Collective Approach to Inspire for Scottish Local Government

I’ve been a bit quiet with my blog recently but this is going to change over the next few months. The Improvement Service has been working on a proposal to take a collective approach to spatial data management and thus meet Scottish local government’s obligations under the EU Inspire directive.  By taking a wider, more ambitious approach than restricting ourselves to the Inspire datasets, it will be possible to deliver substantial quantifiable benefits to all One Scotland Mapping Agreement members through providing consistent spatial datasets at a national level and thus provide a significant proportion of a Scottish Spatial Data Infrastructure.  It builds on the experience since 2003 with the One Scotland Gazetteer by extending the principle of 32 (34 including Scotland’s national parks) organisations collating information into national spatial datasets which are available to all.

The original idea for the proposal emerged from a number of Inspire workshops which were held in the autumn of 2013 for Scottish local government.  One key task identified as a good starting point was the requirement to undertake an audit of spatial datasets held by local government.  All 32 councils were contacted and 13 provided information in spreadsheets (but with no common format).

The information provided by councils requires further analysis to determine the extent of spatial data held and maintained by local government to support the proposal for a collective approach to its management.  The vision is that Scottish local authorities and the wider public sector would, by taking a collective approach to the management of spatial information, be in a position to benefit from:-

·         providing access to any spatial data created by local government in a consistent form to all OSMA members, whilst recognising that each authority is autonomous with its own priorities and geography;

·         meeting any statutory requirements involving spatial data, including INSPIRE, the Reuse of Public Sector Information, and Flood Prevention Act (Scotland) 2009;

·         maximising existing expertise and resources, minimising duplication of effort and reducing overall costs through working together;

·         and, supporting the Spatial Information Board in driving continually increasing value from OSMA throughout the Scottish public sector by increasing the usage of spatial information, including the development of new spatial products.

The proposal outlines a phased approach to the development of a business case for the proposed service to be established by April 2015, with the following stages:-

·         Audit of local authority spatial datasets to determine the scope of the proposal;

·         Analysis of the audit to determine priorities in terms of realising maximum benefits;

·         Assessment of the resources and capabilities required to deliver the proposed service, including technical and data management options;

·         Developing a funding model to support service on a sustainable basis;

·         Presentation of the business case for approval.

The original idea was to limit the scope of the proposed service to Inspire datasets but it quickly became apparent that this would not deliver anything like the benefits that would be realised, if the scope was extended to all local government and planning authority datasets.  Views have been sought from a considerable number of potential stakeholders in such a service over the last 6 months and output from these consultations has moulded the proposal to the state it has reached today.

Admittedly progress has been slow but as the proposal developed it has been reported through various stages of governance to ensure that it will get sufficient backing for the business case to be supported and to date it has the support of the OSMA Management Group, the Spatial Information Board and SOLACE have been advised. It is encouraging to note the widespread support from these groups and it has attracted almost universal positive interest from potential solution providers and other members of the spatial data community.

The stage has now been reached where things are going to start to move quickly.  Scottish Government has agreed to support the development of the business case and the IS has awarded a tender to complete the spatial dataset audit to a consortium between thinkWhere and an Associate Consultant.  Work will be beginning on the audit, week commencing 28th July and more detailed information will be passed out to councils and planning authorities shortly.

At the same time we are about to appoint a Project Manager to assist in the development of the business case.

Now that we have secured the funding to move ahead and things are about to start, communications around the proposal will be ramped up. One lesson from the early days of DNA Scotland (remember 2003?) was the huge value to the programme from building a community of those involved to share and learn. As such we are going to establish a Spatial Information User Group.  The original intention was to focus this on the local authority and planning community (SLAGISNet revisited) but as OSMA has engendered collaboration amongst all members, this was viewed as being a retrograde step and the group will be open to all OSMA member organisations.

I have always considered that face to face contact is a pre-requisite of successful programmes of work and there will be a workshop on the Spatial Data Audit planned for the week beginning Monday 18th August.  This will be focussed on local authority and planning authority data custodians. My intention is to follow the early DNA Scotland approach by having a number of community meetings around the country and would ask that if any organisation  is willing to host meetings, workshops and seminars to get in touch.  If appropriate, if you supply the venue, we’ll provide content and purvey.

Many of you will have heard bits of the above but the proposal is now considered to have reached the stage where the community can help to shape the fine detail, so there will be a lot more communication to follow.


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Former Member 8 Years Ago
Iain, This sounds like the approach that we have all been waiting for from the IS/Scottish Government, saving us from wasting money, time and resources on 32(34) different solutions. I look forward to the workshop on the week beginning 18 August. Bear in mind some of the OSG custodians have a visit to the Fire Service in Hamilton on Tuesday 19 August. I do have a list of datasets from WDC that I think would be covered by INSPIRE should you still want it? Craig
Iain McKay 8 Years ago in reply to Former Member .
Craig, Thanks for the positive comment and the offer of sending your data. We have enough data audits from the original request to make a start on trying to develop a rationalised format. The idea is to present this at the workshop and hopefully all sign it off. We'll then ask for datasets in the agreed format and not just Inspire ones. Iain
Howard Davies 8 Years Ago
Hi Iain I totally agree with Craig's comments. This sort of solution will save a lot of time and resource and will be very welcome. I'd be very interested in attending or at least hearing the results from the workshop Regards Howard
Roger Garbett 8 Years Ago
Hi Iain I think this is a great idea and a way of saving time and money for all authorities. With the pressures of INSPIRE and Open Data, having such a service where we can upload our ‘compliant’ datasets and commit to a maintenance regime will not clog up internal resources for all participating organisations. We have found that there are many hoops to go through to try to publish data or to have data available for others to consume and use, that it becomes almost time and cost prohibitive. Angus Council is looking forward to getting involved and would be willing to host a meeting. Many thanks Rog
Ross McDonald 7 Years ago in reply to Roger Garbett .
Hi Iain, Some thoughts after today's workshop that settled on train home (in no particular order): Setting up web services is trivial nowadays and every LA should have the capacity/ability to publish data via WMS/WFS. If not then they should include it as a requirement in the next tender process. Adding INSPIRE compliance might be a bit more tricky. Updating a web service (or rather the data behind the web service) is easier than remembering to submit updates. FME should be able to combine source web services into usable datasets. Need to be very clear about the benefits to LAs, stressing the long term gains to be had over the initial pain. What incentives are there for LAs to comply? Bearing in mind the EU INSPIRE requirements, the OS INSPIRE licence conditions and the OS restrictions on end use of derived datasets (almost all LA datasets will be based on some OS mapping) how can LAs make money from the combined national datasets? Should a subgroup of SLAGisNET meet to define a set of standard attribute fields for datasets? Should the standard fields be created at source or mapped centrally? The SRWR VAULT has a process to map source attributes to a standard template when datasets are updated quarterly. It might be worthwhile checking with them how it's done. Ross
Andrew Kesterton 7 Years ago in reply to Ross McDonald .
Good session on Friday Iain and glad to be seeing progress on this. I'll echo Ross' thoughts that for us also technically publishing services isn't difficult, especially once data schemas and layers are agreed. The only reason we haven't published more already is the lack of a user base looking for our data. I'd prefer to see a facility that can consume our download or transform services to combine the datasets than to have to find resource to interactively upload data into some centrally hosted system. On the topic of standardised schemas for data, should this be co-ordinated with the LGA's open data initiative for Local Government South of the border in order to achieve potentially UK-wide datasets ? (18th September results pending..)