SIRE Policy Forum

SIRE_COST SIRE established the SIRE-Scottish Government Joint Policy Forum in May 2008. Each Forum meeting has a jointly agreed theme, with invited attendees comprising approximately 10 academic researchers and 10 government economists with interests relevant to the meeting’s theme. There are short presentations by a mix of academic and government economists to set the scene, with plenty of opportunity for formal and informal discussion and subsequent follow up.

All the Forums have received strongly positive feedback from government and academic participants and have, in a number of instances, resulted in follow up contacts being made. This positive feedback is well reflected in a letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, John Swinney, which states:

“In particular, I am aware that my own economists within the Scottish Government have benefited greatly from a series of joint workshops and lectures with SIRE members.

Meetings held to date


SIRE-Scottish Government Policy Forum: “Energy Modelling for Policy Analysis” - March 9th 2014, St Andrews House
The Forum was run in conjunction with the Offshore Renewables Institute, a collaboration between the Universities of Dundee, Aberdeen and Robert Gordon (see: The session was chaired by Graeme Roy (Scottish Government) with key note presentations by: Keith Bell (Strathclyde) “It must be right – my model says so. Modelling of the electricity system”, Iain Staffell (Imperial College) “Electricity Markets: Better Together?” and Ilkka Keppo (UCL) “Energy system modelling for long term energy and emission scenarios”.  An outline of  energy modelling developments in the Scottish Government then led into a lively discussion.

This very successful forum led to the formation of the Scottish Government Technical Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change Analysis (TAGECCA) which has, at the time of writing, met twice.

SIRE–Scottish Government Policy Forum on “Health Inequalities: challenges and responses” – June 19th 2014, Dundee.

The Forum was co-organised by Paul Allanson (Dundee) and Marjorie Marshall (Health Analytical Services, Scottish Government).  Following an introduction by Gary Gillespie (Scottish Government Chief Economist), there were presentations from:

  • Marjorie Marshall ( Health Analytical Services, Scottish Government) “Health inequalities in Scotland: the challenge”;
  • Tom Van Ourti (Erasmus University Rotterdam) “Inequity in the face of death”;
  • William Whittaker (Manchester) “An analysis into the impacts of the removal of the health inequalities factor for resource allocation budgets in England”;
  • Barbara Eberth (Newcastle) “Health behaviours and health inequalities”;
  • Paul Allanson (Dundee) “Monitoring trends in health inequalities: accounting for change”
  • Donald Henderson (Head of Public Health Division, ScottishGovernment: presentation delivered by Fergus Millan) “Tackling Health inequalities in Scotland: policy responses”.

The event was by invitation only with a good representation (35) of academics, policymakers and health service professionals with specialist interests not only in health economics, but also in the allied fields of public health and human geography. Academic participants came from the Universities of Dundee, Edinburgh, Erasmus Rotterdam, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle, Queen Margaret Edinburgh, St Andrews and Stirling.

The event also attracted considerable interest from the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland, with participants from these organisations making up the bulk of the numbers at the event.

The Policy Forum was specifically designed to promote knowledge exchange between the academic and policy communities: informing policy-makers about recent developments in the study of health inequalities, while academics obtained further insights into the nature of the policy challenge and responses. The event also served to establish and reinforce links between individual academics and policymakers that should to foster future dialogue and interaction.


Workshop and Policy Forum on “Frontiers in Empirical Entrepreneurship Research” – January 30th 2013, Stirling.
The workshop included presentations from: Hans Hvide (Bergen), Robert Gold (Kiel), Georgios Panos (Stirling), Olmo Silva (LSE), Lars Persson (Stockholm), Oliver Falck (LMU, Munich), and Claire LeLarge (INSEE). The workshop was followed by a roundtable discussion assessing entrepreneurship policies, led by Stephan Heblich (Stirling), Kenny Richmond (Scottish Enterprise) and Iain Scott (an entrepreneur). There were 20 participants drawn from academia and Scottish Government. The success of this workshop led to participants agreeing to organize similar future events in Sweden and Germany and the organizers have successfully applied for a CESifo summer institute.

