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Evidence, Learning and Intelligent Government: Reflections on Developments in Scotland

GPS, Vol. 6 No. 2, (2010)

The ideas propagated by the Scottish Enlightenment still have resonance in Scotland and relevance to the contemporary challenge of achieving better government. Its legacy survives in the notion that rationality should under-pin the conduct of government and it is argued that a coherent basis for such rationality is founded by the concept of „intelligent government‟, founded upon Deweyan pragmatism. This puts us firmly in the territory of „practical rationality‟ where intelligence (conceived in the Deweyan sense), experi-mentation, learning and open dialogue and deliberation underpin the „prac-tical-moral reasoning‟ of responsible government. Recent changes in de-volved government in Scotland have reinforced an outcomes-based ap-proach and, following a review of the approach to policy making, there are signs of a strengthening of a „policy learning‟ model, with government ana-lytical services placing increased emphasis on evidence reviews, evaluation and knowledge exchange. However, it is argued that there is a need for stronger emphasis on deliberative approaches and on genuine experimenta-tion in order to progress towards „intelligent government‟.

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