1.1 The quality of life in Scotland depends in no small measure on the quality of its public services.
1.2 This country is a paradoxical tapestry of rich resources, inventive humanity, gross inequalities, and persistent levels of poor health and deprivation. Against that backdrop, the public services of the future must not only continue to provide a safety net for the vulnerable, but make a coherent contribution to a stronger, healthier, economically viable and more equitable society.
1.3 The daunting scale of that challenge is exacerbated by the expected drop in available funding for the next several years, the changes in Scottish demography, the resultant increase in demand, and an ever growing expectation of what public services should deliver.
1.4 The Scottish Government asked that our thinking be informed by a particular ethos - a set of guiding beliefs or principles - that should underpin the delivery of public services to the citizens of Scotland. Central to that ethos is the conviction that public services exist to support a fair and equal society, and to protect the most vulnerable.
1.5 While public services do not determine the nature of Scottish society, they both reflect the ethical foundations of that society, and help to shape its development. We ignore this at our peril - reform which did not embrace this ethos could result in the erosion of the collective nature of social responsibility which has long been a defining characteristic of our country.
1.6 Across this broad territory, we have seen the Commission's role in contributing to the future success of Scotland's public services as:
- looking across the whole field of public services;
- taking stock of the position we are in and the challenges that lie ahead; and
- mapping out a way forward for the reform of public services which reflects the broader, characteristically Scottish social principles and ideals on which our public services are founded.
1.7 A detailed account of our work as a Commission is given at Annex A.
1.8 We are clear that our system of public service delivery is in need of a significant transformation. Above all, we need to design and deliver services with and for people, rather than forcing people into pre-determined systems.
1.9 A key goal of this process should be to nurture and encourage the many new approaches which are already harnessing and utilising the resources and energies of a significant number of communities across Scotland.
1.10 What distinguishes these positive approaches is that they are grounded in people's lives, and the lives of communities (of place and of interest). Typically, people, communities and services work together to decide priorities and how to achieve their delivery while the focus is on fitting services to people, not people to services. They also maximise all the resources and assets available, and the process itself builds the capacity of all those involved.
1.11 Our report, therefore:
- provides an assessment of the challenges facing our public services ( Chapter 2);
- argues for an urgent, sustained and coherent programme of public service reform, and proposes an approach to that programme, including four key objectives ( Chapter 3);
- discusses each of those four key objectives in turn, and makes a number of specific recommendations for reform where we consider these essential to the achievement of the key objectives ( Chapters 4 to 7); and
- summarises the key elements of the programme of reform which should be taken forward, including a set of criteria against which any specific proposals for the reform of public services should be assessed ( Chapter 8).
1.12 Our report is designed to complement parallel and more detailed proposals on the reform of specific service areas. Action on reform should be informed both by this report and by that more specific work.