European Monetary Forum – March 8th-9th 2013, Glasgow.
This meeting of the European Monetary Forum in Glasgow was co-funded by the Adam Smith Business School University of Glasgow, Cardiff Business School, the Julian Hodge Institute of Applied Macroeconomics and SIRE. There were presentations from Michael Arghyrou, Mike Wickens (both Cardiff), Arnab Bhattarcharjee (Dundee), Stephen Wright (Birkbeck), Gulkin Ozkan (York), Harris Dellas (Bern), Dale Henderson (Georgetown), Tony Yates (Bank of England), and Peter Smith (York). The Forum incorporated a lively policy panel, with panellists Jagjit Chada (Kent – an adviser on banking to the House of
Lords Treasury Committee) and Dale Henderson (Georgetown, formerly at the Fed). There were 40 participants drawn from the universities of Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow Caledonian, West of Scotland, Edinburgh Napier, Heriot Watt, Strathclyde, Istanbul, Cardiff, Durham, Kent, Bern, Georgetown, York, and Birkbeck, as well as participants from the Bank of England and the Scottish Government.

Conference and Policy Forum on “New Research on Performance-related Pay” – June 3rd-4th 2013, Aberdeen.
The conference included key note talks by Jed DeVaro (Cal State-East Bay)  on “Pay and the Delegation of Worker Authority”;  and David Marsden (LSE) on “The Paradox of Performance Related Pay Systems:  Why Do We Keep Adopting Them in the Face of Evidence That They Fail to Motivate?”. With further presentations by: Alex Bryson (NIESR and CEP), Tim Barmby (Aberdeen), Bob Hart (Stirling), Jaime Ortega (Carlos III de Madrid), John Heywood (Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Colin Green (Lancaster), John Sessions (Bath), Ian Gregory-Smith (Sheffield). The conference concluded with a lively policy roundtable, with panellists Graeme Roy (Scottish Government) and Ewan Sutherland (Head of HR and Organisational Development, Aberdeen City Council). There were 32 participants drawn from the universities of: Aberdeen, Stirling, Edinburgh Napier, Heriot Watt, Queen Margaret, London School of Economics, California State- East Bay, Lancaster, Carlos III Madrid, Bath, Sheffield, Wisconsin-Milwaukee; and the Scottish Government and Aberdeen City Council. The conference led to a special issue of the National Institute Economic Review published in November 2013.

SIRE – Scottish Government Policy Forum: “Why Do Reforms Fail?The Roots of Reform Resistance” – November 22nd 2013, St Andrews House.
The Forum was introduced by Graeme Roy (Scottish Government), with the keynote presentation given by Friedrich Heinemann (Head of the "Corporate Taxation and Public Finance" department at the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) in Mannheim) on
“Why Do Reforms Fail? The Roots of Reform Resistance”.  The presentation was followed by an open policy debate.


24th February 2012 – “Prospects for Growth After the Crisis”, Peter Sinclair

This Forum, held at New St Andrew’s House, was opened with a keynote talk by Peter Sinclair (Birmingham and Bank of England), and followed by an extended and lively discussion among the invited participants drawn from academia and Scottish Government economists.

30th March 2012 – “Financial Intermediation, Regulation and Growth”, Richard Reid

The Forum, held at the University of Edinburgh, was opened with a keynote talk by Richard Reid (International Centre for Financial Regulation and Dundee). This was again followed by a lively discussion among the invited participants drawn from academia and Scottish Government economists.


SIRE Workshop and Policy Forum on Regional Economic Policy September 28th 2012 - Dundee
The workshop included presentations from John Dewhurst, Arnab Bhattacharjee (both Dundee), Bjarne Madsen (CRT, Denmark), Eduardo Castro (Aveiro, Portugal), Geoffrey Hewings (Illinois), and concluded with a Policy Forum with discussion led by Graeme Roy (Scottish Government) and Bjarne Madsen (CRT). The event attracted 40 delegates from the Scottish Government, the Danish Centre for Regional and Tourism Research, and a wide range of universities: Goethe University (Frankfurt), Aveiro (Portugal), Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Aberystwyth, Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Heriott-Watt, St Andrews, Stirling, Strathclyde. There were plenty of questions and comments from the audience, with wide ranging discussions covering, inter alia, how regional economics can contribute to meeting the challenges faced by the Scottish Government and the agenda of the EU research doctorate. These fruitful discussions led to a follow-up KE meeting in St Andrews, with participation from Edinburgh and Glasgow City Council. Building on this successful initiative, a further workshop on regional economics is planned for 2014 in Heriot-Watt.

SIRE Workshop on “Fiscal Policy after the Crisis” – December 7th 2012, Glasgow
The workshop focused on the key theoretical and computational issues involved in modelling time-consistent fiscal policy, debt default and stabilisation policy. Presentations were given by: Juan Carlos Conesa (Barcelona), Salvador Ortiguiera (Catloss III, Madrid), Fabrice Collard (Bern), Apostolis Philippopoulos (Athens) and John Tsoukalas (Glasgow). Participants were drawn from the universities of: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Dundee, St Andrews, Heriot Watt, Edinburgh Napier, Bern, Barcelona, Carlos III (Madrid), Athens, Luxembourg; and the Scottish Government, Bank of England, and Office for Budget Responsibility.

Conference on “International Capital Flows and Spillovers in a Post Crisis World” – December 13th-14th , Bank of England
This major international two-day conference, hosted by the Bank of England, was co-organised by Alan Sutherland (St Andrews) and co-funded by the IMF Economic Review, the Bank of England, the Bank of Canada, UBC, St. Andrews University, SIRE, ECARES and CEPR. There were presentations from: Martín Uribe (Columbia), Bianca De Paoli (New York Fed), Marcel Fratzscher (ECB and CEPR), Jack Favilukis (LSE), Luca Fornaro (LSE), Philippe Bacchetta (Lausanne and CEPR), Luca Dedola (ECB and CEPR), Emmanuel Farhi (Harvard and CEPR), Gianluca Benigno (LSE and CEPR), Aaron Tornell (UCLA), and Vincenzo Quadrini (USC and CEPR). The IMF Economic Review will publish a special issue based on papers presented at the conference. The conference had around 50 selected participants, including 7 from SIRE institutions. See for further information on this event.


30 March 2011 – University of Edinburgh: Education

The policy forum brought together senior officials from the Scottish Government engaged in school education policy and academic economists, providing an opportunity for open discussion and academic challenge on key issues surrounding schools in Scotland. Curriculum for Excellence is now in place and the education sector faces additional challenges from a changing financial environment. We want to improve outcomes, making all our young people successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens. But how are these outcomes best achieved? One response to the financial challenges facing local authorities has been a number of proposals to reform the governance of school education in Scotland. These range from governance based on local clusters of schools, through joint provision across local authorities (e.g. East Lothian and Midlothian councils) to regional Education Authorities. These reforms would clearly encompass new approaches to the governance of schools, the role of head teachers and performance management. This forum explored the experience and knowledge of the academic and government participants, looking at examples from other countries and policy areas of driving forward improvements in outcomes: What works elsewhere? Why does it work? What do you need to make it work given the distinctly Scottish approach to education? What are the impacts and consequences? Speakers included Colin MacLean (What's Distinctive about Scottish Education) and Simon Burgess (Evidence from Elsewhere)


14 May 14 2010 – St Andrew’s House: Behavioural Economics

The Forum focussed on recent developments in behavioural economics and their implications for policy analysis. The Forum was led off by Nick Hanley (Stirling) presenting an insightful and thought-provoking overview of the insights from behavioural economics into problems of measuring preferences SIRE – Report (Period: 1 Oct 2009 to 30 Sept 2010) 27 and values. This was followed by a presentation from Ed Hopkins (Edinburgh) outlining recent insights from behavioural economics into inequality, statusseeking, self-control and social behaviour, which have a wide-ranging relevance for policy analysis. Given the more academic sounding nature of the Forum’s topic, it is particularly pleasing to note that it not only attracted high and broad-ranging participation from Scottish Government economists, but it also gave rise to a particularly stimulating and lively discussion covering both the positive lessons to arise from recent developments in behavioural economics, as well as concerns about its potential for misuse in policy contexts. There were 9 academic participants from Edinburgh, St Andrews, Stirling, Aberdeen and Strathclyde.

January 25th 2010 – University of Edinburgh: Environment

The Forum focussed on issues in environmental economics: carbon assessment, and ecosystem services valuation. The first session, on carbon assessment, began with Stevan Croasdale and Jonathan Dennis, of the Scottish Government, providing an overview of methods, uses and next steps. Kim Swales (Strathclyde) provided a sympathetic, but thorough and detailed evaluation and response. The second session was led off by Sandra Dandie, for the Scottish Government, providing an overview of the work that is taking place or planned on ecosystem services evaluation and its uses. Nick Hanley (Stirling) responded with an insightful overview of the potential pitfalls in evaluation, identifying what is and what is not achievable. Both sessions prompted lively discussions, which highlighted a number of important issues. Participants in the Forum included 14 Scottish Government economists, representatives from Aberdeen Centre for Environmental Sustainability (ACES), the Centre for Sustainability Accounting (CenSA) Ltd., the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, and Scottish National Heritage, and 10 academic participants from Strathclyde, Heriot Watt, Edinburgh, St Andrews, Dundee and Stirling.


29 October 2009 – St Andrew’s House: Health

The Forum focussed on issues in health economics: incentives and obesity. The first session on incentives started with Angela Campbell, the Deputy Director, Health Analytical Services, setting out the policy agenda, followed by Martin Chalkley (Dundee) outlining the latest academic thinking. The presentations were followed by a lively discussion. The second session, on obesity, was again led off by a government economist, Marjorie Marshall, who outlined the policy agenda. Then Martin O’Connell (Institute for Fiscal Studies and a recent graduate of St Andrews) outlined some work he had recently completed (with Rachel Griffiths of the IFS) on the likely impact of a ‘fat tax’. Martin’s presentation generated considerable interest, in respect of both the possibility of introducing a ‘fat tax’ in Scotland to tackle its chronic obesity and health problems and, more generally, on the methodology used by IFS researchers to establish the incidence and hence impact of the tax. Participants included 11 government economists (drawn from Health Analytical Services, Health Improvement Strategy, Justice Analytical Services, and the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser), 10 academics from Dundee, St Andrews, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, and an economist from NHS Scotland

28 May 2009 Edinburgh – Fiscal Autonomy

The inaugural Joint Policy Forum focussed on the topic of increased fiscal autonomy for Scotland. The invited participants comprised approximately 10 SIRE academics (including Julia Darby, Peter McGregor and Kim Swales, Strathclyde; Simon Clark and Stuart Sayer, Edinburgh; Ronnie MacDonald, Glasgow; and David Ulph, St Andrews) and 10 economists from the Scottish Government. David Ulph who, along with Julia Darby, was a member of the Independent Expert Group appointed to advise the Calman Commission, presented a short overview of fiscal autonomy. This was complemented by an outline of key elements of Scottish Government thinking on fiscal independence and its links to the broader economic strategy by Dominic Munro of the Scottish Government. The presentations were followed by an open, insightful and animated discussion under Chatham House rules. The format of the event, which began with a buffet lunch and concluded in a local hostelry in the early evening, provided a very valuable opportunity for extended discussion and knowledge exchange.