The Implementation of a Strategic State in a Small Country Setting - the case of the ‘Scottish Approach’

Ian Elliott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)


This paper is a case study of the establishment of the Scottish Approach to Public Services. This strategic approach to public services was developed through three key activities: reorganization of the Scottish Government; creation of Scotland Performs and the National Performance Framework; and significant investment in leadership development. The research comprised of 11 élite interviews with both current and former civil servants within the Scottish Government. Interviews sought to develop an understanding of the nature and rationale for the Scottish Approach, to explore implementation of the Scottish Approach, and to posit what lasting impact may result from this form of ‘strategic state’ in Scotland. There is a major gap in the academic literature in terms of empirical studies of the strategic state and this paper addresses this gap by presenting the context and background to implementation of a strategic state in a small country setting.

This paper outlines how the Scottish Government has developed a form of ‘strategic state’. The concept of the strategic state is explained before setting out how this was realized. Drawing on insights from key stakeholders who were directly involved, it provides a unique insider perspective on its development and impact. The author shows how a supportive political environment and strong administrative leadership combined with a clear vision for change. Investment was made in leadership development, alongside an organizational restructuring, to align the Scottish Government with five strategic objectives. There are key lessons to be learned from this paper, particularly for small countries, in how strategic thinking can be fostered within government settings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-293
Number of pages9
JournalPublic Money and Management
Issue number4
Early online date23 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2020


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