A SCOTTISH Conservative MSP has been strongly criticised for dismissing the idea of a wellbeing economy in Scotland as “almost totally meaningless”.

On Wednesday afternoon MSPs in Holyrood debated Scotland’s transition to a wellbeing economy.

This seeks to move the country’s definition of economic success away from being purely focused on GDP growth and incorporate other measures such as the comfort, safety and happiness of citizens.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney, in one of his last contributions in the chamber as a minister, opened the debate and stressed the importance of developing an economy that could cope with the multiple crises of climate change, energy and the damage caused by Liz Truss’s mini-budget.

He said: “We’ve got to strike the correct balance between the pursuit of investment in our society, the attraction of international investment, the utilisation of resources, and ensuring that we are supporting the enhancement of the wellbeing of individuals within our society.

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“Those interrelated questions lie right at the very heart of the economic strategy that we’re taking forward.”

Stephen Kerr, a Tory MSP for Central Scotland, claimed that John Swinney’s motion for the debate was simply a means of distraction from the SNP leadership contest.

“He has put together a collection of words that is almost totally meaningless,” he said.

“Lets be frank: this is just a filler debate so the SNP and Greens can indulge themselves in some constitutional rants.

“This is all intended to cheer the SNP up; this is all about killing time until the stairway rammy of the leadership contest is finished.”

When it came to economics Kerr claimed that “child poverty is solved by addressing the worklessness of households” and said that he believed economic growth was the only way to assure the wellbeing of a population.

Later in the debate Swinney accused Kerr and his colleague Graham Simpson of "vacuous" and “insulting contributions of bile” and said that such statements denigrated the standard of debate in the Scottish Parliament.

The National:

MSPs from Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour insisted that wellbeing could only be prioritised if the country’s economy was growing.

Conservative MSP Liz Smith said that she agreed with SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes’s plan to grow the economy if she becomes first minister.

“The aspiration to build a wellbeing economy depends on our success and creating the growth and on widening the tax base,” she said. “I was very interested in what Kate Forbes said, and I think she’s absolutely correct, that this should be the urgent priority of the Scottish Government.

“She knows only too well that the focus of the Scottish Government over a long period of time now has been elsewhere. And she knows that being tied to the Bute House agreement, when the Greens have rejected the concept of economic growth, is a major problem for the Scottish Government – and more importantly for Scotland.”

Labour MSP Daniel Johnson added that without growth other priorities of the government would, he claimed, be unachievable.

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He said: “Unless you have growth, you can’t deal with the overarching imperatives of running the economy: technology disruption, delivering net-zero, demography.

“Because each one of those things actually requires workers to their jobs better, more effectively, to be using technology to do [their jobs] more efficiently, and ultimately deliver wage-led growth.”

In contrast, Green MSP Maggie Chapman said that there were deficiencies inherent in only measuring economic success via GDP growth.

“Economic growth, GDP, measures neither health nor development, neither care nor creativity, only the narrowly defined product of economic exchange.

“GDP increases with disaster and contracts with generosity. It makes no distinction between price and value, between healthy nutrition and catastrophic consumption. It only asks ‘how much?’ Never for whom, why or how?”

SNP MSP Emma Roddick also called for more innovative economic thinking and dismissed the continuation of so-called “trickle-down” economics.

“We know that the attitude [of] ‘let’s just grow wealth, we’ll redistribute it later’ and other brands of trickle-down economics just lead to inequality getting worse,” she said.

“We know that. So, I’ll never understand why people keep proposing it as if it’s this brand new, ground-breaking idea. Or indeed why UK Government’s keep proposing it.

“If you’re coming to me with policy don’t talk about GDP, don’t talk to me about private growth. I want to know that you’re going end homelessness, tackle poverty, and uphold basic human rights for everyone.”

Jimmy Paul, director of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland, said the debate raised questions about the way in which the economy should work for people.

He told The National: “With one in four children growing up in poverty, wages often failing to cover our basic needs and a stubborn reliance on fossil fuels that overheat our planet, we welcome that the Scottish Parliament has recognised the need to reprogram our economy towards a Wellbeing Economy.”

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“As highlighted by several speakers, focusing on GDP growth will not help us address the big challenges we are facing, we need to focus instead on tackling environmental breakdown and sharing our wealth more fairly.” “GDP does not value the things that matter most to us, it cherishes the destruction of our environment but ignores the social contributions made by unpaid carers.”

“The debate has started to raise the questions about our economy that matter, asking which parts of our economy serve our needs and which ones don’t, what kind of businesses can help us rise to the challenges of poverty and climate change, and how we can embed fair rewards into our economy’s DNA.

“Now we need bold action to put those concerns at the heart of our economic policy.”