News

Using Greenspace Data to Understand Your Town: Ordnance Survey Blog on Understanding Scottish Places


30/04/2019 - The Ordnance Survey has published a blog on the use of greenspace data in the Understanding Scottish Places tool.

USP is a free-to-use, simple data website which allows you to visualise, compare and download key information about towns in Scotland and plan effective change. It is supported by Scottish Government and developed by a Consortium consisting of Carnegie UK Trust, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, Scotland’s Towns Partnership and the University of Stirling.

On the use of greenspace, the OS blog states:

“The USP Consortium continued to develop the tool with the November 2018 update, which included OS greenspace data. A measure of greenspace for towns was seen as a vital addition. USP measures greenspace hectares per 1000 population, sourced from Greenspace Scotland. This comprises play spaces, playing fields, public parks and public gardens as a measure of publicly-accessible green and recreational areas in a town.

The greenspace indicator in USP can be used as a proxy to gauge a number of key features – health, leisure, well-being, environmental sustainability and bio diversity; and green infrastructure supporting human infrastructure, offering a different perspective to our town and city centres”.

The full article can be read here: Ordnance Survey blog.

Upgrade to Scottish Town Data Tool USP Unveiled


19/11/2018 - A fresh upgrade to an innovative website providing in-depth information on Scotland’s towns has been unveiled. From greenspace to migration, new indicators in the open-access tool provide additional support to all those who work for positive change in Scotland’s towns.

Understanding Scottish Places is an easy-to-use tool which allows people to view the social and economic profile of their town and compare this with other towns in Scotland. Data is included for all towns in the country with a population of above 1,000; 479 in total.

USP is created and maintained by Carnegie UK Trust, University of Stirling, Scotland’s Towns Partnership, and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, and receives support from the Scottish Government. Storm ID are the developers of the web platform.

The organisations behind USP have now unveiled the second comprehensive upgrade to the tool since its creation in 2015. In addition to the wide range of information already available, users can now access ‘environment and connectivity’ indicators such as greenspace and average internet download speed, as well as enhanced and updated population change data. This includes a measure of local migratory patterns for the first time.

Users can also download information on individual towns in PDF format for later reference, and compare a town of their interest with any other in Scotland. Rather than rank places as ‘better’ or ‘worse’, USP focuses on shared characteristics, and well as employing a unique ‘independent to dependent’ scale.

Since its introduction in 2015 USP has been used by almost 16,000 people, from civil servants to local volunteers, in their work to support and make positive changes to towns in Scotland. The tool has also been used in numerous in-depth USP Your Town Audits, a comprehensive study which builds upon the USP output to give an individual town a much wider appreciation and understanding of its role, function and performance. The USP Your Town Audit has now become the standard benchmark for measuring the health of a Scottish town.

The value of USP was recognised in the 2017 Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning, when North Ayrshire Council was announced a winner for its use of USP’s town centre audit function in preparing its Local Development Plan.

The USP Consortium now looks forward to receiving user feedback on USP 3, in order to continue to improve and update the tool going forward.

Professor Leigh Sparks, Deputy Principal of the University of Stirling, said:

“The launch of Understanding Scottish Places provided consistent and comparable data across all 479 towns in Scotland for the first time. This unique resource has been informing decision making and debates about towns and town centre development across the country. We are now delighted to launch a further major update of the site with additional and enhanced data and functionality. The Institute for Retail Studies at the University of Stirling has been proud to be involved in USP from its conception and remains committed to maintaining its integrity and usefulness.”

Jennifer Wallace, Head of Policy at the Carnegie UK Trust, said:

“USP is uniquely placed in acting as the go-to portal to monitor a town’s activity, how towns compare and how towns might be able to learn from one another, and that goes for town planners, as much as it does for someone moving to a new area and looking to find out more about the location.
“The interaction and feedback the Understanding Scottish Places platform has received since its inception is testament to its success. Being able to now explore the levels of greenspace and internet connectivity are two more very useful strings to USP’s bow.”

