It is said and accepted that we live in the age of the ‘information society’ and ‘knowledge economy’, however how really informed are we? Just what proportion of the terabytes of information accumulated by both the public and private sectors is readily and conveniently available to the persons, organisations and communities to whom it is relevant?
Furthermore, are both government and society able to derive the benefits, efficiencies, savings and opportunities that collective information resources have the potential to yield?
Unifi Scotland is particularly concerned that information relating to Scotland’s land and property base is not being shared as extensively and efficiently as it could be. Unifi suggests that:
- we are not as informed as we could be;
- only a small proportion of information is conveniently available and;
- benefits are not being fully realised.
Unifi Scotland believes that by linking and enabling sharing of the significant amount of, often disparate, land and property information in Scotland there are significant benefits to be realised in support of the Scottish Government’s five Strategic Objectives and its National Outcomes. These benefits can be gained in three key ways:
- by satisfying the citizen – through advocating and encouraging empowerment and enabling financial savings;
- as improved efficiency – through advocating and encouraging innovation and enabling best value; and
- by contributing to economic growth – thereby enabling Scotland to be recognised as a competitive place on the world stage.
Some examples of current failings and inadequacies can be summarised as follows;
- The relative inefficiency of property conveyancing transactions – when relocating, up to one hundred and forty separate items of information need to be collated by a purchasing party, eleven different organisations contacted linking to a further seven who reuse some of the exact same information.
- Barriers that constrain citizen community groups from accessing and in turn using information that can enable them to take forward community initiatives.
- The time and effort needed by the planning process to identify and engage with third party interests.
- The inability to proactively convey prior warning of transport disruption to affected persons and organisations.
- The many strands of information that could be used to prejudge and then subsequently appraise property investment decisions are not readily available.
- It is difficult to take full account of the extent of large property portfolios, public agencies who are able to account for their own property assets are liable to do so in ignorance of the entire public sector’s ‘civil estate’.
Regeneration, taxation, estate management, revenues and benefits, planning, building control and conveyancing all depend upon reliable, accurate and accessible land and property information.
The above problems and constraints do not need to be the case; other countries are seeking to gain competitive advantage and solutions to their issues and priorities through comparatively modest investment in their land, property and location information resources, primarily through refinement of ‘information supply chains’ so as to enable convenient collation of relevant information components.
Some of the building blocks that Scotland will need in order to follow suite are either already in place or are in the process of being actively pursued via the following initiatives;
- Creation and use of address gazetteers by each of Scotland’s thirty two local authorities now being collated into a single National Gazetteer for Scotland by the Improvement Service
- The Registers of Scotland partnership programme to modernise Scotland’s Land Register and a number of other registers;
- Collation of a single view of each the three information repositories that Scotland’s fourteen Assessors take responsibility for;
- The Scottish Government’s Geographic Information Strategy for Scotland – ‘One Scotland, One Geography’
With clarity of objective and a shared vision these and other initiatives could now be harnessed to leverage benefit and make Scotland a wealthier, smarter, safer and stronger place to live.