A poll conducted by Panelbase for Believe in Scotland of over 2,000 Scottish residents, aged 16+ conducted has shown that 56% of Scottish voters would support Scottish independence if the Scottish Government put a Wellbeing Economic Approach at the heart of its economic plans for an independent Scotland. A plan that recognises that quality of life, equality, fairness, sustainability, happiness, and health are all outcomes that should be given equal weight as it does to traditional measures such as GDP.
The same poll asked the standard Yes/No question on independence, Yes support came in at 48%. This means that a Wellbeing Economic Approach increases independence support to 56% an 8% increase. You can learn more about the Wellbeing economics approach here. This poll demonstrates that there is a route to independence if the Scottish Government is willing to adopt the Wellbeing Economic Approach and drop its outdated Sustainable Growth Commission.
The impact of a Wellbeing Pension on independence support.
Believe in Scotland has also been campaigning for a Wellbeing Pension. The UK basic state pension is the second worst in the developed world and is a direct cause of pensioner poverty. The Wellbeing Pension has been calculated by Scotianomics, the research arm of Business for Scotland, as the minimum amount required by pensioners to live with basic dignity. That amount is £225.00 per week.
When asked “If the Scottish Government’s Wellbeing Economic approach included a commitment to increasing the basic state pension from £141.85 to a Wellbeing Pension of £225.00 per week in an independent Scotland - how would you vote in a Scottish independence independence referendum?” Support for independence skyrockets to 60%. That is a full 12% increase just by clarifying the message and doing the right thing.
The Scottish Independence Congress Supports Wellbeing
When a similar question was asked of delegates at the recent Scottish Independence Congress hosted by Believe in Scotland and attended by 241 delegates selected from 126 local Yes Groups - 97% of delegates agreed that a core focus of Scotland’s campaign to become independent should centre around introducing and pursuing a Wellbeing Economic Approach.
97% also supported the adoption of a Wellbeing Pension as a core manifesto commitment of pro-Yes parties. The message from the Yes movement is clear - they want Scotland to be a country which places the welfare and happiness of its citizens on par with economic prosperity.
Sustainable Growth Commission published in 2017 is now outdated and irrelevant to the new reality. It has been overtaken by events such as the economic damage done by Brexit, the health crises, the cost of living crises and disastrous economic management from the UK Government. There is no place for outdated conservatism in the economic plan for an independent Scotland. The next First Minister of Scotland must continue and in fact, accelerate, the Scottish Governments adoption the Wellbeing Economic Approach in their campaign for independence.
How the Wellbeing Economic Approach changes minds on independence
It is clear that a focus on wellbeing economics increases support for independence, but where is that increase felt? In short, the difference is felt across almost every age group, sex and party affiliation. The commitment to a wellbeing economic approach by the government of a newly independent Scotland increases the support for independence across the board. The most stark demographic jump is among females aged 18-34 where support for independence increases 11% to 75-25 in favour.
The next most interesting change comes from those who intend to vote Labour in the next Westminster election. When asked about their support for independence with the wellbeing commitment, Labour voter support jumps by 11% and LibDem support for independence increases by 12%.
Across all regions of Scotland there are also significant increases in support for Yes. The largest increases are felt in the West and South of Scotland, where opposition to independence is traditionally strongest. In these areas a Wellbeing Economic Approach increases support for independence by 9% and 8% respectively, taking both areas above majority support for independence.
How the addition of the Wellbeing Pension changes minds on independence
Committing to a Wellbeing Pension as part of the Wellbeing Economic Approach increases support for independence even more strongly across the board. The increases across demographics are felt more strongly among females, with the most consequential increase being Females 55+. This demographic was most opposed to independence in 2014, due to fears over pensions, this result shows there is a path to winning them to the cause of independence.
Looking at the results across party lines we can see support for independence once again increases significantly for Labour and LibDem voters. The key here is that the adoption of the Wellbeing Economic Approach with the Wellbeing Pension of £225.00 per week wins over large swathes of Labour voters, these voters are the key to Scotland winning its independence as they are most likely soft No voters or undecideds who voted to remain in the EU and are disheartened by the path the UK is on, if we can show them that an independent Scotland can offer a brighter future, we can win them over.
These results show that a key way to increase support for independence is to offer a vision of a fairer, more equal and happier nation that prioritises more than just economic growth but also the happiness for its citizens.
Believe in Scotland and its parent organisation Business for Scotland have, since 2011, championed the introduction of wellbeing economics as the dominant economic model of an independent Scotland. The current and past failures of the UK Government highlight, even more starkly, that now is the time to move to this model. The old economic and political dogmas of the left and right are dead, they offer us no solutions to the current state of the UK. The world economy has teetered on the brink of collapse twice in just over a decade, with the UK economy never fully recovering from the first. We need new answers and wellbeing economics provides them.
Wellbeing economics provides answers to the big questions, such as how do we combat climate change, reduce inequality, improve health outcomes and quality of life? The solution is simple: we must give these outcomes the equal weight we currently give to traditional economic indicators such as GDP growth or trade statistics, incorporating them into official government publications and policies. Scotland’s aim should be to become a world leader in all the areas listed above by building a strong society and a strong economy - as one cannot exist without the other.
Through independence, Scotland can make strides to become a world leader in the other wellbeing indicators and the results of this poll shows that the Scottish people want that future. One where their quality of life and happiness is prioritised as much as economic growth.
A poverty gap is opening between England and Scotland, in particular in child poverty rates, according to a new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. In its annual report: “UK Poverty 2023: The essential guide to understanding poverty in the UK”, the charity reports that rates of child poverty are diverging between the two countries.