Phil Prentice, Chief Officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership said:

“Understanding Scottish Places is an evolving platform that makes the most of data to inspire better decisions. The value of this tool for place-making has now been recognised in the prestigious Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning and is helping to inspire a similar platform spearheaded by the Welsh Government. We would now welcome suggestions from users as to what the next upgrade could contain and how further improvements could be made”.

Neil McInroy (Chief Executive) of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies said:

“A key element in building inclusive economies throughout Scotland is decent evidence and interpretation. In particular the revised data and interdependence tool, enable towns to dig even deeper into their function and how they relate to other towns. It has been a privilege for CLES to be involved in this work. And we hope this iteration facilitates even more use and greater assistance to those seeking to realise the full potential of their towns.”.

Anne Findlay, Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling said:

I have been privileged to be engaged with the data handling team for Understanding Scottish Places since its conception. It has been a challenging task to get data from different sources and to match these together for Scotland's towns. We have worked hard to ensure rigour and consistency. I am excited that USP3 brings a new dimension to the web interface. For the first time we are able to include data on change permitting users to begin thinking about how different towns or types of towns have expanded or contracted.'

ENDS


Putting Towns on the Policy Map: Article Published on Impact of the Understanding Scottish Places Tool

06/08/2018 - An article on the impact of the Understanding Scottish Places town data tool on place-making policy and practice in Scotland has been published in the journal Scottish Affairs.

Understanding Scottish Places is a free online tool which contains key data on all 479 towns in Scotland. It is developed by a consortium of partners including the Scottish Government, Carnegie UK Trust, The University of Stirling, Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES).

USP allows users to view demographic, social, economic and other information about their town, and compare their town with similar and different types of settlement across the country.

Furthermore, users can download information about their town in a handy PDF, as well as use the data to conduct a wider ‘Your Town Audit’.

First launched in 2015 and subsequently updated, a key rationale for the development of USP is the need to provide consistent and comparable data which promotes better understanding of and decision-making in Scotland’s towns.

The article published in Scottish Affairs states that in the two years since its launch, USP was accessed by over 11,000 individual users, with around 90% of visits coming from the UK.

Key impacts identified included in the areas of economic development, community planning, networking and knowledge exchange, and policy learning and transfer. Regarding the latter, in late 2017 the Welsh Government announced its intention to develop an ‘Understanding Welsh Places’ tool, while USP has also influenced the Carnegie Trust Twin Town Scheme.

The article was authored by Anne Findlay (University of Stirling), Matthew Jackson (CLES), Neil McInroy (CLES), Phil Prentice (STP), Ewan Robertson (STP) and Leigh Sparks (University of Stirling & Chair, STP).

Reflecting on the publication in a personal blog post, Professor Leigh Sparks stated that: “We can’t sensibly talk about towns unless we collect data on towns on a comparable and consistent basis. Then we can have more realistic conversations about what is happening, what specific places are like and can achieve, and how our country of towns is made up.

“…USP offers a platform and approach to help start such conversations. It does not solve the problems of data and coverage but is an attempt to be consistent and comparable…If we want towns to flourish then a start might be to collect and analyse data on towns, with agreed definitions and boundaries. Anything else is open to fudge and mis-appropriation”.

For the Scottish Affairs article, please see: this page.


Your Town Audits Recognised in Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning 2017

09/11/2017

North Ayrshire Council was announced as a winner in the Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning 2017 yesterday for the council’s use of the town centre audit function of the Understanding Scottish Places town data tool.

North Ayrshire Council’s submission described how the council had worked with Scotland’s Towns Partnership and EKOS to produce town centre audits as part of its new Local Development Plan.

The submission stated that the audits had supported strategic planning, funding bids and specific projects in a number of ways:

“This approach was innovative for STP, EKOS and NAC as it covered all town centres; and allowed partners to frame a strategic overview of all centres, to support a network approach, and recognise the value of a network in maximising town centres as regional and local economic drivers. The work provides a framework for monitoring/evidence gathering, auditing leading to a well-informed strategic approach, and allowing a range of partners to deliver on that strategy”.

The Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning are one of the Scottish Government’s most prestigious awards. They celebrate achievements in planning, from the detail of processing to the bigger picture of creating places which will become the legacy of professionalism.


