Thinking about INSPIRE in Scottish Local Government

Last week undertook to provide an update on where I believe we are with respect to INSPIRE, so here goes.

Last year Scottish Government, supported by the Improvement Service, ran a series of workshops for local government and others to raise awareness of INSPIRE at the operational level.  These workshops were well attended and identified that local authorities hold a wide array of spatial data, with some stating that the hold over a thousand individual datasets, many of which could fall within the INSPIRE regulations.  It became clear that there is a large amount of duplication with different versions of other organisations’ datasets being held and recorded in data catalogues. Work is on-going by the Improvement Service and Scottish Government to identify any specific datasets which fall with scope of INSPIRE and therefore where local government is identified as having responsibility for data publishing.

Around 14 councils kindly sent extracts of their spatial data holding registers but as these are in 14 different formats, collation of the information has been problematic – interestingly this highlights what is going to be the crux of the problem going forward.  It is also noted that whilst many datasets will fall under INSPIRE, many do not and it could well be that these could have a higher value in terms of service planning and delivery.

In December I was asked to write a briefing note to SOLACE because following some enquiries in a few councils it emerged that whilst GIS managers were aware of what was involved and the published timescales, there was very little understanding of the obligations and potential resource consequences at the highest levels.  This presumably will have raised the issue so that there is at least some acknowledgment that action is required.

Aligned to this, a number of options are being investigated by the Improvement Service to assist local authorities in meeting the INSPIRE publishing requirements in the most cost effective manner and this includes what INSPIRE terms as “harmonising” of data i.e. standardising the content of each included dataset.  This is on-going between now and 2020 but the scale of the work should not be under-estimated.

The options identified range from doing nothing and letting each organisations fend for themselves to establishing a service to undertake data harmonisation and publish. Currently I am gathering cost based evidence to support a business case.  This is proving an interesting exercise.  Scotland’s Greenspace map project cost nearly £600k to produce a single layer of data for Scotland and interestingly despite all 32 councils who collected the data, agreeing a common standard, 52% of the total cost was spent in collating the data they provided into a single format.  There are many other examples to show how expensive this process has been in the past and how it is continuing e.g. currently with the Core Paths dataset.

Given that it has been expensive to do similar exercise in the past the business case also looks at how this all could be funded.  This work is at an early stage but one thing which strikes me in all this is neatly  illustrated in the diagram below (pinched from Gesche Shmid LGA):-

Local government didn't make a concious decision to sign up for INSPIRE but in the end will incur most of the costs in collating and harmonising data for others to benefit. Local authorities are autonomous bodies focussed on delivering services to meet local needs and generally have little interest in how this is achieved in other council areas, which may be geographically different and have different priorities.

However, this isn't to say that there is no merit in taking an approach which will help to support  the partnership working between organisations from different sectors e.g. local government, NHS and emergency services and at the same time meeting the INSPIRE obligations.  Once the business case in finalised it will be shared with councils and other interested bodies.

The timescale for implementing INSPIRE has a number of milestones but the above was reported to the Spatial Information Board at its last meeting and progress was noted.

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Sally Newton 7 Years Ago
Hi Iain. Have you given any thought to including NDPBs in this exercise? National Park Authorities have statutory Planning and Access functions which align us more closely with Local Authorities for several related datasets and any "Scotland wide" data amalgamation exercise would need to include us as well. Many smaller organisations also need to look at sharing data download services with larger ones as the overheads to do this on an individual basis are comparitively high for them. Sal
Former Member 7 Years Ago
Hi Iain, Thanks for that update. It was very useful. I am still a little confused on what the timescale for this is and also on what exactly local authorities are required to do. I have acquired a copy of the spreadsheet one of the Councils has done, but it looks like a lot of work and I don't want to start anything until I know just exactly what is required. It would be useful if you could keep us to date on progress - in particular in helping us to identify exactly what we need to do and what datasets come within the Inspire directive. For information, could you post a copy of the report to the Spatial Information Board and the briefing note to Solace?
Former Member 7 Years Ago
Hi Iain - thanks for a splendid blog. Common (data) standards surelyIS the way that Local Authorities should be going to enable better data sharing (and probably has a benefit in terms of data quality) but for some reason does not seem to be high on any agenda. I believe this need for standards applies not only to spatial data but all data and I just hope that LAs and central government make this a focus of any future developments/projects. Interesting point that '52% of the total cost was spent in collating the data they provided into a single format' - was that because vendors do not provide the ability to standardise formats?