The report found that Scotland has a lower rate of overall poverty (18 percent) than England (22 percent) and Wales (24 percent), partly because of lower housing costs. Scotland has seen the largest fall in poverty of any area in the UK - six percentage points below where it was 20 years ago. The report praised the Scottish Government’s move to limit rent increases, and the Scottish Child Payment scheme, whereby poorer households receive £25 a week for each child under 16.
Child poverty rate in Scotland comparable to the south of England
Child poverty in Scotland is amongst the lowest in the UK, at a similar level to the south of England, the report says. Across other areas of the UK, hard-won reductions in child poverty are “unravelling”, with child poverty in North East England up 12%.
The report said: “Divergence in policy across nations will probably drive greater disparity in poverty rates. Scotland has taken decisive action in defining child poverty targets in legislation and enhancing the benefits system with a Scottish child payment for those receiving qualifying benefits; this was introduced in February 2021 at £10 a week per child under the age of six; the value doubled in April 2022 to £20 a child and increased again in November 2022 to £25 when it was also rolled out to all eligible children under 16. In response to both the pandemic and cost of living crisis, both Scotland and Northern Ireland have taken steps to limit rent increases for social renters, while the Scottish Government is introducing more protections for private renters including greater rent controls and eviction bans.”
The Council Tax Reduction scheme is also unique to Scotland and helps people on low incomes save an average of £750 a year on their council tax bill. Those eligible can also save up to 35 percent on their water and waste charges.
The “rape clause” is driving more and more children into poverty in England
The Scottish Government mitigates the UK Government’s ‘rape clause’ which says that a low-income family can only get benefits for two children - unless they can prove that a subsequent child was the result of rape. The Scottish Government spends over £1.4 billion each year to mitigate this and other UK welfare benefit cuts.
The JRT report does not provide separate numbers for large-family poverty in Scotland and England. But it said that almost half of children in large families in the UK are now in poverty, up from 33% a decade ago. The JRT says that this two-child limit is increasingly important in driving up rates of child poverty in larger families.
The report said: “The latest data still does not show the full effect of the two-child limit policy, which explicitly targets larger families. This has withdrawn means-tested support from third and subsequent children born since April 2017. In the latest data, more than half of families containing three or more children have their youngest child born before this date so are unaffected by the benefits cap. As time goes on, more and more families will be affected by this and poverty rates in larger families are therefore likely to increase further.”
Poverty still a huge and growing issue - as Brexit shrinks the UK economy
Although it is worse in England, poverty is a serious and growing issue for too many families across Scotland. Brexit is turning the UK into the sick man of Europe and the economy is shrinking. An independent Scotland back in the EU could emulate Ireland’s growth rate - it grew more than 12% in 2022, compared to 4% for the UK - and fund better pensions and measures to support families.
The cost of energy bills in Scotland is also in part due to the UK Government's ideological decisions over how to tax oil and gas and their choices over privatisation of important infrastructure such as the national power grid. The JRT research doesn't yet reveal the effect of the energy crisis on low-income Scots - currently paying the highest bills in the UK despite living in an energy-rich country.
Conclusion - an independent Scotland could do better
This report shows the result of the political and ideological choices of a UK Government that Scotland didn’t vote for. A cruel policy to limit benefits to two children in a family forces many into deep poverty. The Scottish Government has to spend too much of its fixed budget on mitigating these choices.
An independent Scotland back in Europe and with full control of its huge energy resources would have much more power to change the current political landscape and emulate other small European countries where relative poverty is much lower.
WE have all become accustomed to Boris Johnson’s false “bumbling” manner in public appearances and interviews as he tries not to cement his place in history as the PM who made Britain the laughing stock of the world after “getting Brexit done”. However, his and the Chancellor’s woefully inadequate handling of the economy, which has been battered by the pandemic, catastrophic events in Ukraine and spiralling energy prices, are in danger of leaving the UK stuck with the tag, “the poor man of Europe”.
Inflation in the UK is currently as 6.1 per cent, with the Bank of England expecting it to top 8 per cent and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasting an 8.7 per cent rise in the third quarter of this year, a 40-year high.
But how much of the cost of living crisis has been caused by corporate greed, and could that unflattering soubriquet have been avoided had the Tories acted with some humility instead of keeping their big money backers onside?
Price hikes on basics are not confined to the UK. Worldwide oil and gas prices have been rising since the economy began to recover from its first bout of Covid in late 2020 – when the collapse in demand drove prices down. However, when Russia invaded Ukraine, prices shot up to unprecedented levels hitting the whole of Western Europe.
In the UK – which imports only 8% of its fuel products from Russia – around 22 million homes were facing energy prices rises of £700 per year from the beginning of this month, when the energy price cap rocketed by 54 per cent.
Rishi Sunak did announce a temporary 5p per litre reduction in the duty on petrol and diesel, down from 57.95 per litre; and a cut in income tax in two years’ time, prompting widespread criticism, including from the Resolution Foundation, which said only one in eight workers would see their tax bill fall.
The impending financial crisis has promoted hundreds of thousands of words of comment and many guides on how people can cope, so how are the governments of our European neighbours helping their populations?
In France, the government cut the cost of fuel by 15 cents a litre and gave six million households a €100 (£83.50) energy voucher to cope with soaring costs. Compare that to the £200 loan being given to UK households, which will be paid back in instalments on future bills
All taxpayers in Germany are being given a €300 (£250) payment to help with their cost of living rises, with a further €100 (£83.50) for each child and a similar amount for anyone on state benefits. A three-month public transport ticket has been slashed to €9 (£7.50) to encourage people to use low-carbon travel.
The Irish government is giving every household a €200 (£167) energy rebate and public transport fares have been cut by a fifth until the end of the year to help people with rising travel costs.
