“At their best, think tanks possess the ability to capture the political imagination by brokering ideas, stimulating public debate, and offering creative yet practical solutions...”
— What are think tanks good for?, John de Boer, UN University Centre for Policy Research

 

The case for think tanks

Typically, think tanks analyse, develop and promote new policy ideas. Although many think tanks are perceived to have a political leaning, the most successful take pride in their ideas being adopted across a broad political spectrum. The diagram below illustrates this point perfectly. 

 

  Source and copyright: Policy Exchange

Source and copyright: Policy Exchange

Although some think tanks have a specific agenda to promote, many enjoy charitable status with the associated tax advantages and regulation. Their contribution is valuable and they represent a key component of the policy infrastructure around most governments in the developed world. In particular, they can provide a bridge for the promotion of ideas and research conducted in academia to the policy agenda. 

There are a small number of think tanks operating in Scotland. However, they have very limited resources and their scale has lagged the transfer of powers to Holyrood: Scottish think tank infrastructure has not been able to expand to meet the challenge of a more complex policy environment. 

Read our Case for Think Tanks in full for a more detailed analysis on why the SPF is a crucial tool that will boost the quality of governance in Scotland.

“In their most basic form, think tanks are part of the information flow in a democratic society, conducting research and analysis....that allow busy policymakers, advocates, journalists and average citizens to hear diverse perspectives on important public issues.”
— Think Tanks: What are they good for? Time Magazine