By Angela Mitchell, Lead Partner for Scottish Public Sector and UK Public Sector Technology, Deloitte
Deloitte will host a number of leading figures from across Scotland’s public sector for our annual debate on The State of the State. Produced every autumn, The State of the State report provides a snapshot of the UK public sector based on fresh research that includes a citizen survey of 1,000 members of the public and in-depth interviews with 45 public sector leaders, including leaders from Scotland.
As the Scottish Parliament marks 20 years since the referendum that led to its inauguration, the Scotland’s public sector faces a unique set of challenges. In this year’s The State of the State interviews, public sector leaders in Scotland told us that they face the same challenges as the rest of the UK, although budget restraint has not been as severe.
One council chief executive told us that “the Scottish public sector is about four years behind English austerity” and another said “reductions here are not on the same scale as south of the border”. But some felt that this had not given Scotland’s public sector the same stimulus for innovation. A local government interviewee said that “we’re not seeing as much radical thinking” as in England while one of her colleagues in another authority told us that "further settlements will shape the extent of reform on the sector because of the magnitude of austerity driving how far you need to change as an organisation.”
However, interviewees in the NHS were particularly concerned about finances. One chief executive warned that his organisation’s survival increasingly depends on non-recurring source of funding, and as such, were not sustainable. He went on to tell us that demand for local NHS services is growing by the equivalent of a new GP Practice needed every year – a pace which he described as “remorseless.”
Police Scotland, the country’s single force since the 2013 merger of eight forces, has been bold in addressing its financial position. In a bid to meet challenging expectations on savings, this year the force put forward a budget with a £47million deficit along with a new approach to financial management. Police Scotland appears better-placed to realise the benefits of a single force, with the release of a ten-year strategy that recognises the changing shape of demand, the opportunities for technology and the need to work with partners including communities themselves.
As in other parts of the UK, the public sector leaders we interviewed in Scotland called for longer-term thinking. One key figure urged that “Parliament is good at debates on people waiting eight hours in A&E, but not good at debating why we’ve got a generation of inactive kids growing up. Too much parliamentary time is focused on short term issues and not enough long term issues, and those are the ones that are going to make a difference to Scotland”.
The State of the State 2017-18: Citizens, business and government is online here.