Earlier this month the Scottish Government unveiled its new 10-year National Strategy for Economic Transformation. The much anticipated plan included the welcome aspiration to become a Wellbeing Economy. But it failed to set out how we will genuinely transform our economy to one that ensures good lives for all of Scotand’s people and protects the health of our planet. In this blog, WEAll Scotland’s, Dr Lukas Hardt, explores the substance of the Strategy and makes the case for a inclusive national debate on how we move beyond business as usual.

The day before the Strategy was published, the global scientific community issued its starkest warning yet about the disastrous consequences ahead if we fail to urgently act to avoid climate breakdown. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) cautioned that further delay in action will miss a “brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.”

At the same time, the cost of living crisis threatens to deepen already eye-watering levels of poverty and inequality in Scotland. One in four children in Scotland is growing up in poverty. Without new approaches that reflect the realities of today, rather than the recipes of the last century, the Scottish Government looks set to miss its child poverty targets. The need to reprogramme our economy has never been more apparent.

Scotland has positioned itself at the forefront of the movement to build a new type of economy which is designed to deliver good lives for all on a healthy planet. Scotland was a founding member of the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership – a collection of nations who are united in their ambition to redesign their economies. Nicola Sturgeon’s Ted Talk on the subject received 2.4 million views. But this rhetorical commitment to a different sort of economy has yet to be met with sufficient action.

Ahead of the publication of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation, 40 leading economists and climate change academics urged the Scottish Government to set out how it will put environmental and social concerns at the heart of financial and economic decision making. The final Strategy includes some positive commitments such as a Wellbeing Economy Monitor to measure the things that really matter to people and to review ‘how to increase the number of social enterprises, employee-owned businesses and cooperatives in Scotland’. But overall it marks a continuation of the same flawed logic that has delivered decades of inequality and environmental degradation.

The economy we have today is driven by a widely debunked logic – that continually growing the economy will automatically ‘trickle down’ to more wealth for the whole population. Yet in practice this necessitated that governments have to set aside some of this money in taxes to pay for the social and environmental casualties of our economic system. This economic paradigm has driven a cycle of paying to fix what we continue to break.

For example, the Scottish and UK Governments spend billions of pounds in Scotland topping up poverty wages, housing people who are homeless and building flood defences. Our recent report on Failure Demand has quantified the financial cost of this way of operating.

By privileging GDP growth and indiscriminate productivity, the National Strategy for Economic Transformation continues to follow this flawed logic. The most important challenge for Scottish and other economies in the 21st century is not a lack of productivity, innovation, inward investment (as important as they are). It is that they are often construed as goals in their own right. What we need to do is ask: What sort of innovation? Productivity of what and who gets the benefits? And how to ensure investment flows to those activities most aligned with a Wellbeing Economy? The key responsibility of governments in our time is to embed a new purpose into all economic and financial decision making. It is to ensure that  power is shared across workers and communities so that our economy uses our resources and creativity to provide the things that really matter. Governments have to make sure that care work is valued, that we all have the basics, like safe warm homes, that we expand the economic activities we need more of, such as decarbonisation, not just those that offer the biggest profits. There is very little in this strategy to suggest that the Scottish Government is living up to this responsibility.

Businesses have a vital role to play in a Wellbeing Economy, but the Strategy fails to offer a clear mechanism to ensure the enterprises Scotland will nurture will help build thriving local communities. Fostering social enterprise, employee-owned businesses and cooperatives has to be a key part and the Strategy promises a review of how their number can be increased. But more concrete support is needed urgently.

The Government needs to set the right rules and incentives to make sure that the right thing to do for people and planet becomes the right thing to do for businesses. The many enterprises in Scotland that are pioneering fair, green and transformative ways of working would welcome moves to rectify the unfair competition they face from those businesses who are shirking their responsibilities to the environment and society.

The Strategy talks about “Team Scotland” and rightly notes that economic transformation has to be supported by all citizens, and implemented through collaboration of the public, private and third sector. But the process of developing this Strategy has not lived up to this ambition. There is little evidence that this Strategy has had input from citizens and communities across Scotland.

The reports of the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland and the Scottish Climate Assembly clearly show that people want the Government to step up to the plate and set a new direction for our economy.  Four in five Climate Assembly delegates supported the recommendation to reframe the national focus for Scotland’s future away from economic growth towards the prioritisation of a more person and community centred vision of thriving people, thriving communities and thriving climate. While the Strategy references an aim to respect environmental limits there is very little evidence of how this will be achieved nor how this squares with the thrust of the Strategy which focuses on growth.

This Strategy has failed to present solutions that are adequate for the challenges of the 21st century. Scotland now needs an urgent and inclusive national debate on how to transform our economy into one that truly delivers good lives and protects the health of the planet we depend on.



Commenting on Scotland’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation, Jimmy Paul, Director of Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland, said:

We welcome the Scottish Government’s aspiration to become a Wellbeing Economy and the aim to respect environmental limits. The Strategy includes some positive commitments such as a wellbeing economy monitor to measure the things that really matter to people.

“But this does not amount to a plan to transform our economy to one that truly puts our collective wellbeing first. The last decades have shown us that economic models that focus too narrowly on growth and productivity for their own sake fail to translate into more secure jobs, higher wages, decent housing for all, or a healthier natural environment. Assuming growth and productivity will trickle down to all has been debunked – Scotland needs to be bolder in its approach to economic change.

“Businesses have a vital role to play in a Wellbeing Economy, but the Strategy fails to offer a clear mechanism to ensure the enterprises Scotland will nurture will help build thriving local communities.

“The Strategy refers to economic transformation as a “collective national endeavour”, but there is no evidence that this Strategy has had input from citizens and communities across Scotland. This must be the start of conversation across Scotland about how we choose a new economic path that serves the health and wellbeing of our communities and protects the planet we depend on.  

“Scotland has positioned itself at the forefront of the movement to build a new type of economy, and the world is watching. Last week, 40 leading economists and climate change academics urged the Scottish Government to set out how it will put environmental and social concerns at the heart of financial and economic decision making. This Strategy stops short of achieving that. 

ENDS

For enquiries call 07855 069 952 or email frances@scotland.weall.org

Notes to editors

  • Dr Lukas Hardt, ecological economist and Policy Lead at Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland is available for interview.
  • Scotland’s National Strategy for Economy Transformation is here 
  • Nicola Sturgeon has previously championed the Wellbeing Economy agenda with her Ted Talk on the subject receiving 2.4 million views. Scotland is a founder member of the Wellbeing Economy Governments Partnership together with New Zealand, Wales, Finland and Iceland.
  • Last week, 40 leading economists and academics called on the Scottish Government to use the strategy to set out how it will put environmental and social concerns at the heart of financial and economic decision making. Their asks, supported by Poverty Alliance, Friends of the Earth Scotland, Scottish Environment Link and others here.
  • The strategy comes as yesterday’s IPPC report showed we only have a brief window to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all. 



Calls for radical, transformative changes to Scotland’s economy in order to ensure wellbeing for all within our environmental limits have been backed by almost 40 leading economists and climate change academics.

In advance of the publication by the Scottish Government of its new economic strategy on Tuesday 1 March, these experts have endorsed Ten Points for a Transformative Economic Strategy produced by the ‘Transform Our Economy’ alliance.

These ideas outline a new purpose at the heart of our economy: providing wellbeing for all within environmental limits. They will require the government to set the trajectory for the economy and present a credible plan for delivery using all the powers at their disposal.

The alliance, comprising Scottish Environment LINK, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland, is also calling for much more extensive public debate about the direction of our economy and believes that participation from workers, affected communities and those who are in greatest need of economic transformation has been lacking.

Matthew Crighton, Sustainable Economy Adviser at Friends of the Earth Scotland said,

“In the midst of climate and nature emergencies, with too many people trapped in poverty and businesses still reeling from the impact of the pandemic, there is no question that economic transformation is needed.

“In the face of these challenges, the Scottish Government must plot a new direction in building a truly sustainable and just economy that can meet people’s needs.

