Upgrade to Scottish Town Data Tool USP Unveiled

A fresh upgrade to an innovative website providing in-depth information on Scotland’s towns has been unveiled. From greenspace to migration, new indicators on the Understanding Scottish Places (USP) platform provide additional support to all those who work for positive change in Scotland’s towns.

USP is an accessible, open-access 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.

The platform 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 web developers.

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.’