Understanding Scottish Places - Your Town Audits Feature in Planning Award Shortlist

27/06/2017

The use of town audits based on data from the Understanding Scottish Places tool has been shortlisted for the Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning. North Ayrshire Council submitted the application, which described how NAC worked with Scotland’s Towns Partnership and EKOS to produce town centre audits as part of its new Local Development Plan.

The submission stated that the audits had supported strategic planning, funding bids and specific projects in a number of ways:

“This approach was innovative for STP, EKOS and NAC as it covered all town centres; and allowed partners to frame a strategic overview of all centres, to support a network approach, and recognise the value of a network in maximising town centres as regional and local economic drivers. The work provides a framework for monitoring/evidence gathering, auditing leading to a well-informed strategic approach, and allowing a range of partners to deliver on that strategy”.

You can read more about Your Town Audits here.

The Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning are one of the Scottish Government’s most prestigious awards. They celebrate achievements in planning, from the detail of processing to the bigger picture of creating places which will become the legacy of professionalism.

The four judges shortlisted 22 projects in the four categories of Partnership, Place, Plans and Process.

You can view an interactive map featuring all the 22 shortlisted projects here:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1UtXxl8jjL2FSsnEoTM9Dizd2Q7Y&usp=sharing

Updates on the Award winners will be provided after the ceremony in November.

For further updates follow @ScotGovPlanning on Twitter and look out for #SAQP2017 for updates.


USP Your Town Audits Featured in Scottish Planner Magazine

13/04/2017

The Your Town Audit toolkit, which works alongside the Understanding Scottish Places town data site, has been featured in RTPI Scotland’s Planner Magazine.

Co-authored by Mhairi Donaghy (EKOS), Phil Prentice (STP) and Liam Turbett (EKOS), the article explores the uses of the YTA, which is described as “a unique toolkit that provides a consistent approach for understanding towns… allowing for in depth analysis of the town’s retail, culture and service offering”.

It is also reported that the YTA has been used to support locality plans and community charrettes and has also informed Regeneration Frameworks and Local Development Plans. Each audit involves production of an overview report, outlining key insights and issues, as well as two spreadsheet workbooks – one with socioeconomic KPI data, the other with details of every unit and physical asset.

The concise article can be read in RTPI’s Planner Magazine here (page 9).

For more information about USP YTA’s and how this could be applied to your town, please visit the Scotland’s Towns Partnership website, or Understanding Scottish Places.


Understanding Scottish Places Version 2 Launched

Created by Scottish Government, Carnegie UK Trust, University of Stirling, Scotland’s Towns Partnership, and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies.

14/02/2017

A comprehensive upgrade to an innovative data tool providing in-depth information on Scotland’s towns was unveiled outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh today.

Senior representatives of the University of Stirling, Carnegie UK Trust, and Scotland’s Towns Partnership met to raise awareness of the benefits of the Understanding Scottish Places (USP) tool for all those interested in our towns. Minister for Local Government and Housing, Kevin Stewart MSP, and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, also endorsed the launch.

Understanding Scottish Places allows users to view the social and economic profile of their town, and compare this with other towns in Scotland. Data is included for all towns in Scotland with a population of above 1,000: 479 in total. Rather than rank places as ‘better’ or ‘worse’, USP focuses on shared characteristics, and well as employing a unique ‘independent to dependent’ scale.

At today’s launch, the organisations behind USP unveiled the first comprehensive upgrade to the tool since its creation in 2015. In addition to the social, economic and demographic data previously available, users can now view information such as daily commuter flows, tourist accommodation capacity, and the amount of grant funding received by their town. Furthermore, each town now has a unique description of its history, geography and economy. It is hoped that the new features will further enhance USP’s utility in supporting the development and regeneration of Scottish towns.

Since its introduction in 2015, USP has been used over 10,000 times by professionals, local organisations and other towns stakeholders to support their work. The tool is freely accessible to the public, and has been developed by a consortium of organisations comprising Scottish Government, Carnegie UK Trust, University of Stirling, Scotland’s Towns Partnership, and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies.

