenges for the Scottish Government in terms of the budget process and delivering properly on outcomes. I say that because there is now a £40 billion budget, and there remains a culture around budgeting—which I have seen not only in relation to the Scottish Parliament budget, but in the private sector—that involves budget holders, when the budget review comes around in December or January, trying to defend their budgets with the aim of maintaining the amount of money that they were allocated in previous years. Sometimes, budget holders do not have as their primary purpose a consideration of the outcome that they have been given the money to deliver. Because of the number of budget holders that are involved in the Scottish Government budget, changing that culture is a challenge.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

On that point, does Mr Kelly agree that there is a requirement for all public services—as well as, perhaps, other services—to align around that outcomes focus? There should be a transformational focus on outcomes, not just inputs. Equally, we in Parliament have a responsibility to focus a bit less on inputs and more on outcomes.

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

I absolutely endorse that approach. The question is not just about inputs; we need to change the debate in terms of outcomes.

The changes to the budget process that have been made are helpful, and having a longer-term cycle in the budget process would help. I acknowledge that it is incumbent not only on the Government but on all the political parties to change that approach.

The other thing that I would say is that if we want to change outcomes, we need to change the way in which we conduct the debate—that is absolutely fundamental. For example, on health, the reality is that people—certainly in the area that I represent—sometimes struggle to get general practitioner appointments. People are being left on waiting lists not only for longer than the legally permitted time, but for longer than the time specified for the ailments that they have. We are struggling to meet health targets, which means that we are struggling to meet the health outcomes.

I will develop that point more in my closing speech. For now, however, I will say that it is all very well having a debate this afternoon, agreeing the definitions and the indicators, clapping everyone on the back and saying how inclusive we are, but if, on the ground, the health service is failing, there are problems in education and the number of homeless applications for children in temporary accommodation is rocketing, that shows that there are real issues in terms of achieving the desired outcomes. To change that, we need an honest debate involving not only the Government—

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

Do I have time to take the intervention, Presiding Officer?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

You do, if it is a short one.

Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

The member makes important points about how public services fit into what we are talking about and he talks about negatives in that regard. However, does he agree that, if we are going to measure national outcomes properly, we also have to look at the positives and track what we are doing well, rather than just consider the negatives?

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

I am all for being positive, but the point that I would make is that there are issues on the ground—Mr Doris will see them in his Maryhill constituency, I am sure—and that, if we are serious about tackling them, we need an honest debate that is focused on priorities and how we manage taxation. If we do that, we can be serious about making a real attempt at achieving some of these outcomes.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Thank you—that was swift. I call Andy Wightman to open for the Green Party. You have six minutes, Mr Wightman.

Photo of Andy Wightman Andy Wightman Green

Today’s debate focuses on the national outcomes that are contained within the national performance framework. As Gordon Lindhurst—who is paying close attention to the debate as it proceeds—observed, the topic is not always one that immediately arouses political passions. Nevertheless, in the committees on which I sit—the Local Government and Communities Committee and the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee—it is fair to say that when we took evidence from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution and the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, members found themselves more interested and engaged in the topic than they first thought they would be, which was gratifying.

As Bob Doris mentioned in his opening remarks, having a clear idea of where one is going is important for any Government, and the national planning framework is as useful a framework as any in providing some direction, accountability—as James Kelly mentioned—and purpose for everything that Government does.

As has been emphasised, our role in Parliament is to perform some modest scrutiny of the proposed national outcomes as part of a statutory consultation process.

In the short time that I have available, I want to focus on two areas that have been the subject of debate and which have been mentioned already today: the economic outcome and the status of the sustainable development goals. In doing so, I am aware that the statutory role of Parliament is restricted to being consulted on the outcomes, not the purposes, values or indicators. Nevertheless, as will be clear from my comments on the sustainable development goals, no one part of the overall framework can be considered in isolation from the others. I commend the cabinet secretary for recognising that in the consultation document and for going beyond the strict statutory obligations that the Government has in that regard.

In the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee report, I was a sole dissenting voice on the question of the overall purpose, and I had an interesting exchange with Derek Mackay on that topic when he gave evidence to the Local Government and Communities Committee. The purpose, as currently framed, is:

“to focus on creating a more successful country with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish through increased wellbeing, and sustainable and inclusive economic growth”.

As members are aware, and as became evident in evidence, “inclusive economic growth” is a contested term. Never mind that economic growth itself is problematic because it is predicated on a flawed metric of gross domestic product; making that growth inclusive is as yet not defined. Thus, to have the concept embedded in the highest level of the national planning framework is—as the Carnegie UK Trust pointed out and as Bob Doris highlighted in the Local Government and Communities Committee’s report—to confuse means and ends. The proposal has also been questioned by Oxfam and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

By contrast, the economic outcome is framed as Scotland having

“a globally competitive, entrepreneurial, inclusive and sustainable economy.”

I would rather have a co-operative economy than a competitive economy, but I agree that our economy, however it is framed, should be sustainable. Therefore, why is that broad outcome of inclusive economic growth, with no means or metrics associated with it, subverted by an overarching purpose that commits to a flawed, contested and ill-defined measure of what constitutes economic progress?

I hope that in the next iteration of the national planning framework it will be abundantly clear, through the growing body of evidence—most recently exemplified by the report, “Measuring What Matters: Improving the indicators of economic performance”, from the Institute for Public Policy Research commission on economic performance—that the purpose needs to be changed to one that reflects the very real limitations of any economy based on the current crude metrics of economic growth.

The second issue that I want to reflect on is the sustainable development goals, which are a set of global goals that have been agreed by all members of the UN and are binding on Scotland. They comprise 17 goals, 169 targets and 232 indicators, and the indicators are really quite specific. For example, goal 5 is on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, and the indicators include

“Proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments and local governments” and

“Proportion of total agricultural population with ownership or secure rights over agricultural land, by sex”.

I welcome the incorporation of the sustainable development goals into the national planning framework. However, to be clear—the cabinet secretary has commented on this twice now—just as the national performance framework comprises a purpose, values, outcomes and indicators, so the sustainable development goals comprise the goals themselves, targets and indicators.

Yet those goals, targets and indicators are only selectively and broadly incorporated into the NPF, and although I understand and agree that it would be inappropriate to incorporate them wholesale, I am concerned that the global framework for performance, which is measurable and reportable in a common framework across all UN member states, is not being used as the foundation for Scotland’s national performance framework.

