Devolution and the GSS

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, three devolution Acts were passed in 1998. The Acts established the devolved legislatures – the Scottish Parliament,  the Welsh Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly. The executives and legislatures are also known as the devolved administrations.

Statistical devolution

The principles underpinning the relations between United Kingdom (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 October 2021.

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

The devolved administrations and UK government departments are all part of the UK statistical system.

In Scotland producers of official statistics include the Scottish Government, National Records Scotland and NHS National Services Scotland: Information Services Division.

In Wales there is a central Knowledge and Information Services department within the Welsh Government which produces official statistics and there are also some outbedded statisticians, including a small number in arm’s length bodies.

In Northern Ireland the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) is an executive agency of Northern Ireland’s Department of Finance (DoF). Some NISRA statisticians are based in DoF and others are outposted to other departments, non-departmental public bodies and other organisations.

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

The Chief Statisticians

The statistical 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.

CountryChief StatisticianDepartment
Northern IrelandPhilip WalesNorthern Ireland Statistics Research Agency
ScotlandAlly McAlpineScottish Government
WalesStephanie HowarthWelsh Government

What this means for producers of official statistics

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
  • allow enough time for quality assurance with other administrations