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Local economic and business performance and trends: a relative comparison across Scotland


This builds on 2019 research (available on Evaluations Online) looking in detail at the relative economic and business performance and trends over time, across Scotland. The rationale was by bringing a range of factors together rather than just looking at elements in isolation or perhaps aspects which focus on one narrow aspect, we would gain a better understanding of the whole, and how these aspects interconnect and impact each other. This is aimed to help understand strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges, in order to develop evidence-led interventions relevant to places’ own needs. A lot has changed since then, and so this research has evolved and deepened this approach.


All available and relevant data from publicly available sources (mainly ONS and Scottish Government) was collected, then allocated into broad themes. This totalled over 900 data categories. Each was then allocated as either ‘performance’ (a current, or latest data, figure) or ‘trend’ (a percentage change over a period). Scores were calculated by ranking the performance or trend for each local authority, with higher marks for better performance and trend, then calculating a percentage score from the maximum available.


This research reinforces the key message from the 2019 evidence; that cities and (some) urban areas of Scotland outperform elsewhere. This analysis suggests the issue may not simply be exceptional performance across cities, but the general weakness everywhere else. This appears to be the main theme emerging from the trends. Cities have challenges themselves, but it seems some just have fewer of them. All regions and local authorities have aspects of underperformance or trends moving in the wrong direction or improving slower than elsewhere. Some places appear to be falling behind in two ways –their economies are not performing well, and their trends are weaker. In effect, these places are falling behind. One glimmer of positivity is that, for most places where performance is weak in a factor, the trends are higher, indicating some degree of focused activity. However, if performance remains weak considering these efforts, it simply highlights the scale of the challenge, and how lasting change in many places will take focused, sustained effort over many years.


There were no recommendations made. The research, its findings and implications are presented to assist policymakers.

Author Scottish Enterprise
Published Year 2021
Report Type Research