Those concerns are reflected in the report from the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, which Graeme Dey has highlighted. I ask the Government to consider how it could connect the national performance framework more closely with the sustainable development goals. The next iteration of the NPF should consider how to do that, not least because of our obligation as part of the UK to report on the sustainable development goals.

Outcomes are important—

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

No, please conclude right now. Thank you. [

Interruption

.] Oh—you have another minute. I have spoken too early. I was deep listening to you—that is my problem. Carry on.

Photo of Andy Wightman Andy Wightman Green

Outcomes are important and the national performance framework remains a work in progress. Its introduction was a welcome and novel departure from conventional means of measuring progress through inputs, and it will be important that, more than a decade on from its introduction, the next review is more fundamental and assesses whether the framework provides the best way, in the light of international best practice, to measure the performance of a country.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I apologise, Mr Wightman. You kept your balance, which is important.

I call Willie Rennie to open for the Liberal Democrats. You have six minutes. Remember that, Presiding Officer.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

It is good to have a national performance framework. The fact that we measure beyond strict economic growth, that we consider happiness and satisfaction, which are influenced by, for example, the environment, the performance of public services, infrastructure, equality and the economy and that we try to align to UN sustainable development goals are all good things. It is also good that we review what is in and what is outwith the national performance framework. What is not good is that the framework is not part of the national discourse.

If I went down to Bonnygate in Cupar, which is in my constituency, and started to talk to people about the national performance framework, they would not have the faintest idea of what I was talking about. That happens quite often, but it would certainly be the case in that circumstance. [

Laughter

.] However, we do not even debate the framework in this Parliament. If we were to look back through the

Official Report

, we would see that it got only a handful of mentions in the past five years. In fact, the most mentions that the national performance framework has had in that period was when we last reviewed it. It is not part of the discourse in this Parliament. It should be, because the indicators are important and they should be the subject of big debates. We should be looking at the issue strategically, rather than in isolation, which is what we tend to do in this Parliament.

I suggest to the cabinet secretary that, every year, and perhaps in Government time, we should have a debate, not like this one, but on the substance of the indicators. The Government should have to come forward and explain itself.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

I appreciate that comment, and I will certainly give it thought. I do not dispute anything that Willie Rennie has said so far but, every year, on the production of my draft budget, I also produce the scorecard on the national outcomes and performance against those. It is also true to say—this takes us back to James Kelly’s point—that members are far more interested in the input measures than the outcomes, so there is a duty on us all to focus on that debate, too.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

The Government could help to force the Parliament to consider the national performance framework by creating time for an annual debate and putting forward the results of the framework in a broader sense, so that we could debate those matters in the chamber, rather than some of the issues that are perhaps of less value.

The cabinet secretary has agreed with me so far, but I want to bring some disagreement into the debate and look at some of the targets. Eight of the 11 purpose targets show no improvement or a decline. The decline in performance on income equality and regional equality is especially concerning. Overall, performance is stagnating, and is sluggish at best.

The national indicators are poor, too. Of the 55 indicators, 43 show no improvement or a drop in performance. Educational attainment has fallen, which is particularly concerning; we are failing on the number of people in poverty; and the abundance of breeding birds has declined.

In a variety of areas, we are not performing. It is important that we have an annual debate, so that we can argue the points. I am sure that the cabinet secretary would have a contrary view, or an explanation for that performance, but we never get into the guts of the matter. That is why we should have an annual debate, so that we can properly scrutinise in a strategic way. We debate the individual issues and have separate debates, but we should consider performance strategically, which would be much more valuable.

The cabinet secretary pointed out that there is a conclusion that we should not measure everything, which I find intriguing. Some people say that if we do not measure something it does not count, but if we measure everything does that devalue measurement? I suspect that it does. When we agree that we should measure everything, everyone comes up with a long list of all the things that should be measured and it is much more difficult to take things off the list. Instead, we should focus on what we are trying to change in the next five years, so that we can focus on the priorities for change, rather than trying to have the ultimate, comprehensive set of targets and indicators.

I noticed that one of the SNP back benchers pointed out that James Kelly was being far too negative. The Scottish Parliament is about focusing on the things that are going wrong, so that we can try to fix them. If we are not here to try to change society, why are we bothering to turn up to Parliament in the first place? If we just want to be complacent and dwell on what we are getting right, we will never deliver any change.

Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

I am the back-bench MSP that Mr Rennie was referring to. I was not accusing anyone of being too negative. If we are going to measure outcomes, we must measure them all, whether they are good, bad or indifferent, rather than focusing only on the negatives. That is how outcomes are measured.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

I do not agree. If we measure everything, we will not have a real focus on what the Parliament is trying to do, which is to make a better society. If measurement is just to satisfy the Government, we will get no further forward.

I know that that is difficult for members of the governing party and for Government ministers, but they must remember that they are here to try to change society. Of course, we will get the First Minister trotting out the list of greatest achievements of the previous week at First Minister’s questions. There are plenty of opportunities to do that, including patsy back-benchers’ questions, which are always available for everyone. [

Laughter

.] I know that Bob Doris would never do such a thing.

What we should really be trying to do in the national performance framework is focus as objectively as possible on what we are trying to change or improve. As the chief executive of Scottish Enterprise pointed out, how do we know what the effect of policy is? Things might have improved, but we should ask whether that was because of Government action or because it was going to happen anyway. Finding a way in which to measure that would be valuable.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

We now move to the open debate. Speeches of up to five minutes, please, because we are a bit pushed for time.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

I thank the Local Government and Communities Committee for bringing the debate to the chamber and I welcome the opportunity to contribute.

In considering national outcomes as a tool to set the tone for the Government’s direction of travel, we would all support the framework whole-heartedly. In business parlance, it equates to a mission statement, whereas in sporting terms—to go back to my roots—it is having a long-term aspiration, such as a young sportsperson wanting to be Olympic champion or to lift the football world cup for Scotland. I was trying to take the chamber with me with that one.

We might not end up at the final goal that we set, but if we manage the process well, we will be able to understand how close we came. Not hitting the goal does not necessarily equate to failure—I am drawing on my experience, once again.

