This is from a newsletter from Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, called Reinventing Scotland - focusing on the wellbeing economySign up here to receive it every Tuesday at 7pm. 

The Wellbeing Economic Approach is one of the most topical policy issues in the world. Nowhere more so than in Scotland where wellbeing has risen up the Scottish policy agenda and increased in influence over the last few years.

A Global Wave

It’s not just Scotland. The Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) has created a collaborative international network working towards a Wellbeing Economy. WEAll also created the Wellbeing Economy Governments Partnership (WEGo) for sharing best practices. WEGo includes six national governments: Scotland, New Zealand, Iceland, Wales, Finland and Canada. This is great work but much of it is theoretical, as you would expect in the early stages of a movement. It remains difficult to explain how wellbeing economic policies will impact on business operations. 

How Business for Scotland found its niche

For myself - and the business network I founded (Business for Scotland) - the realisation that our members had already rejected free market economics came in early 2014.

We were at 29 Studios filming a video with a few of our business owning members making the business case for Scottish independence. Having finished the main video, we decided to shoot another quick one, asking for one or two words on why they supported independence. The answers started coming back: For a more equal Scotland, a fairer economy, shared prosperity, an end to austerity, to create a happier, healthier nation … Our members realised that a strong economy was a fair economy and that growth that wasn’t more widely shared was bad growth.  

The beginning and the end of the Sustainable Growth Commission 

The Scottish Government's referendum white paper on independence, on the other hand, lacked any such radical values and was focused on not scaring the horses. This was a trend that would continue with the SNP’s publication of the Sustainable Growth Commission report in 2017. That trend didn't stall until spring 2021, when the SNP published the Social Justice and Fairness Commission (SJFC) report, examining the social side of the wellbeing equation.

Interestingly, the SJFC report was led by the new Cab Sec for Finance, Shona Robison MSP and the Cab Sec for Wellbeing Economy, Neil Gray MSP (below), who are now in a much stronger position to make their thinking government policy. 

The National: Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy Neil Gray

Later in 2021, the SNP teamed up with Believe in Scotland and The National to produce and distribute an Independence and Wellbeing Economics Newspaper to one million Scottish households. It’s fair to say that from 2021 onwards, the more conservative Sustainable Growth Commission was completely superseded by the Wellbeing Economic Approach in the SNP and Scottish Green Government’s thinking.

Early Scottish Government successes and damp squibs 

The Scottish Government was strong on the social side of wellbeing with a wide range of policies. It was mitigating austerity and the Bedroom Tax, introduced baby boxes and additional Carers Allowance but still seemed unable to translate the wellbeing concept into the business arena.  

The 2015 Scottish Business Pledge, based on boosting productivity and competitiveness through fairness, equality and sustainable employment, was weak and largely disconnected from the business community. The businesses that signed the pledge were mostly larger companies with corporate reasons for keeping the Scottish Government onside. 

READ MORE: SNP furious as Robert Jenrick says party doesn't house refugees

Scotianomics: The Wellbeing Economy think tank for the Yes movement

Back in May 2015, Business for Scotland launched its research operation "Scotianomics" to focus on economic policy research and influencing organisations on how to generate sustainable growth and enhance Scotland’s wellbeing. 

We started sharing our research, polling data and ideas with politicians and ministers. By 2017, we were regularly submitting policy papers and evidence to the Scottish Government, organisations such as the OECD and occasionally, the UK Government. One of our first major policy papers was the Wellbeing Corporation Tax Credits system - a redesign of corporation tax that would make large corporations a benefit to society and the Wellbeing Economic Approach a business benefit - more on that in the future.

The biggest pivot towards embedding wellbeing economics as a core value across Scottish Government policy came during the SNP leadership contest early this year when Humza Yousaf made the Wellbeing Economic Approach a key feature of his campaign, regularly crediting and quoting economic research from Scotianomics and political research from Business for Scotland. 

The National: First Minister Humza Yousaf

The creation of the new Cabinet Secretary position of Minister for Wellbeing Economy signals the intent to get the economy side of the wellbeing equation right too.

A growing sense of urgency

This month's increase in interest rates to 5% has meant around 120,000 Scottish households will experience a 20% fall in their disposable income. Food prices have risen 25% in five years, core inflation is at record levels and UK public sector debt has reached 100% of GDP for the first time since 1961. The UK Government wants the people to tough it out - I say it has never been more important to implement aWellbeing Economic Approach as we need an economy built to meet the needs of the people, not financial markets.

Wellbeing economics is not just the key to Scottish independence, it's also critical in escaping the damage of the twin curses of Brexit and austerity forced upon Scotland by an uncaring and economically malicious UK Government. 

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is the CEO of Business for Scotland, the Chief Economist at the 'Wellbeing Economics' think tank Scotianomics, the founder of the Believe in Scotland campaign and the author of Scotland the Brief.

Don’t miss our current offers running on our Digital Pack: £3 for 3 months OR £50 for the first year! Click here to subscribe!