“Recent history has shown us there is a persistent gap between high-level aspirations and the actual performance of the government in effectively intervening the economy in Scotland. The fear is that the new economic strategy won’t redesign the economy, but will instead continue to deliver inequality and environmental destruction.

“New ideas are sorely needed for a transformative economic agenda which can provide sufficient investment to deliver a just transition to zero carbon, integrate the protection of nature into economic decision making and ensure social equity and participation by currently marginalised groups.”

Professor Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development, University of Surrey and acclaimed author of Prosperity Without Growth backing the plan said,

“With the forthcoming 10-year Strategy for Economic Transformation the Scottish Government has a unique opportunity to make Scotland a global example of an economy that is fit to address the challenges of the 21st century, delivering wellbeing for all within environmental limits.

To do that, the Strategy needs to put at its heart care for people and planet, it needs to build on meaningful participation of those at the sharp end of our economy, and it needs to put in place measures which will give priority to ensuring people’s wellbeing rather than the pursuit of GDP growth for its own sake.”

The ten points proposed by the ‘Transform our Economy’ group offer a robust framework for building such a strategy. The Scottish Government would be well advised to take note.”

Professor Jan Webb, Professor of Sociology of Organisations, University of Edinburgh, and one of the 38 signatories, said,

“Orthodox economic strategy aims to maximise GDP, and then to make some adjustments for fairness and environmental harms. A transformative strategy, fit for addressing climate emergency and major inequalities, has to direct all economic action to achieving a fair, and sustainable, society. This means all investment prioritises decent work, zero waste, biodiversity and climate protection. I hope the Scottish Government will respond promptly and constructively to the Transform Our Economy alliance.”

The headings of the Ten Key Points are:
1. The goal: wellbeing for all within environmental limits
2. Setting specific economic objectives to care for people and the planet
3. Using all the tools available to government to meet those objectives
4. Policies must show how the objectives can be achieved
5. Combat economic pressures which are helping cause the problems
6. Public priorities must lead the direction of development of the economy
7. Clear tests for all investment programmes
8. Measure performance through metrics which matter
9. An economic strategy for all sectors – economic transformation as a national mission
10. An inclusive and participatory process

The full text of the Key Points can be read here

The Ten Key Points have been endorsed by the following 38 leading academics:

Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development, University of Surrey
Jan Webb, Professor of Sociology of Organisations, University of Edinburgh
Dave Reay, Professor in Carbon Management and Education, University of Edinburgh
Miatta Fahnbulleh, Chief Executive, New Economics Foundation
Gerry McCartney, Professor of Wellbeing, Glasgow University
Kate Raworth, Senior Teaching Associate, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford
Mike Danson, Professor Emeritus of Enterprise Policy, Heriot-Watt University
James Curran, Visiting Professor, Centre for Sustainable Development, University of Strathclyde
Victoria Chick, Emeritus Professor of Economics, University College London
Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor in Ecological Economics, University of Leeds
Julia Steinberger, Professor of Societal Challenges of Climate Change, University of Lausanne
Malcolm Sawyer, Emeritus Professor, Leeds University Business School
Molly Scott-Cato, Professor of Green Economics, Roehampton University
Prof Christine Cooper, Professor of Accounting, Edinburgh University
Laurie Macfarlane, Head of Patient Finance, Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, UCL
Camilla Toulmin, Professor in Practice at the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University
Beth Stratford, Fellow New Economics Foundation and the Wellbeing Economy Alliance
Gregor Gall, Affiliate Research Associate at the University of Glasgow
Grace Blakeley, Author and journalist
Nancy Folbre, Professor Emerita of Economics, University of Massachusetts

Eurig Scandrett, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Queen Margaret University
Andrew Mearman, Associate Professor of Economics, Leeds University
John Barry, Professor, Queen’s University Belfast
Gary Dymski, Professor of Applied Economics, Leeds University
Yannis Dafermos, Senior Lecturer in Economics, SOAS
Mark Huxham, Professor, School of Applied Sciences, Napier University
Elizabeth Bomberg, Professor of Environmental Politics, University of Edinburgh
Dennis Mollison, Emeritus Professor of Applied Probability, Heriot-Watt University
Karen Bell, Senior Lecturer in Urban Sustainable Development, Glasgow University
Elena Hofferberth, PhD student, Leeds University Business School

Tim Hayward, Professor of Environmental Political Theory, University of Edinburgh
Miriam Brett, Director of Research and Advocacy, Common Wealth
Andy Watterson, Professor, Public Health Researcher, Stirling University
Danny Wight, Professor, Institute of health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow
Claire Duncanson, Senior Lecturer in International Relations, University of Edinburgh
Donald McKenzie, Professor, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Edinburgh
Josh Ryan-Collins, Senior Research Fellow in Economics and Finance
Maria Nikolaidi, Associate Professor in Economics, Greenwich University



Denisha Killoh and Jimmy Paul represent Scotland on the Future Generations Commission.  In this blog they explore how the Future Generations Bill could help steer us to a safer future where everyone can flourish.

In 2015, the Welsh Government introduced its groundbreaking Wellbeing of Future Generations Act which requires public bodies to think about the long-term impact of their decisions, to work better with people, communities and each other, and to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change. Calls quickly followed for the UK to follow suit.

In 2019 Big Issue founder, Lord John Bird, introduced a Private Member’s Bill on the Wellbeing of Future Generations into the House of Lords. The Bill incorporates lessons learned during the implementation of the Welsh Act as well as insights from a growing body of international experience of similar initiatives. Simon Fell MP joined forces with Lord Bird to urge the UK Government to back the Bill which last week completed its passage through the House of Lords.

Lord Bird said:

“We could just call it the “Hindsight Bill”. Why do we not have a Minister for Hindsight? Very clever—somebody who can read the future or who can say, “Hang on, why are we always doing things that come back to bite us in the rear at some later stage?””

The Bill would require the UK Government to:

  • Act to protect future generations from existential and environmental threats;
  • Work preventatively, and with foresight, to solve societal problems;
  • Account for, and seek to increase, its preventative spending.

This concept of working with ‘hindsight’ in mind drives both our work at WEAll Scotland and the Future Generations Commission. The Future Generations Commission was set up to promote the principles of the Bill to the general public and to governments.

At WEAll Scotland, we work to future-proof Scotland by redesigning our economy to work in service of human and ecological wellbeing. At the Commission, we combine our knowledge and experiences with the voices of Scottish communities to plan long-term solutions to tackling the root causes of our most challenging and cyclical problems. We also hold key decision-makers and politicians to account to ensure they are working in a way that is regenerative, collaborative and purposeful, while striving to meet the needs of the present, without negatively effecting the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

As the Bill makes it way to the House of Commons, we are delighted to see such early, broad support for a new approach to policy making.

Why we need the Bill

Every child deserves to grow up in a secure environment with the foundation they need for a future full of possibilities. But right now, one in four children are living in poverty in a country blighted by unaffordable housing, subsistence pay, exploitative working conditions and the degradation of our natural environment. On our current trajectory, extreme weather events like Storms Malik and Corrie will only get worse and their impacts will be most felt by those who already struggle to make ends meet. A recent global study revealed that three quarters of young people are frightened about the future with almost half of all respondents sharing that feelings about the climate affected their daily lives. Yet, young people’s voices are often ignored by a policy making culture that struggles to think beyond election cycles.

The Future Generations Bill would be an important step towards an alternative path. By embedding analysis of the long-term impacts of our actions in policy making the Bill would force us to tackle the root causes of the challenges we face. Every year the Scottish and UK Governments spend billions of pounds in Scotland topping up poverty wages, housing the homeless and building flood defences.

Our current economic paradigm has us trapped in a cycle of paying to fix what we continue to break. The Bill could help us transition to a new type of economy that prioritises our collective wellbeing.

