The State of the State

Scotland’s government and politics continue to distinguish themselves from the rest of the UK, while the need for post-pandemic economic recovery and EU exit are putting a fresh spotlight on the country’s public finances and fiscal powers.

Our interviews found key officials concerned about the Scottish Government’s budgetary position and backing calls for greater and more flexible borrowing powers when they are reviewed in 2021 – with the pointed caveat that borrowing needs to be repaid, as shown in our quotes.

Scotland’s local government is also expecting financial challenges ahead, with major councils anticipating cuts that could see services stripped back to basics in some cases. Across local services, leaders talked about the need for bold reforms – reducing the number of Scotland’s local authorities for example – while some feel government ministers try to micro-manage public services.

Scotland’s citizen attitudes continue to differ from the rest of the UK as well. Our survey found that the Scottish public stands out as the UK’s most keen to see higher tax and higher public spending.

That may be explained to some extent by looking at the Scottish public’s worries for the future. As Figure 20 shows, they are the UK’s most concerned about opportunities for young people and the quality of public services as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Scottish public also stand out on their views on the green agenda. More than half, some 53 per cent, believe that focusing on a green economic recovery will create new jobs and boost the economy, compared to 45 per cent in England.

Our survey asked how the Scottish public would spend money on local services, infrastructure and the local economy. The results, in the figure below, show that they only differ to a minor extent from the UK average across the board.

Please use Regional Selection filter to choose Scotland.


Digging deeper, our survey explored levels of satisfaction in local services and whether the Scottish public think they are better or worse than the rest of the UK. The results, in the maps, show that the Scottish public see their local environment as notably better than the rest of the UK, and they are particularly proud of the nation’s universities and crime levels. They see particular room for improvement in their internet access and job opportunities. Use the filter to select the public service and click on the map to view the results for each nation and region.




Jayson Hadley

Lead Partner, Government & Public Services UK

+44 20 7303 7935

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Ed Roddis

Public Sector Research

+44 (0)20 7007 2920

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Jackie Henry


+44 (0)28 9053 1197

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Angela Mitchell


+44 (0)14 1304 5700

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Ian Howse


+44 (0)29 2026 4319

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