In Northern Ireland, public transport fares have been frozen, while in the UK, rail fares rose by 3.8 per cent at the beginning of last month.
Spain has seen inflation rise to almost 10 per cent, but the government has still tried to ease the burden on its citizens. It is subsidising fuel by 20 cents until the end of June and pledging to tax excess profits. It has also capped rent rises at 2 per cent.
Sunak’s spring statement came nowhere close to helping lower income households, and the Institute for Public Policy Research said they still faced an average cash shortfall of £320 this year. The IPPR said his statement was biased towards higher earners – who, it estimated, received four times the support that lower-income households did.
Oil giants have reaped huge benefits from the pandemic and the Ukraine crisis – Shell’s and BP’s combined profits last year totalled $32bn (£24.5bn), triggering calls for a windfall tax to be levied.
Following the privatisation of our utility and transport companies, started by Maggie Thatcher, we have seen them make billions in profits as they push up the prices of energy, water and other commodities. The National Grid, for instance, pays out more than £1bn a year to its shareholders.
Pharma giant GSK, with sites at Irvine and Montrose, has been embroiled in a dispute with the Unite union over a pay offer of 2.75 per cent, while its chief executive Emma Walmsley, received a 17 per cent rise last year, taking her remuneration to over £8 million – prompting claims of “cast-iron corporate greed”.
If an entrepreneur becomes a millionaire, that's great, they took the risks, founded a business and created jobs. Large corporate salaries involve no real risk, as the economy has been restructured to ensure their success and often that they don’t even have to pay taxes.
There’s no getting away from such examples of apparent avarice and, despite the fact that similar claims are much more prevalent in the US, they deserve to be addressed in public on these shores.
But Johnson and Sunak etc are unwilling to do anything to upset their super-rich friends, family members and supporters. This leaves us with two key questions firstly, when exactly does the UK qualify as an oligarchy? And secondly, if Scotland can produce 100% of its energy requirements from renewables in 2022, which is the cheapest form of energy, when will people realise that the cost of living crisis is not only a cost of greed crisis but a cost of remaining in the UK crisis.
Believe in Scotland is two years old - We reach the undecided and soft No voters and we support local Yes groups across Scotland.
Our second year of campaigning got off to a good start with Believe in Scotland being named the Independence Campaigning Group of the year 2020 by the Scottish Independence Foundation and The National Newspaper. It ended with us having distributed approximately two million individual pieces of independence campaigning materials to Scottish voters.
Thanks to the 120 local Yes groups, thousands of online activists, The National, The Scottish Independence Foundation, The National Yes Network, The SNP, and the Scottish Green Party who worked with us (on specific projects) to make it happen.
Here are just a few of the highlights of Believe in Scotland’s independence campaigning activities in our second year.
Burns Supper - Lockdown had led to the cancelation of most of our events and almost halved our revenues. So, we started the year with our Online Burns Supper which was attended by 550 independence supporters raising more than £4,000 for our planned Yes Billboards campaign. The highlight of the evening was a performance of 'A man's a man for a' that' by Brian Cox, Lesley Riddoch, Eunice Olumide and Alistair Heather, which has now been viewed more than 30,000 times on Facebook alone.
Billboards - Next up came our first of several batches of billboard's, two messages alternating on more than 100 electronic billboards throughout Scotland. Simple and effective messages, first, 'Independence is Normal' and second, pointing out that the 'UK Government pays the worst basic state pension in the developed world'. The latter seemed to really annoy unionists and resulted in multiple complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority and to the Electoral Commission both of which investigated and rejected the complaints - As they always do
Raising funds – Believe in Scotland is an offshoot of the pro-independence think tank Business for Scotland (BfS). BfS which produced the best-selling book on Scotland’s economy, Scotland the Brief which has now sold 46,000 copies with all proceeds going to support independence campaigning.
Funding – The revenues for the Burns Supper and the Scotland the Brief profits, however, are minuscule compared to the spending power of our opponents who are often fake grassroots groups with dark money sources. This led us to launching our first crowdfunder for Believe in Scotland campaigning and it was a great success. Pro-independence business donors from Business for Scotland agreed to match the first £50,000 raised from the public – pound for pound and in the end, we raised £129,490 which amongst other things paid for free campaigning packs for 120 Local Yes Groups and our Big Day of Indy Action (more on that later)
Become a member of Believe in Scotland for free here, or become a Stakeholder member here for as little as £5.00 a month – All our funding comes from donations and 98% from micro-donations so please help us campaign for independence.
Social Media to the Lockdown Rescue – With all our events cancelled due to Covid we had to move online and get better at getting our message out via social media. And yeah, we did pretty well! we started the year with an audience of approximately 49,000 followers and ended it with roughly 238,000.
This makes us significantly larger than any other active Yes campaign organisation in terms of audience. The only other organisation with a larger audience (The 2014 Yes Scotland profile) has been inactive since 2014.
Our website clicks via social media have grown by around 1,000% from 2020. But so much of our campaigning is done via social media now that website stats are less relevant. Over the course of 2021, our engagement has grown by 338% on Facebook and 272% on Twitter. We also started a more regular presence on Instagram & LinkedIn.
Our Social media reach is near impossible to determine but it has been tens of millions. On just one day alone (our National Day of Action in conjunction with The National & 112 local Yes groups) we had #BelieveinScotland trending on Twitter and reached around 1,000,000 people on social media. A perfect example of the organic strength the Yes movement boasts when it works together.
Regional Pages – We also launched our Believe in Scotland Regional Social Media Network on Facebook that will accommodate local Yes groups and ran Free online training for Yes group social media managers with more than 60 volunteers attending. You can find and follow our regional pages here.
