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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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