The tool has also been used in over 20 in-depth USP Your Town Audits, a comprehensive study which builds upon the USP output to give an individual town a much wider appreciation and understanding of its role, function and performance. The USP Your Town Audit has now become the standard benchmark for measuring the health of a Scottish town. The USP Consortium now looks forward to receiving user feedback on USP 2, and to developing a further upgrade to USP later in the year.

Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Local Government and Housing, commented:

“The Scottish Government is committed to helping Scotland’s towns by supporting regeneration, developing sustainable economies, improving energy efficiency and tackling fuel poverty. “We have been closely involved in the creation of this new version of Understanding Scottish Places. I’m delighted it’s now available for use by all those who work to improve Scotland’s towns. “There is some fascinating information on this website and I would encourage both professionals and members of the public to visit usp.scot to see how the tool could be used to benefit their local area. Its new features will support efforts to create flourishing places for all those who live, work in and visit our towns.”

Professor Leigh Sparks, Deputy Principal of the University of Stirling, said:

“Two years ago we launched Understanding Scottish Places, which for the first time provided consistent and comparable data across 479 towns in Scotland. This unique resource has been informing decision making and debates about towns and town centre development across the country. We are now delighted to launch a major update of the site with enhanced data and functionality. The Institute for Retail Studies at the University of Stirling has been proud to be involved in USP from its conception and is committed to maintaining its integrity and usefulness.”

Gina Wilson, Development Manager of Carnegie UK Trust said:

“Carnegie UK Trust is proud to have supported the development of this latest phase of Understanding Scottish Places. We know from the feedback received that USP is responding to a real need among all towns stakeholders for in-depth, comparative data on towns. We look forward to hearing from users about their experience of the new features in USP, which we believe will continue to support the creation of successful, inclusive places across Scotland”.

Phil Prentice, Chief Officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership said:

“Understanding Scottish Places is an evolving tool that makes the most of data to inspire better decisions. We would now welcome suggestions from users as to what the next upgrade could contain. We would also welcome data providers and partners to support us to take this valuable data platform even further"

Neil McInroy (Chief Executive) and Matthew Jackson (Deputy Chief Executive) of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies said:

“The key to progressive local economic development is for towns to understand using evidence the extent to which they are independent or dependent on others for the provision of services or the assets available in that town. USP 2 handily helps towns to understand their levels of independence, inter-dependence or dependence and thus shape their own local economic approach accordingly; meaning that economic strategy is rooted in the town itself and not pre-conceived and orthodox approaches”.

ENDS

Notes
USP can be accessed at: usp.scot

USP Consortium representatives who were present at the launch were: Professor Leigh Sparks (Deputy Principal, University of Stirling), Gina Wilson (Development Manager, Carnegie UK Trust), Phil Prentice (Chief Officer, Scotland’s Towns Partnership), and Anne Findlay (University of Stirling).

For further enquiries please contact: Ewan Robertson, Scotland's Towns Partnership, ewan@scotlandstowns.org / 07469967230.

About Understanding Scottish Places

The Understanding Scottish Places platform was commissioned by the Scottish Government and was launched in April 2015. A comprehensive update to the tool, USP 2, was launched in January 2017. It offers a mechanism for understanding the similarity of places across Scotland. Deliberately designed to avoid a simplistic ranking of places as better or worse, USP focuses on the shared characteristics of towns.

The platform is formed of three parts. The first two elements have been created using national data sets - a new typology of Scottish towns, and an assessment of towns’ inter-relationships. You can find out more about these parts of the tool on our Methodology page. The third part of the platform is the USP Your Town Audit, which is designed to help users gather local information which complements the national data available through USP.

Understanding Scottish Places has been developed by a consortium of organisations commissioned by the Scottish Government. They are: Carnegie UK Trust, Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP), the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES), and the University of Stirling.

About USP 2

In January 2017, the USP consortium launched an updated version of Understanding Scottish Places. USP 2 introduces new indicators, features and improvements. More about the new indicators can be read here: https://www.usp.scot/StaticPage/AboutContact

Understanding Scottish Places 3

The USP Consortium continues to develop USP, and is aiming to implement a ‘phase 3’ update to the tool in 2017. If you have any ideas, suggestions or data for possible inclusion in USP that you feel would benefit the tool, we would like to hear from you. Please see our contact details below.