Our Facebook Group – Our Believe in Scotland Facebook Group is only about 18 months old but has grown to host nearly 28,000 members. The group alone has had 3,407,049 views in the last 12 months. They will have viewed some of the 10,000+ posts and comments made by the Yes movement. Having started roughly six years after most of the others it is now the second largest Yes group (by membership) on Facebook but it’s by far the busiest and there is no party politicking, trolling or negativity allowed.
The Wellbeing Newspaper – Time to go big or go home. Business for Scotland has for years championed the Wellbeing approach to economics and later in the year the opportunity presented itself to build upon the success of the Open Mind’s newspaper with a new partnership. Believe in Scotland, The National, The SNP and later the Scottish Green’s teamed up to publish and deliver to homes across Scotland one million copies of an 8-page newspaper focussed on our wellbeing economics approach.
Make no mistake, this publication fired the starting gun on indyref2 but it also started to redefine the purpose of independence in response to the chaos of Westminster, Brexit and Covid lockdowns. The paper also marks a step-change in the key message of the independence movement and starts a conversation with undecided voters about the type of nation we want to build with the full powers of independence. It’s core message was also incompatible with the Sustanable Growth Commision but few seem to have noticed that.
Adding the one million copies of the Wellbeing paper to the Day of Action materials and the approximately 300,000 leaflets and books we distributed earlier in the year and we find that we distributed around 2 million items of independence campaign material between Jan 2021 and Feb 2022.
50,000 copies leaving BiS HQ
Only a snapshot – We could write another 20 paragraphs detailing other campaigning initiatives but you would be reading all day. Frankly we held the line when Yes was slipping in the polls and the SNP were focussed on the health crisis and even the marchers couldn’t take to the streets. We found a way to campaign and to campaign more effectively than ever before and in 2022 we are going to do more.
You should join us - become a Believe in Scotland Stakeholder member by donating just £5.00 a month here. We are the only national Yes campaign group that can reach the undecided, that can deliver major campaigns and if you Believe in Scotland then please join us now – indyref2 is next year!
In 2018, the UN Poverty Rapporteur Philip Alston issued a damning report on the UK. Then, a fifth of the population was living in poverty and 1.5 million were unable to afford basic essentials. Since then, the combined impacts of Brexit and Covid have significantly worsened the picture. Rocketing energy bills, soaring food prices and regressive tax increases have forced millions more into poverty. Alston warned that the impacts of Brexit, which Scotland soundly rejected, would hit the most vulnerable and disadvantaged the hardest, and he’s been proven right.
Alston identified the root cause of the misery as a deliberate shift, since 2010, in the underlying values shaping UK government policy. “Compassion for those who are suffering, has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach apparently designed to instill discipline where it is least useful, to impose a rigid order on the lives of those least capable of coping with today’s world, and elevating the goal of enforcing blind compliance over a genuine concern to improve the well-being of those at the lowest levels of British society.”
A recent example of this approach was provided by food writer and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe. She demolished the UK government’s claim of a 5% cost of living increase, showing that for those who have long relied on the cheapest supermarket staples to survive such as pasta, rice, baked beans, canned spaghetti and bread, prices have risen by 141%, 344%, 45%, 169% and 29%, respectively. In addition, she points out that many products are smaller but priced the same, a practice known as ‘shrinkflation.’ Yet a particular upmarket supermarket price for a ready-meal hasn’t changed since 2011, and if subject to the same inflation rate as rice, would cost £26 instead of the current £7.50. We are not, as David Cameron claimed, ‘all in this together.’
Alston acknowledged the Scottish Government’s frantic efforts to mitigate the worst aspects of UK austerity policy. However, as helpful as they are, the Scottish Child Payment, free school meals and Best Start Foods cards can only scratch the surface of what’s needed to build a more equal and fair society.
Creating a nation that cares for the wellbeing of all its citizens will only happen once we reclaim our independence.
Fears Are Growing for England’s NHS
Former Conservative PM John Major famously said that the NHS would be as “safe as a pet hamster in the presence of a hungry python” if Boris Johnson and Michael Gove rose to power after Brexit. New developments are causing many to fear that he was right and that bars are being bent on the hamster’s protective cage.
How does this affect Scotland - surely health care is devolved?
At the moment, health care is devolved to the Scottish Parliament - but the UK Supreme Court has ruled that Westminster only ‘lends’ powers to Holyrood. The UK Government can overrule the Scottish Parliament whenever it wants. There is little that can legally be done to protect Scotland’s NHS without independence.
FIVE recent developments are causing concern
#1 The Internal Markets Act mandates that any international trade deal the UK Government signs will cover Scotland
The UK Government has made it clear it will not hesitate to override devolution in regard to international trade deals. The Internal Markets Act, which became law a year ago, has the specific goal of ensuring that these deals automatically cover Scotland.
The UK Gov announcement said the Act would protect businesses, jobs and livelihoods by ensuring there are no “harmful new barriers to trade between all parts of the UK”. It also said “world-leading standards” would be maintained after leaving the EU. However, they have been watered down in many cases - one example was the post-Brexit relaxation of rules on pumping raw sewage into rivers.
As a result many fear that the UK Government will make deals, especially with US-based, privately owned healthcare providers that impact the NHS in all four UK nations.
#2 A clause protecting the NHS from being on the table in trade negotiations was removed from the .
The House of Lords inserted a clause into the Trade Bill as it passed through Westminster which would have protected the UK's ability to provide “a comprehensive publicly funded health service free at the point of delivery”. The amendment would also have restricted “the sale of patient data” and protected NHS drug prices but those protections were rejected.
But 357 Conservative MPs voted to remove this amendment to the government's bill. Trade Minister Greg Hands said: “We do not see the need for this amendment, as protecting the NHS is already a top priority in negotiations.” The Trade Act was passed last year.