I am a great believer in aspiration and in setting down the highest of goals so that we can read and refer to them. In that way we can constantly remind ourselves where we are heading, ensuring that whatever we do is delivering on those objectives. I am also a great believer in committing to those goals and aspirations. To do so requires short and medium-term deliverable objectives that are measurable and time sensitive, with enough flex to be able to adapt as goals are met or otherwise. The road will not be straight or without bumps, so having that ability to adapt as things change is key. The best strategies are consistent, but have the flexibility to adapt.

I welcome the fact that the Government has written down its high-level objectives. The strategy for delivering against the objectives is not a strategy unless it is written down. Far be it from me—usually—to quote Alastair Campbell, but I agree with him that

“developing a strategy is about having arguments, not avoiding them.”

I would go further, having taken part in many arguments in this chamber, and say that those arguments should at least attempt to be constructive, and therefore that the Government should open itself to scrutiny. That is really what this debate is about.

Good strategy is about action, not theory. That is where effective tactics come into play. In other words, what are the step-by-step initiatives that will ultimately deliver the national outcomes? The cabinet secretary said that we should not have a debate about the process, but I think that we should be able to scrutinise the process, because if we do not do so, the national outcomes will not be achieved.

That is where the Government is coming up a little light. It is unwilling to open up its ideas to scrutiny, and sometimes it tries to close down debate, which inevitably leads to much weaker propositions and outcomes. The Government has high-level objectives that I think that we all agree with and support, but we need to consider the nuts and bolts that are required to deliver on them.

Governments and politicians are always accused of avoiding issues, making high-level promises and commitments and using vague language without backing up their commitments with a businesslike strategy. My concern is that the Government is falling into that pattern of behaviour.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

If Mr Whittle thinks that I have got something wrong in the proposed national performance framework, will he identify just one outcome that he would like me to change, in light of what he has said so far?

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

If the cabinet secretary had listened to what I was saying he would know that his outcomes are not the issue. It is how he will deliver on those outcomes—the process of delivery—that I am questioning.

It is not enough to set objectives in soundbites and language that the public wants to hear. In setting national outcomes, the Government must understand each objective and the steps that will need to be taken to achieve it—and the timeframe for taking those steps. It must be prepared to make the sacrifices that will be needed if the goal is to be reached.

It could be suggested that in certain circumstances the SNP is particularly good at working towards a certain goal, irrespective of all the sacrifices for the rest of the country that that would entail. However, my feeling from reading the report is that there is the potential to abandon hard targets in favour of vagueness that is difficult to quantify and measure, so that the Government cannot fail. For example, one of the national outcomes is:

“We are better educated, more skilled and more successful”—

I cannot disagree with that. It goes on to say that we are

“renowned for our research and innovation.”

I think that we already are, and I want that to continue.

Another outcome is:

“Our young people are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens.”

However, in recent weeks, during a Conservative debate and at First Minister’s question time, we have seen the Government’s reluctance to have its record on education scrutinised against its own targets.

I see that the Presiding Officer is indicating that I am coming to the end of my allotted time.

The Local Government and Communities Committee’s report highlights the lack of clarity on goals and objectives, measurables and strategies, and on tactics to deliver on objectives.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I remind speakers that they have up to five minutes.

Photo of Joan McAlpine Joan McAlpine Scottish National Party

I am delighted to speak on the Local Government and Communities Committee’s report on the national performance framework. It is important to remind ourselves, as the Carnegie UK Trust did in its briefing, that the Scottish Government broke new ground globally when it introduced a holistic definition of social progress, back in 2007. All members of this Parliament should celebrate that.

I am the convener of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee, but I am speaking in a personal capacity, because my committee lacked the time to scrutinise the draft outcomes as we would have wished to do. However, we responded to the Local Government and Communities Committee’s request for our views, as Mr Doris said.

I welcome the proposed new draft outcome for culture, which reads:

“We are creative and our vibrant and diverse cultures are expressed and enjoyed widely”.

Attached to that outcome are the following indicators:

“Attendance at cultural events or places of culture

Participation in a cultural activity

Growth in cultural economy

People working in arts and culture”.

All my colleagues on the committee welcomed the new outcome in a letter, which appears in the report that we are debating today. The outcome will also be welcomed by stakeholders who have long campaigned for a specific outcome on culture, although none responded to the Local Government and Communities Committee’s call for evidence—I assume that the organisations simply did not have time; I acknowledge that they contributed to the extensive pre-parliamentary scrutiny, and I welcome that contribution.

Those organisations include culture counts, which is based within the Federation of Scottish Theatre, and which represents 40 different arts organisations. It has led the campaign for an improved place for culture in Scotland’s national outcomes. In 2011, that campaigning resulted in the inclusion of an indicator on cultural engagement. That was welcomed, because there is an increasing understanding across the world that cultural engagement is valuable not just in and of itself, but because it has a beneficial impact across policy areas such as health and wellbeing, learning and equality, and because it contributes to sustainable economic growth through our vibrant creative industries and the work of many thousands of individual artists.

As the convener of the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party group on culture, I chaired a meeting devoted to this issue in March 2015, during which culture counts pointed out that culture is the glue that holds society together; it can address inequality, and it can empower communities. It was also pointed out that Sweden, in particular, has recognised for some time that cultural participation and enjoyment impacts on a broad range of policy areas, and that is also apparent in its budget streams.

Of course, we also see that in practice in Scotland. It is certainly something that the cabinet secretary with responsibility for culture, Fiona Hyslop, understands very well. To quote just one example, some members here will have been able to enjoy last night’s event celebrating the 10th birthday of Sistema Scotland’s big noise orchestras, which transform the lives of children who live in parts of Scotland that face social and economic challenges. The funding for that amazing project did not just come from the culture budget stream; it was considered to be an infrastructure investment, because the orchestras would help to build the communities’ resilience.

That is one example, and I would like to know what other examples there are. Will the new outcome on creativity result in more cultural spending across all budget strands?

I am slightly nervous, because we are told that the UN sustainable development goals underpin the national performance framework. In the Government’s document on the framework, underneath the creativity outcome, there are three linked UN sustainable development goals—improving gender equality, reducing inequality, and building sustainable cities and communities. I agree with all that, but I wonder why culture is not aligned to a wider range of sustainable development goals.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

You will have to be very quick.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

I simply want to make the point that the document can only express so much. What will appear online will show that interconnectivity right across the outcome, indicators and the UN’s sustainable goals in a more comprehensive fashion.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

You have half a minute left, Ms McAlpine.

