Key messages about public service reform in Scotland

Year of publication
What Works Scotland

Concluding report from What Works Scotland, which brings together our learning on public service reform from the past four years.
At the start of our four-year programme there was a broad consensus on the emergent Scottish model of public service reform and on the role of the recommendations of the Christie Commission. However, a common criticism is that implementation of the recommendations has been limited and patchy.

In this report we address that gap by sharing summaries of what we have learnt around what works, and what does not, in reforming Scotland’s public services.
The report's key findings summarise the current progress in developing and implementing the concepts within each of the eight themes that emerged through our research programme:

  1. Participation
  2. Partnership
  3. Governance
  4. Workforce
  5. Leadership
  6. Prevention
  7. Place
  8. Evidence

“A key finding is that effective public service reform (PSR) is often about bespoke solutions rather than ‘one size fits all’ centralised approaches. Local context plays a crucial role in the adoption and development of new processes and structures. The pace of change is uneven and variation across and within local authorities is the norm. Changes in local arrangements help services cope with what is an increasingly complex PSR agenda. New arrangements are seen by some as liberating but for others can be seen as constraining. Building leadership capacity at all levels is key to successful PSR. Whilst there is a strong commitment to partnership and co-production, some of the factors outlined in this report can limit the possibilities for genuine collaborative practices to emerge.”

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