#3 The UK Government is trying to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
After leaving the EU single market, the world’s largest trading bloc, the UK Government wants to make up for some of the huge loss of trade by joining another trading bloc at the other side of the world - the TPP.
To succeed in joining, it will have to sign up to the bloc’s terms and conditions, which include rules to protect drug companies’ intellectual property. These allow them to bloc generic drugs. That would affect the ability of the NHS to negotiate cheap prices for medicines.
Joining the TPP would be seen as a stepping stone to a trade deal with the US. US officials and businesses have repeatedly said that the NHS must be "on the table" in trade talks, with US pharmaceutical companies and healthcare businesses eyeing the UK health market as a source of profit.
#4 Trade deals are likely to give legal protection to trans-national companies’ profits, tying future UK Governments’ hands
When the Conservative Government enters into new international trade deals it signs legally binding contracts. These deals will enable companies to bid for contracts within England’s NHS “market” for services and products.
The small print protects these companies’ business and profit - any future Government that wanted to get out of these obligations would find the trade agreements contain multiple obstacles and financial disincentives. This means they could incur massive legal costs and have to pay compensation.
5 The new health and care bill (England) allows private company reps to sit on commissioning bodies
The new health and care bill passing through Parliament is the latest in a series of Conservative reforms which aim to create a pretended free market within the NHS with private companies “competing” for public money which is “spent” by commissioning bodies.
This latest form of this allows people with an interest in these private companies to sit on the boards of the commissioning bodies. The rules and protections that were in place under EU procurement rules will no longer apply. The UK Government’s poor track record on public procurement in the pandemic has caused international comment. Its lack of oversight of the loan scheme caused government minister Theodore Agnew to resign this week, which does not inspire confidence.
It is difficult to predict with certainty what effect this will have on Scotland’s NHS. But the concern - which is shared by many in England - over the increasing role of private companies is profound. It may make the provision of health care in the UK more profit-orientated and less universal. While Scotland remains part of the UK it may be difficult to resist that pressure.
There is a degree of urgency in taking steps to protect Scotland’s NHS. The UK Government under the Internal Markets Act has assumed the power to effectively sign Scotland’s name on international trade deals as it wishes. This could burden Scotland with legal obligations which are costly to escape.
There are challenges for health care provision in the 21st century - dealing with an aging population; implementing new technology; increasing mental health support. An independent Scotland would be able to plan, budget and make policy decisions in line with its democratic choices.
An independent Scotland would be in a much stronger position to pursue its own course with confidence and clarity.
Socialism and Capitalism are dead, they are last centuries outdated ideas. Each has failed because of growing political tribalism, left and right grew so far apart in the 80s that the political elites realised they could rule from the centre-ground. Empty slogans took over, New Labour, Caring Capitalism - they failed because populism is an empty promise. Populism couldn't deliver results because all they were selling in elections was what the people wanted to hear and not what they needed to hear. All their solutions were soundbite sticking plasters and the problems became insurmountable.
It started in the 90s and ended with the financial crash, it's just that people haven't realised it yet but our political system is broken, it's salesmen becoming more and more desperate caricatures of leaders, our economic approach is not just fit for the challenges of this century, it's creating the challenges of this century. We need to press the reset button, to build environmental sustainability into our political model, to make our economy and our society more resilient in the face of financial, health and environmental crises.
Such a task cannot be attempted with the pitiful and reducing powers of devolution. Independence gives us the opportunity to rethink Scotland, to redesign our politics and our socioeconomic approach. If we do that then we create a compelling independence vision that all generations and political allegiances can rally to. How do we begin that task? By identifying the values we share, the problems we face and solutions rooted in our values rather than in political short term-ism, a path to a greener, fairer, wealthier, healthier and happier thriving independent Scotland begins to appear.
We don't yet have all the answers this is just the first step.
"We have the chance to press reset, to choose a fresh, better and more ambitious approach to how we manage Scotland’s economy and society"
BELIEVE in Scotland studied several nations around the world that are adopting a wellbeing socioeconomic approach: Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, New Zealand and even Wales.
None has yet fully developed its thinking into a holistic approach but all had ideas worthy of adopting and adapting to Scotland’s needs. From those international examples we created a wellbeing policy framework, polled 1000 voters living in Scotland and found there was majority support – mostly more than 75 per cent – for each of the value positions of a wellbeing approach. You can download the full report on the poll here Public Attitudes Toward Wellbeing Economics in Scotland.
You might expect Labour, Green and SNP voters to agree with the values of wellbeing. However, there was majority support with Lib-Dem and Conservative voters, albeit to a lesser degree. Surprisingly, Conservative voters even came out top on one of the key values.
Are socialism and capitalism last century’s ideas?
Is a wellbeing economic approach the only way to build a resilient, fairer and more successful society and save the planet? A significant majority of Scots want to live in a country with a social/economic/environmental policy framework based on these shared values and ambitions of the Scottish people.
Equality, quality of life, fairness, happiness and health are all economic outcomes that should be given equal weight to economic growth.
The focus of the economy should be to serve the needs of the people and society more than the needs of big business and finance.
To be able to live with dignity while experiencing wellbeing and security should be a basic human right and not something that comes only with wealth.
>You cannot have a thriving economy without a thriving society and you cannot have a thriving society without a thriving economy.
Austerity has failed, slowed economic growth, harmed people and society, and made the country more susceptible to economic and health crises.
Post coronavirus, our economic policies need to be re-engineered to generate higher levels of equality in health, wealth, wellbeing and access to opportunity.
If we build society and our economy more successfully after coronavirus, we can create a new economic approach that will allow both our economy and our society to thrive and be more resilient in economic crises.
The nature of work is changing and we need to invest more heavily in innovation, encouraging better business practices and preparing for the future of work.