Photo of Joan McAlpine Joan McAlpine Scottish National Party

I was going to ask the cabinet secretary for reassurance on that so I am pleased to receive it, because it will benefit the whole of society and not just the culture strand.

Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

During the 37 years of my working life in the public, private and voluntary sectors, I have witnessed and participated in numerous new approaches, fresh ideas and rethinks on how frameworks should look, feel and be worded. However, one fundamental thing does not change. Frameworks are there to say what we are going to do, how we are going to do it, and how we will know whether we have done it.

Is the debate that we are having today going to deliver that? I welcome the extensive conversations that the cabinet secretary has had—not personally but through his staff—and I also welcome his willingness to be flexible about the consultation. We hear today that there is quite a lot of debate to be had around some of the points. However, the challenge lies in ensuring that the indicators are understood and that the relationships between the indicators are coherent. In answer to the question that has just been asked, the cabinet secretary might stand up and say that he has done what I am about to ask, but we will see.

For example, a coherent and well-considered approach to tackling poverty is required, and, as they stand and from what I have seen, the indicators will not tell the full story. It appears that the indicators fail to appreciate that, for example, the more employees there are on the living wage, the more that will impact on the cost of living and potentially on food poverty. We must tackle poverty not simply by sharing wealth but by generating it, and by improving economic growth and productivity. More than that, there must be a focus on the drivers of poverty beyond income.

Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

Does the member agree that being a living wage employer would come through in the policy that the indicators underpin, and that it is important?

Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

I return to my point that living wage employers—I hope that, eventually, that will be every employer—potentially drive up the cost of the products that they deliver. We have to see the interconnectivity between the outcomes and drivers that we ask for and the implications of what they mean for the workplace or the marketplace.

The national outcome fails to take into account the root causes of poverty such as the attainment gap, parental addiction, broken families and worklessness. There appears to be a salient omission in the indicators, which is the provision of not just fair work but flexible work. If there are to be opportunities for everyone, flexible work needs to be available to allow single parents or carers, for example, to participate and to utilise their skills.

I am slightly concerned that growing up “loved, safe and respected” is one of the weakest outcomes. We know that growing up loved will instil confidence and resilience in our children, but there must be a means to measure the extent to which that is actually achieved, otherwise we will not know whether we have done it. A good start in life can benefit people in many ways, so that outcome is perhaps one of the most important. Therefore, I have a request—it is among the many that the cabinet secretary will get. I am disappointed that there is no indicator regarding breastfeeding. That would be an easily measured and appropriate indicator.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

The answer that I will give is the one that I gave at the Local Government and Communities Committee. It is important to stress that we will still undertake many measurements, particularly national health service, health and social measurements, that may not feature in the national performance framework for the reason that Gordon Lindhurst and Willie Rennie gave: we cannot count everything. We will continue to measure breastfeeding and it will still be a health target, but for the purposes of the NPF, it will not feature. I agree that it is a priority and we want to deliver on it. It will still be measured and it will still be reported on.

Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

That is good news. Can I make an argument for it being higher up the agenda? F undamentally, there is no breastfeeding culture in this country, and breastfeeding is undermined by the promotion of formula milks that are not an adequate substitute, as the Breastfeeding Network constantly points out. It is worrying that, after six to eight weeks, only around 30 per cent of children are breastfed. Mothers come out of hospital early now—which is a good thing—and sometimes that means that they are discharged before breastfeeding is properly established. There are not enough resources to properly support mothers in the community, so supplementation rates are high.

We know that breastfeeding contributes to healthy weight and healthy cognitive development; it can also be important for forming positive relationships between mothers and babies, which can be vital in determining children’s future mental health and attainment outcomes. Breastfeeding is a very simple thing that could make a massive difference right across the framework, which is why it should be much higher up in what we say we want to do and in our outcomes. It is very measurable, so we will know if we have succeeded.

There has not been much improvement in the number of mothers in Scotland who breastfeed, and there has been little improvement in support to encourage more mothers to breastfeed. It has always been a health target, but it has not been paid the attention that it needs. That is why I want it up there on the agenda.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Can you close now, Ms Ballantyne?

Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

Fundamentally, I need to know whether policies are working. I agree with what Mr Rennie said, and that would be my challenge to the cabinet secretary. I like the way that the report looks—that is my upside—and a really good job has been done in the presentation.

Photo of Ivan McKee Ivan McKee Scottish National Party

Much of the debate has been about what should be included in the national performance framework outcomes, which is important. I hope in my contribution to explore the process whereby we can deliver those outcomes and the relationship between outcomes, indicators and targets. It is only by understanding those relationships, and how they support process improvement, that we can effectively direct resources towards the outcomes and ensure that they are something that we make progress towards, not just aspirations with no road map for delivery.

If it does not get that right, the process of public service delivery runs the risk of drift, lack of focus and succumbing to the simplicity of soundbites over substance. Delivering high-quality public services as efficiently as possible is what is at stake, and making a difference to people lives and doing so in a financially sustainable way is the prize.

Although the Scottish Government’s use of the performance framework is recognised as world leading compared with the work of other Governments, there is more to be done to match global best practice across all sectors. The need to embed the NPF in public bodies is recognised in the Local Government and Communities Committee’s report. Like all good continuous improvement activities, embedding is not an event but an on-going process. The more that public bodies build the framework outcomes and indicators into their work, the more effective they will be, and the more joined up government will be.

Of course, not every activity, objective or operational target is included in the NPF—nor should it be—but the relationship between those day-to-day operational measures and objectives and the higher-level, more strategic national performance outcomes must be clearly understood and mapped out. The hierarchy of key performance indicators cascading down from the national performance framework to local indicators and targets needs to be clear. If local service delivery is focused on a set of measures and objectives that exist in an island with no bridge to the NPF, we will struggle to succeed at all levels. The test of a truly well-functioning performance framework is not just what it contains but how relevant it is seen to be by those who are delivering on the ground. In any system where there is such a disconnect, there is inefficiency but also scope for improvement.

The work of Harry Burns’s review of targets and indicators in the health context also contributes to this discussion. It presents in a coherent fashion the ways in which outputs, indicators and targets are related as parts of a continuous improvement process under a whole-system approach. However, in the health context—and, I expect, across other public services—it also highlights the existence of multiple suites of performance indicators, not all of which will necessarily be linked to each other or to the NPF indicators.

More work needs to be done on the relationship between spend and outcomes, and the budget review process is putting more emphasis on understanding the links. Although it is not always possible to directly map spend on to a specific outcome—for example, much spend is on process infrastructure that contributes to multiple outcomes—that does not mean that we should not try to do so where possible. Indeed, constantly assessing the relationships between inputs, outputs and outcomes is essential to focusing resources most effectively.

The Christie commission stressed the importance of moving beyond a focus on inputs towards assessing the impact of our actions on outcomes. That has already been mentioned in the debate. However, that does not come naturally to politicians. The lure of headline-grabbing extra resource commitments is difficult to ignore. Viewing the answer to all service delivery problems as more spend rather than assessing the equally important relationship between spend and results is a trap that we all too easily fall into. We need to have a mature debate on effective service delivery and move beyond just discussing inputs.

Finally, I want to say a word on measurement. The great Scottish scientist and engineer William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, is credited with saying:

“when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind”.

Although that may not be true in all cases, the default position should certainly be that we seek to measure where possible to ensure that we know where we are, which is a key part of making sure that we keep moving forward towards our destination.

The national performance framework is a powerful vehicle for driving public service improvement. I hope to see more work by the Government to ensure that the framework is further embedded and deployed to deliver high-quality and cost-effective services across the public sector.

Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

The national performance framework is fundamental to ensuring that our policies are embedded in our collective vision and principles for Scotland. This goes beyond electoral cycles.

As a member of the NPF round table who has represented Scottish Labour since the time when John Swinney was chairing it, I have followed progress closely. I want to focus on one of the criteria for the new national outcomes:

“Better reflect these values and aspirations of the public, expert stakeholders and Ministers”.

In my view, the consultation arrangements and feedback achieved the public part pretty well, not by asking people down the pub what they thought of the NPF, as Willie Rennie said, but because phase 1 of the review involved consulting the public on what kind of Scotland they would like to live in. It was supported by the Carnegie UK Trust and had street stalls that were run by Oxfam.

Let us also be aware that there were 515 participants involved across a range of the Scottish index of multiple deprivation areas, covering eight electoral regions. Marginalised communities were thus actively involved. The round table itself activated stakeholders. One of the particularly interesting contributors was the Children’s Parliament, which was involved in phase 1. It stated:

“Whenever we talk to children about their needs and their rights we find children’s conversations revolve around love. If there is a bottom line, a key message, this is it: children need to be loved.”

Whatever Alexander Stewart says, most people know what that means. As the Children’s Parliament said,

“it is the bond they have, the protection they need and the basis for the confidence, agency and resilience they need to grow and flourish and manage adverse childhood experiences.”

Childhood wellbeing is one of the most important of the developments in the NPF.

It was challenging for the committees to receive the review findings only once they had been laid, but I cannot see how else it could have been done, apart from by asking for committees’ input at phase 1, too, which might be considered for the next review.

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution stated that he was open to improvement and that,

“if it is about further collaboration, engagement and scrutiny”,

the NPF

”could well be enhanced by that.”—[

Official Report

,

Local Government and Communities Committee

, 18 April 2018; c 25.]

So, here goes with a few short points. The Local Government and Communities Committee stresses that there is room for improvement in monitoring, which is ultimately vital in tracking our progress and ensuring that the NPF is more than just aspirational words. Data should remain comparable from year to year and accessible online. I appreciate the challenges with that, but I think that it is significant.

I add my support to the call for more information from the cabinet secretary on how the NPF can be applied and monitored in the public sector for a consistent approach towards the same ends.

Another review criterion was:

“Improve the alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights (SNAP)”.

I welcome the briefing from the Scottish Human Rights Commission and its recognition that the wording

“reflects Scotland’s human rights obligations and duties under international law.”

That is the right approach. We have made a good start, even if we are not completely there with the SDGs. The cabinet secretary himself highlighted one of those, which is that we

“achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”

That is fundamental.

In the context of the SDGs, the ECCLR Committee notes the view of the Scottish Government on sustainability and sustainable economic growth. We would welcome further clarification as to whether sustainable development, instead of sustainable economic growth, was considered. I hope that the cabinet secretary will address that in his closing remarks.

In my view, the most important review criterion was:

“Allow us to better track progress in reducing inequalities, promoting equality and encouraging preventative approaches.”

The Trussell Trust has recently stated that food banks are the “fourth emergency service” and that it gave almost half a million emergency food supplies to children last year across the UK. In Scotland, there is real cause for concern. The cuts to councils and other issues must be addressed in the context of the NPF.

More broadly, and finally, what is prosperity for all? Do we really go beyond GDP in the NPF and measure what matters to the people of Scotland? I know that that is a challenge, but I do not think that we are quite there yet. Surely the time has come for a pilot to be undertaken on measures that are parallel to GDP. In my view, the NPF would then be even more fit for purpose and inclusive than it is as a result of this review.

Photo of Tom Mason Tom Mason Conservative

I remind the chamber that I remain a councillor in Aberdeen City Council. I am happy to speak on the revised national outcomes in the national performance framework. The whole process reminds me of trying to teach MBA students about strategic documents.

So far, the Scottish Government has informed its decisions on amending the outcomes by seeking views from many sources—adults, experts, children and even Government ministers. I welcome that approach, and I would like it to continue into the future. However, I fear that the revised outcomes have become rather vague. In fact, the phrase “motherhood and apple pie” comes to mind. It seems that the Government is abandoning hard and measurable targets in favour of vague promises that seemingly cannot fail.

That brings me to the topic of measurement. The Scottish Parliament information centre has said that it does not know how well the national indicators will measure the revised outcomes. When measurement can no longer be directly tied to outcomes, accountability is lost: if we cannot measure it, we cannot manage it. We have seen that behaviour before. As the results were going from bad to worse, the Scottish Government scrapped the Scottish survey of literacy and numeracy, and literacy and numeracy levels have plummeted under the SNP’s tenure.

I fear that the national performance framework no longer deals with performance. The Government will claim that progress towards the outcomes is still tracked through the national indicators, but my point is that it is no longer explicitly measured against them. For every one statistic that exposes a failure or an area to be improved, the Government will point to five other, vague measurements and pretend that nothing needs to be done.

If we are going to discuss the indicators, let us do it properly. According to the Scotland performs website, over four fifths of the 55 national indicators are not showing an improvement.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

Does the member not see the blatant inconsistency in the remarks that he has just made? He says that we do not judge performance, then he turns to the very measurements by which we judge performance and that we publish even for those areas in which we have not achieved the performance levels that we want.

My commitment is that Scotland performs will continue to measure and report, and that information is available not just to Parliament but to the public as a whole. The member cannot say that there is no scrutiny and then turn to the scrutiny to criticise the Government’s performance.

Photo of Tom Mason Tom Mason Conservative

The scrutiny is just that—it is judging the Government’s performance against the indicators, and four fifths of the indicators are, so far, indicating no improvement at all. On top of that, the Government is missing its current economic performance targets, which is costing Scotland billions of pounds. The SNP would have us believe that that is not its fault—that the UK Government or even Brexit is somehow to blame. However, in the Finance and Constitution Committee meeting yesterday, Andrew Chapman, from the Government’s own fiscal responsibility division, said that the problem that we currently face is “a Scotland-specific economic shock”, and that is a worrying indictment of the Government’s performance.

In the face of that information, we would expect a robust response—perhaps a decluttering of the economic landscape or the lowering of taxes on businesses and people to encourage them to interact, because consumer spending is by far the largest part of our economy. What do we get instead? An increasingly vague set of national outcomes and a 400-page fantasy novel on independence. At least we know where the SNP’s priorities lie.

In looking at the revised outcomes, I could not help but notice that the previous commitment to high-quality public services did not make the latest cut. Obviously, the Government feels that that outcome has been achieved.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

It will have to be very quick.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

Does the member not recognise that high-quality public services are a means to an end, not an end in themselves?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

You have about 30 seconds, Mr Mason.

Photo of Tom Mason Tom Mason Conservative

That is too complicated for me to understand.

Last year, public satisfaction with local services fell by 10 per cent. At the time, I asked Derek Mackay whether he thought that the best way to respond to that was the Government’s plan to force councils to raise local taxes. Instead of giving the obvious answer—“No”—he claimed that public services are local authorities’ responsibility, not the Government’s. Indeed, he said that devolved Administrations are

“autonomous bodies, responsible for managing their own day to day business” with the money that is available to them. I would like to see him apply that sentiment to his own organisation.

I worry that simple accountability is being pushed out of the door in favour of normative statements that are easy to spin. I worry that, if the SNP will not measure it, it cannot manage it, which is the worst outcome of all.

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

In some senses, it has been an interesting debate. There have been a number of themes to it.

In the initial stages, the speeches from the members who spoke on behalf of the committees interested me. There seemed to be some differences of opinion. Graeme Dey made a good case for some of the proposed indicators that were not included, such as land ownership. We also heard from Gordon Lindhurst on behalf of the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee. A theme in the evidence to that committee was that there are too many indicators and they should be cut down.

Andy Wightman made a good case for including a measure of the co-operative economy. However, I take the cabinet secretary’s point that we must be careful that we do not drown in definitions and that we need an element of clarity. One way forward on that was pointed out by Claudia Beamish, who said that the Local Government and Communities Committee wants proper monitoring to take place. That would help greatly in determining the correct and most effective definitions.

Willie Rennie’s speech was excellent and went straight to the heart of the debate. There is a danger that we could spend all afternoon—or, at least, too much of the time—debating what indicators and measures should be included and lose sight of what we are trying to achieve. I agree with him that there are debates in the Parliament to which we do not necessarily need to allocate so much time and that we should find more time to develop the themes that come out of this debate—not just on the outcomes but on their scrutiny.

As the measures show, the Government is struggling in some areas. In one ward in Rutherglen—Rutherglen Central and North—child poverty is running at 28 per cent. That means that, in that ward, children are not being fed and clothed properly, and they might be going out to school on winter mornings with holes in their shoes. That is a real issue, as it undermines those kids’ ability to be safe and to be educated properly.

In recent times, we have frequently heard in the chamber about the challenges in education. We have heard that we have 3,500 fewer teachers and that we do not have enough teachers in technology and engineering, which undermines our economic performance.

We need to be aware of those issues, and they must be brought into the debate. That can be difficult in a political climate in which, understandably, the Government does not want to admit that it is wrong. The debate can be quite heated, particularly around the time of the budget process. However, to an extent, Ivan McKee outlined a way forward on that. We need a process that considers not only inputs—the money that is allocated to the budget—but outputs and outcomes. The issue is not only the monitoring of those but the fact that we need to change the overall nature of the debate.

As Willie Rennie suggested, we need debates—and more honest debates—about that process in the Parliament. When we debate outcomes around the budget time, the atmosphere can be quite charged. I understand that it is difficult and that the Government always wants to advance a positive prospectus but, if we are ever going to achieve proper progress in the areas that we are talking about, we need an element of honesty about them not only from the Government but from the Opposition parties.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

In the spirit of transparency and openness, I remind members that, as I said to Willie Rennie, at every budget, I produce the Scotland performs scorecard, which sets out even challenging statistics on progress in relation to the national performance framework. We all have a duty to promote and scrutinise that scorecard. It has been published for years, but perhaps the debate will add to the interest in it in future years.

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

That is true.

The other, linked issue is that there needs to be an honest debate about priorities in the budget and how we find the money for them. Labour put forward an extensive list of spending commitments in the most recent budget round. There is debate to be had about whether they are the right commitments and whether the level of taxation is correct but, ultimately, there needs to be honesty from all parties about whatever budget we come to being a defined number. Therefore, there will always be challenges in what can be achieved in the budget. The problem with the debates around the budget period is that we all get locked into party positions and we are sometimes unable to have a proper exchange on the issues and challenges, which undermines our ability to achieve the national outcomes.

Gordon Lindhurst said that the debate is one for anoraks. We need to get our anoraks off and get down to dealing with the issues if we are to deliver on the national outcomes.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I call Graham Simpson, who has up to six minutes.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I am pretty sure that I was just called an anorak.

Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

Yes. If the cap fits, wear it. [

Laughter

.]

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

My heart soared somewhat when I saw our list of speakers and that Alexander Stewart would go first, because—I have to be honest—the whole subject leaves me a little bit cold. During the Local Government and Communities Committee meeting with the cabinet secretary, I think that I achieved a first for me in that I asked no questions whatsoever. I did not rib Mr Mackay, and I asked him about nothing. That was not just because I like Mr Mackay, which I do—

Members:

Aw!

