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Supporting Scotland's vibrant voluntary sector

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the membership organisation for Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Charity registered in Scotland SC003558. Registered office Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB.

Is there a future for Scotland’s National Performance Framework? 

Scotland’s National Performance Framework (NPF), a policy tool that sets out Scotland's National Outcomes and 81 Indicators as specific measures of progress, is currently under review. At a time when a new policy framework or strategy emerges every week in Scotland with little to no mention of the NPF, you might wonder, 'What is the point of Scotland's NPF?'  Quite understandably, the significance of the NPF can seem unclear.  

The latest statutory review of Scotland's National Outcomes, which the Scottish Government is obliged to conduct every five years, has prompted me to consider similar questions about the framework’s future relevance. But, having spent close to a decade working in and around the cluttered landscape of Scottish public policy, a more critical question is: 'How can we shape the future of the NPF so that it plays a more effective and efficient role?'  

The Scottish Government's consultation on the National Outcomes, due to close on 12 June, provides the latest opportunity to address parts of this question. While SCVO will actively engage with this review as part of our commitment to the NPF, there is a part of me that worries that this round of engagement is a box to check – part of the Scottish Government's statutory obligations – rather than an attempt to seek a fresh impetus and approach.  

We can only judge when we see the changes that come from the review and whether, by the time of the following statutory review in 2028, the NPF is deeply embedded across Scottish public policy, driving decision-making and spending. That will mark 21 years since the NPF and its associated National Outcomes were launched, and the quality and depth of the 2023 review will be critical in determining its future beyond that. 

The NPF has long been seen as a strong model to inform discussion, collaboration, and planning for policy and services country-wide. I do not doubt that it has contributed to positive change across Scotland in those 16 years. But can the NPF help drive the change, choices, and partnerships that Scotland needs over the next 16 years without a more strategic and practical focus on implementation? 

Members of the Scottish Leaders Forum (SLF), a forum of over 300 senior leaders, identified clear issues with the collective responsibility and leadership of the NPF in their 2022 report. As part of the Finance and Public Administration Committee's recent inquiry, evidence sessions at the Scottish Parliament revealed many organisations' support and hope for the NPF, with equal measures of frustration with its lack of integration across policy and delivery.  

The consultation focuses solely on whether the National Outcomes reflect the Scotland we want to see. Here, SCVO will call on the government to address the glaring omission of the voluntary sector. We want to see a change of language in the 'Fair Work and Business' outcome, a new indicator to measure progress towards a 'thriving and sustainable voluntary sector', and a commitment to develop an indicator to quantify the economic value of the voluntary sector in time for the 2028 review. 

Beyond the National Outcomes, the Scottish Government should have made better use of this review to consult on actual proposals for addressing the implementation gap that clouds the impact and success of the NPF, building on recommendations outlined by scrutiny bodies such as the Scottish Parliament and Audit Scotland, the SLF, and organisations like SCVO in recent years. This matters more than anything to the future of the NPF. 

The Scottish Government's latest correspondence to the Scottish Parliament says that it will publish resources to support the use of the NPF and develop an implementation plan with stakeholders to enable the NPF to play a leading role in strategic decision-making. Still, the Scottish Government should have focused on visibility, accountability, and collaboration in this consultation rather than being – or at best, seeming - an afterthought.  

That is because, at least from the outside, these things are an afterthought in day-to-day use and application of the NPF. Rather than SCVO’s submission outlining once more that the government should act upon the report of the SLF, make more visible and accessible links between policies and the NPF, and, amongst other things, address its data infrastructure (collecting, managing and using data) that holds the NPF back, we should be at a place where the discussion centres around how to make all of this happen.   

Each of us has a role in ensuring that Scotland's NPF still has its place in 2028, but none more so than the Scottish Government. SCVO’s recommendations will form just one of many submissions to the government's consultation from voluntary organisations throughout Scotland, reflecting our continued commitment to the framework and what it stands for, and to securing its future across public policy. That future is certainly not set in stone.  

Make your voice heard before the deadline on Monday 12 June 2023, and your input might shape the future of the NPF. One way is to submit a response and draw upon SCVO's positions to show your support. Alternatively, you can contact me directly to share your views on our emerging draft. 

Last modified on 17 August 2023