Education is an investment in our children and young people and should be free and open to everyone.
Small businesses are the backbone of our economy.
Greater government investment in creativity and innovation is needed to help them grow and create better quality jobs.
Government expenditure on welfare and health is higher due to the inequalities in the current economic system and a wellbeing approach would reduce those costs.
Economic success being among society would result in better growth.
Greater access to personal development opportunities for all will increase social mobility and benefit the economy.
Ending poverty, inequality and unfairness, while increasing minimum wage and job security, will boost the economy.
People need to feel more secure in their livelihoods.
A universal basic income for every adult citizen may provide that security and end in-work and pensioner poverty.
Decision-making should be less centralised to give people a greater democratic voice in local issues.
We need to reduce our economy’s carbon outputs and waste, make transport more sustainable and make recycling and repairing far more prominent.
"Is a wellbeing economic approach the only way to build a more resilient, fairer and more successful society and save the planet?"
Independence is a normal and the many benefits of independence are within Scotland’s grasp and they would work to make life better for all who live within our borders and to forge closer links with friends and allies elsewhere in the world. Scotland’s civic nationalism defines us as a people. It’s inclusive, internationally focused and welcoming.
We simply want the chance to create a nation that reflects our political, economic, environmental and social values and thus enhances our nation’s wellbeing in ways that cannot be achieved if we remain governed by an uncaring and unfit Westminster parliament.
Wellbeing offers an inspirational vision of a future Scotland and if you decide to support independence you become one of the people helping to shape the ideas which guide it.
Let’s take advantage of this incredible opportunity, the chance to shape an emerging independent nation for the benefit of generations to come. All you have to do to change our future is believe in Scotland.
Offshore wind resources in the North Sea will create thousands of jobs and boost Scotland ‘s ambitions to be a world leader in renewable energy through a plan unveiled at COP 26 in Glasgow.
The Northern Horizons Project will use floating offshore wind turbines to produce green hydrogen which could fuel vehicles or be used in fuel cells to generate electricity during times of the day when the wind resource is low.
Norway’s Aker Offshore Wind, Aker Clean Hydrogen and DNV, consultants who are leading experts in the transition to a hydrogen-based economy, are behind the project, which they say is ‘a technically and economically feasible plan’.
It is described as a ‘response to the Scottish government’s stated ambition to develop Scotland’s potential to export significant quantities of hydrogen’.
The government is targeting 5GW of hydrogen production by 2030 and is actively looking for international collaboration in the development of a shared hydrogen economy.
This project could start production from 2030 and will ‘create thousands of jobs and the investment of billions of pounds during construction and operation’.
Sian Lloyd-Rees, managing director of Aker Offshore Wind UK, said: “This is a technically and economically feasible plan to deliver floating offshore wind at the scale needed to deliver clean energy products which can be used to help decarbonize fuel-heavy industries such as shipping and aviation."
I am proud that DNV has worked on this project that really does show a profitable business opportunity whilst contributing greatly to net zero targets
Ditlev Engel, CEO of Energy Systems at DNV, said: “To meet the targets of the Paris Agreement, the world needs to transition faster to a deeply decarbonized energy system.
"I am proud that DNV has worked on this project that really does show a profitable business opportunity creating economic growth and new job opportunities, whilst contributing greatly to the UK’s net zero targets."
The project will use floating offshore wind turbines to produce 10GW of energy to power multiple floating installations which will produce green hydrogen which will be transmitted to a net zero hydrogen refinery on Shetland.
Some observers have said COP 26 has seen more announcements that expected on agreements to reduce carbon emissions. Pete Betts, the former EU lead negotiator on climate change, told the BBC: ‘The mood of the conference is good. The trend towards a zero-carbon world is irreversible. The question is when we get there, and what the climate will be like by then."
Not everyone is as optimistic. Prominent climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg walked out of a panel discussion with former governor of the Bank of England and UN climate envoy Mark Carney shouting “this is greenwashing” .
She has denounced the COP26 summit in Glasgow for being the ‘most excluding COP ever’ and called the international conference a ‘greenwash festival’.
Ms Thunberg will join a climate protest march in Glasgow today when thousands of young people are expected to join the event, organised by Fridays for Future Scotland.
Many pupils are expected to strike from school to take part and Ms Thunberg has also urged Glasgow cleansing department workers on strike over pay to join the march.
The march will end at George Square in the city where Ms Thunberg is expected to speak, along with Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate and other youth activists from around the world.
Deprivation is a useful measure to identify areas of the country that are experiencing significant disadvantage. The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) uses statistics on income, employment, health, education, access to services, crime and housing to calculate the level of deprivation across all regions of Scotland. Last year, levels of deprivation fell in Glasgow City, Renfrewshire and City of Edinburgh compared to SIMD 2016. Glasgow City demonstrated the greatest fall, from 48% of data zones in the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland, to 44%.
However, the UK Government has not privatised solving deprivation and so, a UK-wide index of multiple deprivation does not exist. Therefore, it is difficult to compare levels of disadvantage in areas of Scotland and other regions of the UK. As a result, this article will offer a comparison of GDP per head of population, one of the common indicators of deprivation and disadvantage, within the UK and across the EU.
10 Regions of UK with lowest GDP per head (2018)
|Region||GDP per head|
|Tees Valley and Durham (England)||21,882|
|Northumberland and Tyne and Wear (England)||24,960|
|South Yorkshire (England)||22,104|
|Outer London - East and North East (England)||22,626|
|Cornwall and Isles of Scilly (England)||22,096|
|West Wales and The Valleys (Wales)||21,274|
|Southern Scotland (Scotland)||19,937|
As this table demonstrates, of the 10 regions with the lowest GDP per head in the UK, only one area is within Scotland. Meanwhile, 8 of the regions are within England and one is in Wales. This suggests that economic inequality is a greater problem in the rest of the UK than it is in Scotland.
