The National:

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

There is a growing recognition that the global capitalism model is not working for people, communities or the planet.

Instead of replacing it with a more enlightened and balanced economic approach, the UK Government has been adopting a more right-wing form of capitalism called neoliberalism, a soulless and unsustainable system that seems to worship financialised economic growth at the expense of the real economy, people and the planet.

The Scottish Government has been trying to go in a different direction, talking about the wellbeing economy for years now. A leading member of the Wellbeing Economy Governments Partnership (WEGo) since its inception in 2018 and Indeed, Nicola Sturgeon gave a Ted Talk called “Why governments should prioritise wellbeing”, which has now generated over two million views. However, there was a lot more talk than action

The National:

A bit of a stooshie

Sturgeon’s government had many strengths but maintaining relationships with the business community and being seen as strong on the economy weren’t amongst them. As wellbeing emerged as a priority, it became clear that her government understood the social side of the wellbeing formula but not so much the economic side. More explanation of the bigger wellbeing economics picture was required.

Humza Yousaf made a wellbeing economy a key plank of his SNP leadership bid. He understood that wellbeing was the key to creating a fair, equitable and sustainable economy and also to delivering independence. Polling indicates that putting a wellbeing economic approach at the heart of the independence message moves support to around 60%.

The National: Outgoing First Minister Humza Yousaf signs his official resignation letter to the King (Jane Barlow/PA)

Yousaf renamed the Economy Ministry the "Wellbeing Economy and Fair Work", and made two leading contributors to the SNP's Social Justice and Fairness Commission (SJFC), Shona Robinson and Neil Gray, the Cab Secs for Finance and Wellbeing Economy respectively. That’s important, as the SJFC report had quietly replaced the outdated and much maligned Sustainable Growth Commission as the moral compass of SNP economic thinking.  

An excerpt from the SJFC report: “The aim of the Social Justice and Fairness Commission is to deliver a route map to the real prize of independence - Building on the Scottish Government’s commitment to a Wellbeing economy, where we are as focused on the wellbeing of our society as the performance of our economy, and where we judge our success not just by GDP but by the health and wellbeing of our nation.”

Humza moved wellbeing from the background by starting the behind-the-scenes work of embedding wellbeing values at the heart of government policy. Something not easily nor quickly undone but something that wasn't as publicly visible as his more left-wing tax changes.  

What's in a word?

Dropping the word wellbeing sends completely the wrong message. However, to change the Scottish Government's direction on wellbeing takes a heck of a lot more than taking the word out of a job title or even not saying it very often.  

Because wellbeing sits at the core of the National Performance Framework.

The Scottish Government's policy progress is measured by a range of indicators contained in the National Performance Framework (NPF). The NPF measures Scotland’s progress against agreed national outcomes by mapping progress against "national indicators" which include a range of economic, social and environmental indicators, to give a measure of national wellbeing. 

The NPF is explained on the Government’s own website as "a wellbeing framework".

It goes on: "It explicitly includes 'increased wellbeing' as part of its purpose, and combines measurement of how well Scotland is doing in economic terms with a broader range of wellbeing measures.” 

The NPF directs policy and changing that system requires lengthy consideration and consultation, which has just happened as part of the forthcoming Wellbeing and Sustainable Development Bill. So the Scottish Government has just revised its national outcomes. Ironically adding one called “The Wellbeing Economy and Fair Work Outcome”.

According to the Scottish Parliament Information Centre: “This outcome focuses on collective wellbeing and sustainability, it includes improving living standards and job quality. It champions green innovation, digital and transport connectivity, and fair work practices.”

READ MORE: Extremism expert debunks Rishi Sunak attack on 'Scottish nationalists'

What has the new Economy Secretary said about wellbeing?

During the 2023 SNP leadership campaign, Business for Scotland asked the candidates key questions on economic policy. This was Kate Forbes, the new Economy Secretary’s answer on wellbeing economics.

Jan 2023 - BfS: “Will you commit to continuing the development of the economic case for independence based upon a Wellbeing Economic Approach”?

Kate Forbes – “It is me and my team that have driven the Scottish Government policies that put wellbeing and sustainable growth at the heart of the Scottish economy. This is work I would seek to continue and develop further, ensuring considerations around wellbeing are at the heart of policy development.”

The National: (left to right) Angela Constance,.Deputy First Minister of Scotland Kate Forbes, First Minister of Scotland John Swinney and Shona Robison during Mr Swinney's debut at First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh.

READ MORE: Neoliberal Kate Forbes will sell off more of Scotland to foreigners

Then John Swinney said this yesterday: “My government will support business and economic growth – not for its own sake, but for a clear social purpose. 

“It is the outcomes of growth which will deliver public funding, we can invest in public services like the NHS and schools and ultimately create a fairer society”.

This begs the question. Is the dropping of the word wellbeing simply a General Election “it's the economy stupid” ploy? Are the SNP looking to steady the ship and save as many seats as possible because wellbeing has not been properly explained yet?

That would also be a mistake but as always, time will tell.