The Future Generations Commission asks us to lift our gaze, to design an economy and society where firefighting the problems caused by the endless pursuit of economic growth becomes a thing of the past. It means making our economy more equal from the outset, so that it recognises and rewards everyone’s contributions. It means investing in warm homes, renewable energy and public transport to create an economy that is healthier for people and planet. And it means investing in our preparedness for future pandemics, so that we are not left as helpless as we were in March 2020. By designing policies differently, we can lay a fire-proof foundation for our children and grandchildren to thrive.

The transition to a Wellbeing Economy is already underway in pockets of activity around Scotland – from businesses redefining what it means to succeed, to local authorities investing in Community Wealth Building. But the full redesign of our economies will require commitment from the UK and Scottish Governments. 

The progress of the Future Generations Bill to the House of Commons is a huge cause for celebration. But we will need to be vigilant to ensure that it retains its transformative potential.  

We all want to hand down a better world to our children and grandchildren. A Bill that embeds long-termism and preventative thinking could help make this dream a reality.

Denisha Killoh is a Trustee of WEAll Scotland and Jimmy Paul is Director of WEAll Scotland
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Written by: Isabel Nuesse

In the system that we’re currently living in, money reigns in every aspect of our lives. Wherever money flows in our economy will dictate the priorities of our culture. If this is the case, what can we do in the short-term to influence where money is flowing and, therefore, influence the priorities of our time? 

In October 2021, Jags Walia, a portfolio manager and responsible investor since 2008,  gave a WEAll Talk “From Nudge to Push – Money, Power and CO2” where he shared his own experience of influencing big companies to reduce their CO2 emissions as a smart investment decision. 

He gave our audience his take on how to do this, and assurance that he’s not alone working on these bold objectives.

As an investor, Jags told us he has two priorities: 

  1. Make money for his clients;
  2. Consider the environmental implications of those decisions, to reduce harm and the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere.

There are a number of strategies to go about meeting these goals, and, rather than shying away from today’s big polluters as potential clients, Jags operates on the notion that, by  choosing to work with a dirty company, he can have a bigger impact by directly  influencing their decision making. You can read his Investment Guide here.

“I find the companies that are not the saints today – and try to change their behavior and rehabilitate them.”

He shared a story of a client he worked with back in 2019. The company had proposed to build two brand new coal power plants. Of course, he was adamantly against this decision. But rather than coming out and saying his opinion, he needed to show them that making such a choice was bad business. Why? Well, the average lifespan of a coal power plant is 48 years, and he was predicting that, in 48 years, coal will not be the primary energy resource that we use and, therefore, the return on their investment wouldn’t be realized. In the end, after 8 long months of back and forth, the company decided that they wouldn’t go ahead with the power plants and not only that, but they vowed never to build another coal fired power plant again. 

This was a huge win for Jags and his team, as the outcome of their work turned out to be a long-term company-wide divestment from coal, rather than something restrained to one single project within the company. 

How does Jags do it? He shared his 3 main strategies  for how to engage with companies effectively.

  1. Understand the complexity of the situation that the company is in. Really put yourself in the shoes of these businesses. Who are their stakeholders? Who are the beholden to? What steers their decision making?
  2. Find the right question(s) to ask. When engaging with any company, find out what is possible for them within their context. Don’t suggest something outrageous for them to achieve without first understanding what is reasonable. 
  3. Evaluate what each company says they’re doing vs. what they are actually doing. Many companies will boast about their sustainability achievements, but these can often be overembellished. Do your due diligence to better understand what kinds of commitments the company is actually making. 

One of the participantsasked Jags about the Key Performance Indicators he looks at when evaluating whether a company is ‘clean’ or ‘dirty’. 

He said that he looks at three things, 

  1. Willingness
  2. Ability 
  3. Commitment 

In other words, are the companies willing to make a change? Is it possible and are they able to make it? And, can they get paid to commit to making significant changes? Still working within the current framework, Jags understands that in order for companies to decarbonize, they still have to meet their financial obligations and therefore be paid to do it. 

There is always a balance between uprooting what exists, and improving the status quo. This talk with Jags showed a clear example of how to improve the current situation within the existing boundaries or our system. 

If you missed the talk or want to engage further with this topic, you can watch the full talk recording on our YouTube channel:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgCljvMqzKY