06/08/2018 - An article on the impact of the Understanding Scottish Places town data tool on place-making policy and practice in Scotland has been published in the journal Scottish Affairs.

Understanding Scottish Places is a free online tool which contains key data on all 479 towns in Scotland. It is developed by a consortium of partners including the Scottish Government, Carnegie UK Trust, The University of Stirling, Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES).

USP allows users to view demographic, social, economic and other information about their town, and compare their town with similar and different types of settlement across the country.

Furthermore, users can download information about their town in a handy PDF, as well as use the data to conduct a wider ‘Your Town Audit’.

First launched in 2015 and subsequently updated, a key rationale for the development of USP is the need to provide consistent and comparable data which promotes better understanding of and decision-making in Scotland’s towns.  

The article published in Scottish Affairs states that in the two years since its launch, USP was accessed by over 11,000 individual users, with around 90% of visits coming from the UK.

Key impacts identified included in the areas of economic development, community planning, networking and knowledge exchange, and policy learning and transfer. Regarding the latter, in late 2017 the Welsh Government announced its intention to develop an ‘Understanding Welsh Places’ tool, while USP has also influenced the Carnegie Trust Twin Town Scheme.

The article was authored by Anne Findlay (University of Stirling), Matthew Jackson (CLES), Neil McInroy (CLES), Phil Prentice (STP), Ewan Robertson (STP) and Leigh Sparks (University of Stirling & Chair, STP).

Reflecting on the publication in a blog post, Professor Leigh Sparks stated that: “We can’t sensibly talk about towns unless we collect data on towns on a comparable and consistent basis.  Then we can have more realistic conversations about what is happening, what specific places are like and can achieve, and how our country of towns is made up.

“…USP offers a platform and approach to help start such conversations. It does not solve the problems of data and coverage but is an attempt to be consistent and comparable…If we want towns to flourish then a start might be to collect and analyse data on towns, with agreed definitions and boundaries. Anything else is open to fudge and mis-appropriation”.

For further reading about this article, please see the following sources:

Understanding Scottish Places

Putting Towns on the Policy Map: Understanding Scottish Places (USP) and Data (Professor Leigh Sparks Blog, Stirling Retail)

Putting Towns on the Policy Map: Understanding Scottish Places (USP) (Scottish Affairs Article)

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