Wellbeing Economics must sit at the heart of the case for independence

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 Scotlands Values framework for a Manifesto for Wellbeing

  1. Quality of life, equality, fairness, happiness and health are all economic outcomes that should be given equal weight to economic growth
  2. The focus of the economy should be to serve the needs of people and society more than the needs of big business and finance
  3. 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
  4. You cannot have a thriving economy without a thriving society and you cannot have a thriving society without a thriving economy
  5. Austerity has failed, it is slowing economic growth, harming people and society and making the country more susceptible to economic and health crises
  6. Post coronavirus, our economic policies need re-engineered to generate higher levels of equality in health, wealth, wellbeing and access to opportunity
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. Education is an investment in our children and young people, it should always be free and open to everyone
  10. 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
  11. Government expenditure on welfare and health is higher due to inequalities in the current economic system and a wellbeing approach would reduce those costs
  12. Economic success being more equally shared amongst society would result in better growth
  13. Greater access to personal development opportunities for all will increase social mobility and benefit the economy in the long-term
  14. Ending poverty, inequality and unfairness, while increasing minimum wage and job security will boost the economy
  15. 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
  16. Decision making should be less centralised, to give people a greater democratic voice in local issues
  17. We need to reduce our economy’s carbon outputs and waste, make transport more sustainable and make recycling and repairing far more prominent
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. 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.

By Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp