Associate Feature: UKAS accreditation in Scotland - Supporting the delivery of effective policy objectives
The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) is the sole recognised national accreditation body for the UK, providing transparent and robust assessment processes that enhance efficiency, reduce bureaucracy and engender confidence across all market sectors.
UKAS accreditation supports the Scottish Government in fulfilling its policy objectives in areas such as good governance, smarter regulation, public confidence, and fair markets. UKAS is also an integral part of the UK’s national quality infrastructure, together with the British Standards Institution as the national standards body and the National Physical Laboratory as the national metrology organisation. This constitutes a high-quality framework for measurement, standards, testing, certification, and accreditation services. The confidence and assurance generated by these world renowned organisations has been instrumental in underpinning the innovative development, productivity and competitiveness of products and services in Scotland, the wider UK and beyond.
Accreditation in policy delivery
UKAS accreditation can offer an effective alternative or complement to regulation. While regulation can be expensive, difficult to change, burdensome for business, and restrictive to innovation, accredited conformity assessment provides assurance of compliance with both mandatory regulatory targets and voluntary market-led initiatives. This flexibility allows for the development of self-regulation, co-regulation and earned recognition models of policy delivery while minimising costs for both government and industry:
Self-regulation enables industries and other stakeholders to develop and adopt their own codes of practice, assuring markets of businesses’ conduct without regulatory intervention.
Co-regulation allows Scottish Government to set top-level regulatory and performance requirements, allowing the market to develop the most suitable solutions.
Earned recognition reduces the need for direct oversight and inspection by regulatory bodies as organisations demonstrate compliance with standards, earning trust in their fulfilment of legal obligations.
Accreditation not only lowers barriers to trade in existing market sectors but also provides a recognised and trusted framework for industry to innovate and grow in new and developing sectors. By offering a single, transparent, and repeatable approach, accreditation reduces the risks of unintended consequences and enables policymakers to respond effectively to evolving circumstances and priorities. This flexibility ensures that existing schemes can be modified more easily and rapidly than legislation, facilitating industry adaptation and promoting continuous improvement.
Accreditation in action
SELECT, the trade association for Scotland’s electrical contracting industry, has been accredited by UKAS for over 25 years. Accreditation plays a pivotal role in underpinning consumer safety and maintaining best practices, professionalism, and integrity within the industry. By using a UKAS accredited conformity assessment body, consumers can reduce the risk of accidents and injuries while improving productivity. SELECT members can also sign off their work in line with Scottish Building Standards requirements, gaining a competitive advantage.
Accreditation has also become instrumental in supporting Scotland’s net zero transition. From wave and tidal energy conversion systems to the sequestration of carbon in forests under the Forestry and Land Scotland’s commitment to the Woodland Carbon Code.
By reducing the potential for greenwashing, accreditation engenders public confidence and allows for impartial evaluation of environmental schemes, process refinement, and the development of new technologies that contribute to net zero efforts.
In the field of healthcare, accreditation has come to play a vital role in enabling both public and private healthcare providers in Scotland to deliver consistently high clinical care and diagnostic services with patient safety at their core. For example, supported by NHS Scotland, accredited laboratory testing was crucial in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service ensures the testing and storage of blood meets rigorous accreditation standards, while the Scottish Microbiology and Virology Network encourages laboratories to seek UKAS accreditation, to ensure quality, reliability and consistency of their testing processes.
UKAS accreditation already provides significant value in Scotland, supporting Scottish Government in delivering policy and regulatory objectives related to areas such as healthcare, environmental protection and safe drinking water. Along with standards, measurement, and conformity assessment, accreditation ensures technical competence and impartiality in a broad range of established industries and, increasingly, emerging technologies such as AI and the Internet of Things. UKAS accreditation remains a reliable ally in achieving policy objectives and fostering a prosperous and secure future.
To learn more about accreditation and public policy, MSPs are encouraged to attend a Standards and Assurance Reception at the Scottish Parliament on 17 January, 6-8pm, hosted by Clare Adamson MSP. The event is sponsored by UKAS, the British Standards Institution and the Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland.
This article is sponsored by The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS)
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