Scotland is facing a historic opportunity to reinvent its economy and society based on the principles of wellbeing economics, according to a new report by the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) Scotland. The report, titled “Reinventing Scotland: ‘Policy’ can’t save us – wellbeing economics can”, argues that the current economic system is failing to deliver social justice, environmental sustainability and human flourishing, and calls for a radical transformation of the way Scotland measures and pursues progress.
What is wellbeing economics?
Wellbeing economics is an alternative approach to economic policy and practice that puts the wellbeing of people and planet at the centre of decision-making. It challenges the dominant paradigm of GDP growth as the main indicator of success, and instead focuses on the quality and distribution of outcomes that matter for human and ecological wellbeing, such as health, education, happiness, equality, biodiversity and climate stability.
Wellbeing economics is based on the recognition that the economy is a means to an end, not an end in itself, and that its purpose is to serve the common good of present and future generations. It also acknowledges that the economy is embedded within the natural environment, and that its activities depend on and affect the health of the ecosystems that sustain life on Earth.
Why does Scotland need wellbeing economics?
Scotland is facing multiple and interconnected challenges that require a systemic and holistic response. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the deep inequalities and vulnerabilities that exist within and across Scottish society, as well as the fragility and unsustainability of the current economic model. The climate and ecological crises are threatening the very foundations of life and livelihoods, and demand urgent and ambitious action to reduce emissions and restore nature. The Brexit process has created uncertainty and instability for Scotland’s future relationship with the European Union and the rest of the UK, and raised questions about Scotland’s constitutional and democratic aspirations.
These challenges cannot be solved by tinkering with the existing system or by pursuing business as usual. They require a fundamental shift in the way Scotland thinks about and organises its economy and society, and a bold vision of what kind of country Scotland wants to be and how it wants to contribute to the global community.
How can Scotland achieve wellbeing economics?
The report by WEAll Scotland outlines a roadmap for Scotland to become a wellbeing economy, based on four key pillars:
- A new narrative: Scotland needs to develop and communicate a compelling and inclusive story of why and how it wants to become a wellbeing economy, and what benefits it will bring for people and planet. This narrative should be co-created with diverse stakeholders and communities, and should inspire and mobilise collective action and innovation.
- A new framework: Scotland needs to adopt and implement a new framework for measuring and guiding its progress towards wellbeing outcomes, and for evaluating the impact of policies and practices on wellbeing. This framework should be aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the National Performance Framework, and should include indicators and targets that reflect the multidimensional and relational aspects of wellbeing.
- A new governance: Scotland needs to reform and democratise its institutions and processes of governance, to ensure that they are transparent, accountable, participatory and responsive to the needs and aspirations of people and planet. This includes strengthening the role and voice of local authorities, communities and civil society, and enhancing the collaboration and coordination across different levels and sectors of governance.
- A new practice: Scotland needs to foster and support a culture and practice of wellbeing economics across all sectors and spheres of society, from businesses and organisations, to schools and universities, to households and individuals. This involves promoting and rewarding values and behaviours that enhance wellbeing, such as cooperation, compassion, creativity and care, and developing and scaling up innovative solutions that address the root causes of the challenges Scotland faces.
What are the benefits of wellbeing economics?
The report by WEAll Scotland claims that wellbeing economics can offer multiple and mutually reinforcing benefits for Scotland, such as:
- Improving the health and happiness of people, by reducing poverty, inequality and insecurity, and increasing access to quality public services, social protection and opportunities for participation and fulfilment.
- Enhancing the resilience and sustainability of the environment, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ecological footprint, and increasing the protection and restoration of natural resources, biodiversity and ecosystems.
- Strengthening the cohesion and diversity of society, by fostering a sense of belonging and identity, and respecting and celebrating the cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity of Scotland and its people.
- Boosting the innovation and competitiveness of the economy, by supporting the development and growth of enterprises and sectors that contribute to wellbeing, such as social enterprises, cooperatives, circular economy and green economy, and by investing in human and social capital, research and development, and digital and physical infrastructure.
The report concludes that wellbeing economics is not only desirable, but also feasible and necessary for Scotland, and urges all actors and stakeholders to join the movement and take action to make it happen.