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Devolution and the GSS

Devolution of powers in the UK

Devolution is a process of decentralisation which aims to put powers closer to the citizen so that local factors are better recognised in decision making.

Following referendums in Scotland and Wales and the Good Friday Agreement, the three devolution Acts were passed in 1998. The Acts established the devolved legislatures – the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and Northern Ireland Assembly. Putting laws into effect and administering functions is the responsibility of the executives of each legislature – the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive. The executives and legislatures are also known as the Devolved Administrations.

The powers that have been devolved differ in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. A summary can be seen here.

The interests of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are each represented in the UK Government’s Cabinet by a territorial Secretary of State. The Cabinet Office leads on devolution issues for the UK Government.

The principles which support relations between the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations are set out in a Memorandum of Understanding and accompanying concordats, including a Concordat on Statistics. Together they describe the need for the administrations to work together.

There are also ongoing activities to devolve power to cities, regions and other geographies in England and elsewhere in the UK.

Devolution in the GSS

The UK statistical system works together to meet the needs of multiple users including international organisations and UK, devolved and local governments.

The Devolved Administrations and UK government departments are all part of the UK statistical system.

  • Producers of official statistics in Scotland include the Scottish Government, National Records Scotland and NHS National Services Scotland: Information Services Division.
  • In the Welsh Government there is an integrated central Knowledge and Information Services department which produces official statistics and there are also some outbedded statisticians including a small number in arm’s length bodies.
  • The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) is an executive agency of NI Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP). Some NISRA statisticians are based in DFP and others are outposted to other departments, non-departmental public bodies and other organisations.

Scottish Parliament

Whilst the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and Code of Practice for Official Statistics apply across the UK, each of the Devolved Administrations has separate arrangements on pre-release access to official statistics.

The Head of Profession for each of the Devolved Administrations is called the Chief Statistician. The Inter Administration Committee, which includes the National Statistician and Chief Statisticians, is responsible for statistical issues related to devolution.

The principles underpinning the relations between UK Government and Devolved Administrations in respect of the production of official statistics are set out in a Concordat on Statistics, which was updated and signed in September 2016.


What it means for you

All producers of official statistics have a responsibility, under the Statistics and Registration Service Act or the Concordat on Statistics, to:

  • Work collaboratively and openly across administrations when producing statistics, particularly those with a devolved interests,
  • Check that it is clear what geography your output relates to,
  • Consult users across the UK when designing outputs and data collections,
  • Harmonise where appropriate,
  • Alert other administrations to upcoming publications when they contain country level data,
  • Signpost users to comparable statistics where available,
  • Share data securely, where appropriate; and
  • Allow enough time for quality assurance with other administrations.