Scots agency’s growth role unclear

Scots agency’s growth role unclear 

Tom Campbell
Regeneration & Renewal

Scotland’s national economic development agency is unable to prove its contribution to the country’s key growth strategy because it uses different performance measurements, a public spending watchdog reported last week.

An Audit Scotland report says the measures that Scottish Enterprise uses to monitor its work are not explicitly linked to the goals of the nation’s competitiveness and productivity strategy. This makes it hard to determine how much the agency has helped the Scottish Executive’s Smart, Successful Scotland strategy, it says.

While Scottish Enterprise met or exceeded all ten of its performance measures, Audit Scotland says that using these figures in isolation from national economic data provides a limited picture of the agency’s achievements.

‘It is difficult to interpret the figures in any meaningful way; they simply provide a snapshot of activities and outputs at a point in time,’ it says.

The report also raises concerns over the way in which Scottish Enterprise develops, monitors and evaluates its activities. Among a small sample of Scottish Enterprise projects examined by Audit Scotland, the ‘strategic rationale’ for 40 per cent of the schemes was not supported by factual evidence, it says.

As with the performance measures, the report says that the agency’s monitoring tends to focus on its own activities and targets rather than the impact of its work on the Scottish economy.

However, Audit Scotland says that new Scottish Enterprise policies, such as its introduction of a more detailed and consistent appraisal process, should help to address these issues.

Scottish Enterprise chief executive Jack Perry said: ‘Board members now oversee the performance of individual projects, of longer term investments and the broader impact of what we do and how it relates to the performance of the Scottish economy.’ The introduction of consistent monitoring and evaluation criteria in all new project approvals will ensure the agency can effectively prioritise those that will deliver the greatest economic impact for Scotland, he said.

Earlier this month, Scottish Enterprise was forced to cut £70 million worth of projects after it discovered a potential £100 million overspend (R&R, 10 March, p2).

Andy Milne, chief executive of the Scottish Urban Regeneration Forum, said that it is right to focus on how regeneration activities affect deprived people and communities. ‘This can be difficult to measure sometimes but Scottish Enterprise, like most other partners, is moving towards a more outcome-focused approach, and this is to be welcomed,’ he said.