This think piece considers how definitions of a ‘Scottish model’ are shaping thinking about policy delivery.


There is increasing talk of the emergence of a distinctive ‘Scottish model’ of policymaking, but what is meant by the ’emerging Scottish model’ of policy-making is not clear.

Like many similar ideas, its value may lie more in its potential to mobilise support for a variety of reforms than a strict prescription of how policy should be made. Its very looseness may, therefore, be part of its strength as well as a weakness. The obvious weakness in any under-defined idea is that if the Scottish model means everything then it comes to mean nothing. We can understand how the emerging Scottish model can be put to good use in two ways:

  • by outlining what it is NOT, i.e. what the emerging model aims to replace
  • by outlining its components and developing a coherent sense of the model.

The issue is whether a new ‘policy style’ is emerging and, if so, what it replaces and what that new style represents. The very notion that a policy style exists is itself open to debate as it implies homogeneity across sectors when there may be significant diversity in policy styles across and indeed within policy sectors in Scotland.

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Author: James Mitchell, Professor of Public Policy at the University of Edinburgh.

Publication date: February 2015

Type of publication: Think piece