Furthermore, it is interesting to compare these figures to the EU-27 countries average GDP per head of population. Indeed, it has been implied that regions within the UK have struggled to keep pace with the rest of Europe since the financial crash in 2008.
In 2018, GDP at market prices in the EU-27 was valued at 13.5 trillion euros, equivalent to an average of 30,200 euros per person (approximately £26,195.63).
UK NUTS 2 (Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics) Regions with GDP per head lower than EU-27 Average
|Region||GDP per head (£)||% of EU-27 Average|
|Tees Valley and Durham||21,882||83%|
|Northumberland and Tyne and Wear||24,960||95%|
|Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire||25,367||97%|
|Shropshire and Staffordshire||25,574||98%|
|Outer London - East and North East||22,626||86%|
|Dorset and Somerset||25,442||97%|
|Cornwall and Isles of Scilly||22,096||84%|
|West Wales and The Valleys||21,274||81%|
This table highlights that many regions across the UK continue to lag behind many European countries in terms of GDP per capita. Indeed, 14 NUTS 2 regions in the UK have a GDP per head lower than the EU-27 average. Of these regions only 1 is in Scotland, 1 is in Wales, 1 is in Northern Ireland and 11 are in England.
The major exception
While we have demonstrated that deprivation and inequality are rife across England, there continues to be one major exception – London. In fact, this is a huge part of the problem. In 2018, data from the Office for National Statistics showed that London recorded a 1.1% annual rise in output per person to £54,700. Meanwhile, in the North East, growth was only 0.4%, rising to just £23,600 per head. This shows a further widening of the per capita gap between the richest and poorest regions of the country.
We have recognised for years that the key issue at play here is that the UK is far too centralised around London and the South East. Seven years ago, at Business for Scotland, we said that “power, money, opportunity and influence has been drained from the rest of the country for generations towards a metropolis that has developed its own financial and capitalist culture which sits a world apart from the distant regions and nations that make up the wider UK” and unfortunately, this still applies today but to an even greater degree. Ultimately, this constant investment in London and the financial sector has resulted in huge disparity across England, and harmed the other nations of the UK, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The past year has undoubtedly been a challenging one for many countries across the world, with the COVID-19 pandemic having drastic consequences for economies and healthcare systems worldwide. However, adding a hard Brexit deal to the equation has only worsened matters, particularly with regards to deprivation. Indeed, studies have found that there is a high risk that the economic impacts of COVID-19 and Brexit will further increase regional disparities. In particular, already deprived areas such as the North East, Wales and Outer London are likely to be hardest hit by Brexit. Meanwhile, tourism dependent coastal communities and hospitality dependent cities such as Manchester and Liverpool are already facing drastic consequences as a result of COVID-19.
These struggles are only emphasised by the lack of support displayed by the UK Government. Indeed, new research has shown that if the Chancellor’s plans to cut Universal Credit go ahead, millions of individuals will be left without the income needed to afford the minimum living standard and the Scottish Child Payment will be undermined. Indeed, after years of austerity, followed by the chaos of Brexit and a global pandemic, such policy decisions will only cause further deprivation and inequality in the UK, particularly in England where great disparity already exists. This highlights that as a result of UK Government mismanagement and the already severe levels of inequality, certain impoverished areas in England are likely to suffer further in the coming months and years.
This region is the only area of Scotland that is within the 10 regions of the UK with the lowest GDP per head and holds a GDP per capita lower than the EU-27 average. However, it is important to note that this situation is gradually improving and the GPD per head of population in this region has significantly improved since 2011. In 2011, Southern Scotland’s GDP per head was £16,142. Meanwhile, the EU-27 average was approximately £22,346. This means that Southern Scotland’s GDP per head was approximately 72% of the EU-27 average in 2011. However, in 2018, this figure had risen to 76%, demonstrating the gradual increase of GDP per head and the closing gap between Southern Scotland and the EU-27 average.
Scottish Government Approach
So, let’s see why Scotland is leading the way in reducing such deprivation. One of the key ways to tackle deprivation is through education. Indeed, the Scottish Government recently announced the investment of £215million to benefit pupils in Scotland’s most deprived communities.
An area in which the Scottish Government has also invested in to reduce deprivation and inequality is affordable housing. Indeed, in the 2021-22 budget, £711.6 million was dedicated to affordable housing and a new £55 million programme was put in place to support town centres.
Another critical example that extends to the wider community is the Empowering Communities Fund. This programme was established in 2015 and has already had huge benefits for deprived communities in Scotland. To date, the programme has helped hundreds of projects that create change in disadvantaged communities through training, employment, healthy eating and volunteering opportunities.
It is clear that reducing inequalities and deprivation is a key ambition of the Scottish Government and one that is continuously being met, with levels of deprivation reducing across the country.
It is evident that inequalities and uneven levels of deprivation across the UK continue to be a significant problem. However, it is also clear that Scotland is continually challenging these inequalities and the Scottish Government is working to ensure that levels of GDP per head in Scotland match the average of EU countries.
Since its inception in 2011, Business for Scotland (BfS) has called for a fairer, greener, more small business/entrepreneur focused approach to independence. BfS have, therfore, championed the cause of wellbeing economics since before it was a widely used term. Believe in Scotland was always going to make the indyref2 case for independence based on Wellbeing economics, even if the Scottish Government didn’t, so we welcome the Scottish Government’s growing commitment to adopting that approach as evidenced in yesterday’s Social Justice and Fairness Commission Report.