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

I could not really think of anything to ask about, because I could not get my head round the waffle that is the national outcomes.

They took me back to my previous employment as a sub-editor on a newspaper. If I had seen those outcomes coming before me, I would have asked what they meant.

I will run through all the proposed draft national outcomes, because the comprehensive list has not been run through in the debate. They are:

“We have a globally competitive, entrepreneurial, inclusive and sustainable economy.”

“We are open, connected and make a positive contribution internationally.”

“We tackle poverty by sharing opportunities, wealth and power more equally”.

“We live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe.”

“We grow up loved, safe and respected so that we can realise our full potential.”

“We are well educated, skilled and able to contribute to society.”

“We have thriving and innovative businesses, with quality jobs and fair work for everyone.”

“We are healthy and active.”

I am not sure that we are healthy and active; I am, but I am not sure that everyone else is.

“We value, enjoy, protect and enhance our environment.”

“We are creative and our vibrant and diverse cultures are enjoyed widely.”

“We respect, protect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination.”

The final one, which I think was a national outcome before, is:

“Our public services are high quality, continually improving, efficient and responsive to local people’s needs.”

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

Graham Simpson talks about “waffle”, but does he accept that the stakeholders’ response to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee’s call for evidence and, indeed, the depth in which that committee has gone into the matter and the number of recommendations and calls on the Government that have been made suggest that the national outcomes really matter?

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

I can say only what I think, and that is my view of the language that is used.

The Child Poverty Action Group welcomed the inclusion of poverty in the national outcomes, but questioned whether “Tackling poverty” is an outcome. Instead, it suggested that

“it is a process intended to achieve the goal of eradicating poverty for good.” and said that

“In the interests of clarity the outcome should state the eventual aim rather than the method of achieving it.”

I think that that is right. The problem is that the wording is all wrong—it is bureaucratic babble and it is Governmentspeak gone mad. Alexander Stewart and others were quite right to point that out when they spoke of “ambiguous” wording and “vague promises”.

I wondered who could be responsible. Was it the cabinet secretary? Apparently not, because when Derek Mackay appeared before the Local Government and Communities Committee he gave the game away. A cross-party group had been formed, and he said:

“This is the first time that we have tried to define our mission and our purpose beyond just what the Government wants to achieve; we have tried to define our purpose as a society as well, which takes us into our values. Frankly, if I can get agreement around the table between people such as Murdo Fraser and Patrick Harvie, I suggest that I am not doing too badly.”—[

Official Report, Local Government and Communities Committee

, 18 April 2018; c 24.]

There we have it, Presiding Officer. Murdo Fraser is the villain here, in collusion with the cabinet secretary and Patrick Harvie. Claudia Beamish—who has left, sadly—was spared.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

I know—but Mr Mackay did not mention her.

It has been an interesting debate for me, because I have learned some stuff that I did not know before. I will tell you something that Mr Mackay did not know, Deputy Presiding Officer. Michelle Ballantyne, who spoke about breast feeding, is a bit of an authority. She has had six children who were all breast fed, which probably makes her the breast-feeding champion of the Parliament, so she does know what she is talking about.

Gordon Lindhurst—in a rather bizarre opening, I thought—quoted from “Twelfth Night”, and described his committee as “anorak wearers”. I do not know what they will make of that. Just to prove his point, however, he went on to quote a French philosopher, but I think that Mr Lindhurst was agreeing that things have to be clearer. It was something like that, anyway.

Despite what I have said, we welcome the draft national outcomes. They are important. That has been impressed on me by various speakers, so I commend the document, despite its vagueness.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

That final comment by Graham Simpson may make the point that, despite some of the criticism and debate this afternoon, the framework is to be commended. We have made a number of points—some party political and some about process—but is there a fundamental and deep-seated challenge to the purpose, the values or the outcomes that the Government and Parliament are proposing? I genuinely do not believe that there is real divergence between us.

It is important that there is consensus, because it will calibrate the public sector, the private sector, the third sector and the wider community to help to deliver the outcomes. I would be careful about describing some of the framework as “waffle”, because it was developed in consultation with the communities of Scotland. Some of the language has come from children in the Children’s Parliament, and some of it has come from human rights organisations, environmental organisations and the business community. It is not political correctness gone mad, as we often hear. It is an evidence-based approach to aligning our efforts so as to build a better society, and it is one that defines, as best we possibly can, the kind of society that we seek.

In that regard, I have tried to balance the political interests—from the Conservative representative, Murdo Fraser, through to the Greens’ position, represented by Patrick Harvie. All political parties were invited to the round table that helped to shape the process and they all contributed constructively.

Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

I hear what you say and I will not argue with that, but I would like to ask about the process. If we accept that what you are saying is correct—and I am happy to do that—would you also accept that, in order for the framework to be meaningful to Parliament we need to have a way of measuring and understanding whether what you have set out is achieved, and in what context?

When you come back before us, will you make sure that we have some actual things that we can get hold of, so we can see where the baseline is and where we are going?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I remind all members that, even when they are being nice to one another, they should speak through the chair.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

The answer to the question is yes. The Scotland performs website is better than just sending an occasional report to committees. It is live and transparent, and the measurements—through the indicators—have been determined largely by the Scottish Government’s chief statistician. Officials and others have worked very hard to specify what we think we can measure. The Scottish Trades Union Congress and other organisations asked me to put in indicators that we had not proposed, so I changed the indicators.

I have a few important points in relation to the criticism of the consultation. I have done what the law asked me to do, and I have gone beyond that. I did not just publish the proposed purpose and outcomes; I also published the indicators, which the law does not require me to do. It was my imperative and at my instruction that the indicators were published. It made sense to set out how we propose to measure that which we want to deliver. That was all shared with the cross-party steering group, on which there was business representation, charities, children and a host of other people.

The indicators are credible and helpful and will be critical when progress is not made. There are many things that will not be published in the national performance framework—for the reasons that other members have given—but will be published elsewhere. The Government will be held to account for them, whether in parliamentary debate, committees or questions.

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

On scrutiny, how does the cabinet secretary view Willie Rennie’s suggestion about more regular consideration in the chamber of the NPF? Does he share my view that such an approach might best be undertaken in the form of joint committee debates on the back of committees’ work, rather than during Government debate time when we would see members contributing as individuals and, as James Kelly alluded to, party politics would certainly creep in? Having scrutiny based on broader and detailed committee work ahead of a debate might get us a better outcome.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

I agree with that helpful suggestion. Just as we are proposing all-year-round budget scrutiny, of course we should have all-year-round scrutiny of Scotland performs and not just the performance of Government but performance right across society. That is why alignment is so important.

