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Core Module Report: Attitudes to Government in Scotland

Author: Rachel Ormston

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The Scottish Government Office of Chief Researcher has funded a series of questions in the 2004-2007 Scottish Social Attitudes surveys (SSA) on attitudes to government. This report uses this data to consider two key questions:

  • How have attitudes to government in Scotland changed in recent years?
  • Whose views have changed?

The report focuses particularly on questions where there have been significant shifts in public attitudes between 2006 and 2007, including:

  • Trust in government
  • Perceptions of system efficacy – including the extent to which government is seen to listen to people’s views before taking decisions and whether people think devolution is giving ordinary people more say in how Scotland is run
  • Beliefs about the impact of devolution on Scotland’s voice in the UK.


Public perceptions of government in Scotland changed substantially across a range of measures between 2006 and 2007. These shifts in attitudes between 2006 and 2007 were apparent across different social groups in Scotland. However, the increase in trust in the Scottish Executive appeared to be particularly pronounced among those with no qualifications and, to a lesser extent, among tabloid readers.

Further years of data will be required to establish whether these findings reflect a short-term ‘election bounce’, or the start of a longer-term change in attitudes to government in Scotland. • There was less change in public attitudes to standards in public services in the last year or the impact of the Scottish Parliament on public services between 2006 and 2007.

Similarly, the change in the proportion who thought the Scottish Executive has most influence over how Scotland is run - from 13% in 2000 to 28% in 2007 - represents a slow but steady increase rather than a substantial shift from 2006 to 2007. However, far more people still said the UK government had most influence (47% in 2007).

The average ‘confidence score’ with respect to the accuracy of official statistics was 5.43. reflecting the fact that most people fell between the extremes of complete confidence and complete lack of confidence . Higher levels of trust in official statistics was associated with higher general social trust and higher political trust. The most common reasons for expressing low levels of trust in the accuracy of Scottish Executive statistics are personal experience, the belief that statistics are misrepresented or ‘spun’ by politicians and the belief that statistics do not tell the whole story