July 14, 2022

Ambitions into Action: nurturing the National Performance Framework Flower

by Amy Baker, Carnegie UK

You may recognise the colourful flower shown above. You might even have seen it on posters on office walls, or on the front of leaflets. But you’d be forgiven for not appreciating its significance as Scotland’s National Performance Framework

The Scottish Parliament Finance and Public Administration Committee inquiry into the delivery of the National Outcomes that form the framework is due to report after summer. As we await their findings and recommendations, this blog aims to shed light on what the framework is, and Carnegie UK’s ideas about how it can be better used for improving wellbeing across Scotland.

What is the National Performance Framework and what is the Ambitions into Action inquiry about?

Introduced by the Scottish Government in 2007, the framework is a tool which defines the kind of society they want Scotland to be. The current iteration dates from 2018 and is made up of eleven statutory ‘National Outcomes’ , each represented by a petal of the flower. Everyone- individuals, third sector organisations, central and local governments- is encouraged to work together to progress towards these outcomes and the Scottish Government and public bodies must have regard to them under the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015. The Scottish Government measures how Scotland is progressing with the outcomes through 81 ‘National Indicators’.

Despite its potential contribution towards collective wellbeing in Scotland, the framework has been neglected by policymakers. That’s why Carnegie UK were delighted to see it being brought back into the spotlight with the 2022 Ambitions into Action Inquiry, run by the Finance and Public Administration Committee.

Carnegie UK, the National Performance Framework and what we’d like to see happen next

The National Performance Framework is Scotland’s way of defining and measuring wellbeing. As an organisation centring all our work around collective wellbeing, we have a relationship with the National Performance Framework that spans over a decade. This includes convening an influential roundtable that paved the way for the second, statutory iteration of the framework, carrying out research with the public and stakeholders, and publicly advocating for more significant use of the framework across public services.

In our evidence to the current inquiry, we have stressed one key thing: the framework is a sophisticated tool for understanding wellbeing, but we need to actually implement it in our policy-making processes for it to have any impact on wellbeing outcomes. There are a few ways we think this should be done:

  • Clarifying how the National Outcomes are the overarching framework that guides Scottish Government policy.
  • Improving the structures that we use to scrutinise the organisations who have a responsibility to use the framework to guide their work. We can look to Wales for an example of how this has been done, whereby they’ve introduced a Future Generations Commissioner to scrutinise how different organisations are using Wales’ own wellbeing legislation to guide their work.
  • Doing more work to embed the National Performance Framework into the instruments the Scottish Government use to guide their policy decisions, including Scotland’s Public Finance Model and the Scottish Procurement Policy Handbook. Both are woefully out of date and require significant improvements to bring them in line with current thinking and legislation.
  • Putting the National Outcomes at the heart of the policy-making process from the outset. The Being Bold report we commissioned, written by Dr Katherine Trebeck, concluded  that the National Outcomes are an afterthought. This is particularly in the context of the financial decisions the Government makes.

What next?

We’ve been delighted to take part in sharing our evidence and expertise, as well as hearing others’, through the Ambitions into Action process.

We now look forward to the committee publishing its report from this in September 2022, and hope that they will share our ambition at Carnegie UK to better embed the National Performance Framework into everyone’s work in Scotland.

We’ve got the bud: let’s nurture the National Performance Framework flower so that it can blossom.