I think that some members have got purpose, values, outcomes and indicators confused. Going beyond the indicators, implementation and the policy actions that deliver success is crucially important. Members can by all means criticise implementation, but that was not what today’s debate was supposed to be about and it is not what the current consultation process is about. It is about establishing whether we, as a Parliament, can unite around the outcomes and the purpose. As I said, I have offered the indicators for further scrutiny. I welcome transparency and the contributions to the debate, which I will of course reflect on.

On a number of occasions, I tried to make the point about the United Nations sustainable development goals being part of the structure. Another key point is that the relationship between the outcomes and the indicators is complex, and the website will helpfully show how a range of indicators relate to a range of outcomes.

Fundamentally, this is about consensus on our vision for our country and on our purpose. I have tried to balance the views of those who want economic growth with the views of those who do not, and the views of those who want inclusivity with the views of those who think that inclusivity is not as important as we believe that it is. The purpose itself captures all that. It focuses on sustainable economic growth, wellbeing and equality for all, so that our country and all our people have an opportunity to flourish.

I am particularly pleased that I have worked so closely with other political parties, human rights charities, community groups, the Children’s Parliament, the STUC, COSLA, the business community, Murdo Fraser, Patrick Harvie and Claudia Beamish. The Liberal Democrats were invited as well.

We can disagree on implementation and performance if we choose, but surely we can agree on our desire to build a fairer society and a stronger nation. We need the national performance framework. As Brian Whittle said, it is our mission statement, and there is much agreement on it. We should collaborate on it in the way that we have done on justice, the early years and culture, as Joan Whittle—I am sorry; Joan McAlpine—mentioned. Joan Whittle is a whole new creation.

We can unite around the national performance framework, even if party politics will undoubtedly encourage us to find points of difference on its implementation. If we can at least agree on the outcomes, that will put us in a stronger place—as a country and as a Parliament—to deliver the kind of society that we want, which the public consultation has suggested that the public want, too.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I call Monica Lennon to wind up the debate on behalf of the Local Government and Communities Committee. A wee bit of brevity would be appreciated towards decision time, if that were possible.

Photo of Monica Lennon Monica Lennon Labour

Thank you, Presiding Officer. You have been very generous with your time this afternoon, which has made for an interesting debate.

As deputy convener of the Local Government and Communities Committee, I am grateful for the chance to close the debate. I have listened with great interest to the views of members during what has been a wide-ranging, broadly consensual and, at times, poetic debate. That reflects the fact that, on the whole—I look at Mr Simpson as I sound that note of caution—all sides of the chamber support the aspirations behind the draft national outcomes.

This is the first time that the Scottish Parliament has formally been consulted on the Scottish Government’s draft national outcomes, and I was encouraged by the range of responses that our committee received following our call for views, especially given that stakeholders had only a very short time—just one week, over the Easter recess—to share their opinions. All those responses helped to shape our questions to the cabinet secretary and informed our report’s recommendations.

The aspirations of the national outcomes have been broadly welcomed, as the views that we received illustrated, although, as has been said, our call for views resulted in concerns being expressed about the wording of the overall purpose, how successfully the national outcomes align with the UN sustainable development goals and how some of the draft indicators can be measured. The theme of measurement has been brought up many times in the debate. Those concerns, and other issues that were raised, led to the recommendations in our report. We look forward to the Scottish Government writing to us to tell us its views on our recommendations in due course.

As the committee’s convener, Bob Doris, mentioned earlier, the scrutiny of the draft national outcomes that was undertaken was not the job of the Local Government and Communities Committee alone; several other committees were involved, many of whose members have spoken in the debate. I pay tribute to my fellow committee members—even to Mr Simpson—and to all the members across the chamber who participated in the scrutiny process.

Many different views have been expressed in the debate. The national performance framework and the outcomes mean different things to different people. Claudia Beamish talked about childhood wellbeing, while Andy Wightman talked about the co-operative economy. Ivan McKee, Tom Mason and others talked about process and measurement, and Joan McAlpine talked about culture as the glue that holds society together. I was pleased to hear Michelle Ballantyne speak about the importance of breastfeeding. There is a bit of a recurring theme here—again, I address Mr Simpson. It is not necessary to be someone who breastfeeds to champion breastfeeding. That should be the responsibility of everyone in this place.

We also heard a lot of about anoraks. I do not define myself as an anorak—

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

I quite agree with what Monica Lennon said. I am a great champion of breastfeeding. Men should be. My wife breastfed. It is not necessary to have breastfed to champion breastfeeding as the best way to feed your kids.

Photo of Monica Lennon Monica Lennon Labour

It is good to have that on the record—I thank Mr Simpson for that.

The cabinet secretary touched on other issues, such as trade union engagement, which is extremely important. Some people have described the mention of the concepts of love, happiness and wellbeing as “waffle”, but they are very important. It is true that they are difficult to measure. I am not sure that we can manage love, nor should we want to. However, those ideas and priorities have come from many people across Scotland, including our young people. It is important that that aspect of the outcomes has been part of the debate, and it is a shame that it has turned some people cold.

The Presiding Officer was generous in allowing interventions throughout the debate, so a lot has been said already that I do not need to repeat now. However, in closing, I will say that it is important that we have had the opportunity to scrutinise this matter. We have heard from James Kelly and Willie Rennie that we need to get into the guts of this, and that annual scrutiny will be really important—I see that I have just received a thumbs-up from Alex Cole-Hamilton, so I am doing something right today.

I thank everyone across the Parliament. We did not have a huge amount of time for scrutiny. It is great that the cabinet secretary has said that he will be more flexible in that regard in future. Colleagues would welcome that, as would people across civic Scotland. It is important that we get our approach right and that the national outcomes are embedded across the public sector. The Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee and Audit Scotland have told us that we are not seeing the necessary evidence, particularly with regard to the recent annual report of Scottish Enterprise, which did not mention the national performance framework. However, I know that the cabinet secretary has said that he will hold a high-level event on the matter. I am sure that we will all be interested to see what that will entail.

Again, I thank everyone who has made a contribution to this important scrutiny.