The next step is creating an economic vision for an independent Scotland that is practical, affordable and inspiring, which ensures the people of Scotland chose independence. To achieve this, Wellbeing has to become the lens through all socio-economic policy is viewed, Wellbeing isn’t just about society to think that is to miss one half of the only formula for success.
Our poll carried out last month found that if the people of Scotland are offered independence alongside a wellbeing economics approach then 59% would vote Yes. That’s 8% more than the same poll (conducted on our behalf by Panelbase) found for the straight Yes/No question at 51% Yes.
In a promising move Kate Forbes, Scotland’s Cabinet Security for Finance, has effectively been promoted, her department absorbing the responsibilities and junior ministers of Fiona Hyslop’s Economy brief. That’s notable because of the faith the FM is placing in Kate Forbes, but also because the more progressive thinker is now in charge of both finance and the economy. Also notable is that listed amongst Kate Forbes’ responsibilities, for the first time, is the phrase Wellbeing Economics.
Where should Kate Forbes start?
Key questions are: What could we do differently? In what sort of country do we want to live? What could our economy and society look like if were to design it around the values, hopes and aspirations of Scots rather than the needs of the city of London?
Answering these questions is the key to securing Scotland’s independence.
The global health crisis changed everything. People realise we cannot continue with the old, failed way of managing our economy. The Westminster system is creating huge inequalities, reducing social mobility, trapping families and pensioners in a cycle of poverty, keeping wages low while prices rise and negatively impacting climate change.
If we learned anything from the banking crisis, Brexit and Covid-19, it’s that our economic system and our way of organising society is unsustainable and needs to reset to add resilience and a sharp focus on the wellbeing of people, society, the economy and the environment. We must move away from a economy obsessed with the wealth of nations and focus on the wellbeing of nations.
Scotianomics the research arm of Believe in Scotland/Business for Scotland is leading thinking on wellbeing economics and is developing a Manifesto for Wellbeing.
We looked at nations that were talking about pivoting to wellbeing: Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, New Zealand and even Scotland and even Wales. None had fully developed ideas, but all had suggestions from which to pick and choose.
We created a wellbeing values framework, polled 1,000 voters living in Scotland and found there was majority support – mostly more than 75% – for each of the values/policy statement positions in our manifesto.
You might expect Labour, Green and SNP voters to agree with Wellbeing principles, they did and Lib Dem voters also agreed, albeit to a lesser degree. But would you be surprised that our poll found Conservative voters agreed with all the Wellbeing principles/policies we surveyed and even came out top on one of the key values?
Have a read below and ask yourself: wouldn’t you like to live in a country with a social/economic/environmental policy framework based on this set of values?
Wouldn’t you like to be able to vote to create such a nation? The majority of Scots would.
Believe in Scotland’s Values framework for a Manifesto for Wellbeing
- Quality of life, equality, fairness, happiness and health are all economic outcomes that should be given equal weight to economic growth
- The focus of the economy should be to serve the needs of people and society more than the needs of big business and finance
- To be able to live with dignity while experiencing wellbeing and security should be a basic human right, not something that comes only with wealth
- You cannot have a thriving economy without a thriving society and you cannot have a thriving society without a thriving economy
- Austerity has failed, it is slowing economic growth, harming people and society and making the country more susceptible to economic and health crises
- Post coronavirus, our economic policies need re-engineered to generate higher levels of equality in health, wealth, wellbeing and access to opportunity
- If we build society and our economy more successfully after coronavirus, we can create a new economic approach, allowing both our economy and our society to thrive and be more resilient in the face of crises
- The nature of work is changing, we need to invest more heavily in innovation, encouraging better business practices and preparing for the future of work
- Education is an investment in our children and young people, it should always be free and open to everyone
- Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. Greater government investment in creativity and innovation is needed to help them grow and create better quality jobs
- Government expenditure on welfare and health is higher due to inequalities in the current economic system and a wellbeing approach would reduce those costs
- Economic success being more equally shared amongst society would result in better growth
- Greater access to personal development opportunities for all will increase social mobility and benefit the economy in the long-term
- Ending poverty, inequality and unfairness, while increasing minimum wage and job security will boost the economy
- People need to feel more secure in their livelihoods. A universal basic income (UBI) for every adult citizen would provide that security and end both in-work and pensioner poverty
- Decision making should be less centralised, to give people a greater democratic voice in local issues
- We need to reduce our economy’s carbon outputs and waste, make transport more sustainable and make recycling and repairing far more prominent
- Independence is a normal state of affairs for a country. With all the powers of a normal independent nation, we can create a more prosperous, fairer, greener, happier and healthier nation
- Scotland is for the people of Scotland, but not just those born here or who currently live here - Scotland can be reborn in our newest Scots
- Scotland’s civic nationalism is inclusive, internationally focused and welcoming. It rejects exceptionalism. We are not “better” than anyone else by virtue of being Scottish. We simply want the chance to use independence to create a nation that reflects our political, economic, environmental and social values and thus enhances our nation’s wellbeing in ways that cannot be achieved without nation status.
Our Manifesto for Wellbeing is a work in progress but it is obvious that Scotland and the rUK (Mainly England) are headed in different directions politically. The UK will never adopt a wellbeing approach and the latest polls show Boris Johnson’s British nationalist Tory party with a 46% to 28% lead over Labour – regardless UK Labour offers nothing for Scotland anyway.
The implementation of a wellbeing approach cannot happen unless Scotland becomes independent. We will push for the Manifesto for Wellbeing to form part of the case for independence put forward by the main independence supporting parties and we will offer Kate Forbes any sport we can to make that happen. Believe in Scotland will keep campaigning after independence to make sure all these values and ambitions are incorporated into the foundations of our new nation.
It’s time to press reset – it’s time to believe in Scotland.