THE Scottish Government’s commitment to building a “wellbeing economy” risks becoming a mere “catchphrase” if it fails to take concrete action, a trade union chief has warned.

Roz Foyer, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), said many phrases used “heavily” by those in power were not backed up by action.

Speaking at the STUC’s conference on Monday, Foyer called on the Scottish Government to “start being bold, being decisive and actually implementing some plans to deliver wealth to the areas that need it most”.

It came after a keynote speech from First Minister Humza Yousaf at the event in Dundee, in which he hailed his government’s record in recent years, including introducing “fair work” rules on £4 billion of public sector investment.

He said: “I’ve made it clear that one of my key priorities as First Minister will be to build that wellbeing economy.”

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Speaking at the conference, Foyer told The National: “I have a concern about a lot of these catchphrases […] the wellbeing economy, the fair work agenda, just transition. These are all excellent catchphrases they’re heavily used by those in government.

“What I’m always interested in is: what real difference are we seeing for people on the ground, for ordinary working people, for people that are struggling in our communities right across Scotland?

“And sadly, that is something that we’ve not seen enough of from the Scottish Government. They’ve had many years in power and we need to see some real delivery on the ground.”

Yousaf appointed Neil Gray as the Scottish Government’s first Wellbeing Economy Secretary when he took over as First Minister.

The phrase means an economy where the happiness and health of a population are used as indicators of policy success in the same way economic growth is conventionally.

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And she said the STUC “would welcome” discussions with the Scottish Government to “strengthen” the criteria it used to determine the companies with which it does business under “fair work” rules.

Hailing industrial action in Scotland in the past year, which the STUC said resulted in more than £2bn of pay settlements, Foyer urged workers to take “action” when faced with “government inaction”.

She said: “Scotland’s workers over the past year, by standing up and taking action in the face of government inaction, delivered a redistribution of wealth in our economy of over £2bn in the last year and the difference that industrial action made was £1.1bn to those pay deals, so an extra £1.1bn that the bosses and the billionaires and everyone else – the politicians – claimed wasn’t there, was suddenly found when workers stood together and took action.

“So I really need the Scottish Government to start being bold, being decisive and actually implementing some plans to deliver wealth to the areas that need it most.”

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, chief executive of Business for Scotland, defended the Scottish Government’s approach to implementing the ideals of a wellbeing economy in practice.

He said: “A few months ago, I might have shared Roz Foyer's concerns about the wellbeing economy becoming a catchphrase but I sense it is far more than that for the new SNP leadership team.  I spoke to both Humza Yousaf and Neil Gray, the new Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, during the SNP leadership race and can confirm they and the wider SNP leadership team are fully committed to adopting the wellbeing economic approach.

“Humza Yousaf quoted the work done by Scotonomics, the wellbeing economy think tank that spun out of Business for Scotland, in almost every leadership husting event.
“Scotonomics are working flat out to develop a rigorous policy measurement and decision-making evaluation process and meetings are being arranged with ministers and Humza himself to discuss the detail.

“Socialism and capitalism are last century's ideas - Business for Scotland has championed the wellbeing economic approach for many years. It’s not a soundbite, but a new economic approach that solves the problems of this century not the last.”