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Turn Wellbeing Economy into reality – CILIPS signs an open letter to the First Minister

Category: News

Dear First Minister, it's time to reprogramme our economy so it works for people and planet.

CILIP Scotland has joined over 200 charities, economists, businesses, trade unions, and academics to send a joint open letter to Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf calling for a ‘robust plan’ to turn Wellbeing Economy rhetoric into action, which we believe must have libraries at its heart.

Fellow signatories to the letter include STUC, Friends of the Earth Scotland, Poverty Alliance, Carnegie UK, IPPR Scotland, Children 1st and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, collectively highlighting the pressing need for ‘substantive progress in redesigning our economy’.

The letter urges the First Minister to transform Scotland’s National Performance Framework into a Wellbeing Framework and strengthen its power and reach; use devolved tax powers to share wealth more evenly, invest in social security, universal basic services, public sector wages, and environmental improvements; and to reshape the business support landscape to prioritise the kind of enterprises that enhance our collective wellbeing. Read the full text below.

A joint open letter to First Minister Humza Yousaf

Dear First Minister,

We are writing to you as a group of social and environmental justice NGOs, community groups, economists, unions, faith leaders, service providers, businesses, academics, think tanks and funders united in our belief that Scotland must urgently transition to a Wellbeing Economy.

Scotland is a rich country, yet wealth inequality is rising at the same time as one in four children is growing up in poverty. Economic exclusion and inequality on the lines of gender, race, disability, social class, sexual orientation, and other forms of marginalisation remains stark. And we continue to put more pressure on the environment than the planet can sustain or our climate legislation requires. Despite efforts to date, we are on track to miss our child poverty targets, and climate targets have been missed eight years out of twelve. Our economy is not delivering for our collective wellbeing.

We were encouraged by the recent creation of the Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy role, the publication of a Wellbeing Economy monitor, efforts to encourage fair work and community wealth building and the commitment to review how to increase the number of purposeful and democratic businesses in Scotland. We welcome your personal recognition that “Scotland is a wealthy country, but that wealth is not distributed evenly” and that “we need to be even bolder on taxation, and the redistribution of wealth”; we hope this will quickly be acted upon – including through the Scottish Government’s new tax advisory group. We also hope to see the recommendations of the Business Purpose Commission and Just Transition Commission taken forward at speed.

But we are concerned by the lack of substantive progress in redesigning our economy. We need a robust plan to put the wellbeing of people and nature at the heart of our economy. We have run out of time for talk, what we need now is action.

Our economy should be explicitly designed to deliver good lives for all people and protect the health of our planet. A Wellbeing Economy would provide every person in Scotland with the means to live in dignity and safety, rapidly reduce environmental impacts to within planetary boundaries, and become nature-positive. It would do this while eliminating structural inequalities with regard to race, gender, sexual orientation and disabilities, and while recognising our responsibilities towards future generations and people in other countries amid surging humanitarian needs and displacement. A Wellbeing Economy would prioritise the things that really matter to us, like undervalued care, rather than following an outdated economic logic and then attempting to patch up the damage.

Last autumn, the Wellbeing Economy Alliance and its supporters published a joint statement on what we envision a Wellbeing Economy would look like in Scotland, which will require actions from governments at all levels.

Today we are asking you and the Scottish Government to use the powers at your disposal to:

Transform the National Performance Framework into a Wellbeing Framework and significantly strengthen its power and reach.

● Ensure that a strengthened set of National Outcomes are based on meaningful participatory process to ensure the people of Scotland have a voice in shaping what the framework measures. This requires a much deeper process than has just been completed in the current review.

● Ensure the upcoming Wellbeing and Sustainable Development Bill puts the wellbeing framework on a stronger statutory footing: with stronger duties on public bodies; requirements for delivery plans and enhanced reporting; and creates a Commissioner for Sustainable Development and the Wellbeing of Future Generations to provide support and scrutiny.

● Bring forward a clear wellbeing budgeting framework, evidencing how public spending delivers wellbeing outcomes. This must link with existing commitments to progress equalities and human rights budgeting across Scottish and local governments.

Use devolved tax powers to share Scotland’s income and wealth more evenly and to support public investment in a strong social safety net, universal basic services, fair public sector wages and environmental improvements needed for a Wellbeing Economy.

● The next Budget should continue progressive moves to increase tax revenue and clearly set out both the distributional impacts of this and how revenue will be invested in areas that can help Scotland progress to a Wellbeing Economy. The budget process needs to respond to the structural barriers experienced by women and marginalised groups and include an assessment of equalities impacts based on the Equality and Fairer Scotland Statement.

● Undertake wide-ranging public engagement to develop options to realise a fully progressive tax system, including: more fundamental reforms to income tax rates and bands; consideration of measures to target under-taxed wealth and to make polluters pay for their damage; and a clear roadmap for reforming/replacing the regressive council tax, alongside options to better utilise wider local tax powers to support the creation of a wellbeing economy.

Reshape the business environment in Scotland to facilitate a shift towards purposeful and democratic business practices that support collective wellbeing and global environmental sustainability and do not profit from undermining either of them.

● Enterprise agencies and all public business support should prioritise purposeful and democratic businesses as recommended by the Business Purpose Commission; social enterprises, cooperatives and employee-owned enterprises; strong worker voice and union recognition. All projects to support entrepreneurship, innovation and start-ups should be focused on those businesses that can make the biggest contribution to a Wellbeing Economy and should be tailored to different rural and urban contexts.

● Fair work conditions on public sector grants and contracts should be strengthened and extended to other dimensions of a Wellbeing Economy, including environmental aspects and democratic governance structures. Options should be developed for better incentivising purposeful business – for example, reforms to non-domestic rates and the introduction of environmental levies.

● Reshaping the business environment must reduce structural inequalities faced by women and other marginalised groups, which is rooted in the undervaluing of the types of work often undertaken by women, and the persistence of gendered labour market barriers and occupational segregation.

Scotland is full of hopeful and inspirational action that is putting the Wellbeing Economy thinking into practice. But transforming such actions into the economy we all need will require bolder action by the Scottish Government to set the direction of the economy. We hope that you will consider our asks and we would be keen to meet to discuss these further.

Signed by Sean McNamara, Head of CILIP in Scotland, and 200+ fellow Scottish charities alongside community groups, economists, unions, faith leaders, service providers, businesses, academics, think tanks and funders.

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