The National:

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A COUPLE of recent conversations have given me pause for thought. First, someone said: “Really loving your articles on wellbeing economics, it's a real vote winner." 

I couldn't figure out why that made me feel uneasy. Another conversation a day later and the comment: “I like the way you explain how the wellbeing economic approach is key to delivering independence”.

Then it hit me. “No,” I said, “It's the other way around, independence is key to delivering a wellbeing economy."

I have never seen independence as an end in itself but rather as a means to an end, to allow us to build a better nation. I totally accept that the best people to make decisions about Scotland are those that live in Scotland and therefore motivated by the needs of Scotland's economy, its environment and its people.

Localisation of decision making, democratic subsidiarity and even participatory budgeting (policy areas I will develop in future articles) are all connected to citizen participation, a core principle of wellbeing. For anyone to believe that Scotland's independence isn’t part of that requires mind numbing levels of cognitive dissonance.

READ MORE: Scotland, small nations and how to measure a wellbeing economy

In 2014 I felt that there was no real vision for independence. We needed radical change but the whole Yes campaign was about what wouldn't change or how we would micromanage change, while the No campaign was about making change seem difficult. For me, every reserved power I want Scotland to control is a power for a purpose. 

A poll carried out by Progress Scotland in 2020 found that 75% of Scottish voters would support independence if it was offered in conjunction with the right economic approach. Many thought that was an almost meaningless statistic as the right economic approach for some would be neo-capitalism, for others de-growth and others still socialism or even communism.

However, as the research I covered in last week's article demonstrated, wellbeing economics appeals to voters across the board and blends the values of socialism and capitalism to create a higher purpose for the economy.  

There must be no wellbeing-washing or wellbeing tick-boxing 

So yes, wellbeing economics is that unifying vision but it has to be made REAL.

Politicians hijack buzzwords and you can bet the next General Election will see the words "wellbeing economy" in every party manifesto. For many years wellbeing at work has been a buzzword. Some studies claim that around a third of companies talk up wellbeing, whilst in reality offering only superficial sloganising with no detail or real understanding of the principles at work.

Get ready to see the same wellbeing-washing and tick-boxing from the Westminster parties but know that Labour in particular will be wellbeing-washing their manifesto, because in order to win in England, they are moving rapidly to the right and that's not compatible with a wellbeing approach. 

Making the wellbeing economy REAL

To make the wellbeing economic approach a reality, we need to move beyond academic discussions and start to map out the different policy choices and outcomes it demands.

That's what will make it real for people and that's why the values research presented in last week's article were policy related. If it's more than words, if it's specific policies and planned outcomes then the electorate can hold the politicians to account and see through attempts at wellbeing-washing.

A symbiotic relationship?

In February, Believe in Scotland polled 2000 Scottish voters. On independence, Yes came in at 48%, as you would expect at the time. We also asked a series of questions around wellbeing - one key question was:

“If there was a referendum on independence tomorrow, how would you vote, if the Scottish Government put a wellbeing economic approach at the heart of its economic plans for an independent Scotland. A plan that recognises that quality of life, equality, fairness, sustainability, happiness, and health are all outcomes that should be given equal weight as it does to traditional measures such as GDP?” 

The National:

With that particular framing, Yes instantly reached 56%, demonstrating that a wellbeing economics vision increases independence support by 8%.  

The impact of a wellbeing pension on independence support

Believe in Scotland also campaigns for a wellbeing pension. The UK basic state pension is the second worst in the developed world and is a direct cause of pensioner poverty.

The wellbeing pension, calculated by Scotianomics, is the minimum amount required by pensioners to live with basic dignity. At the time of the poll in February that amount was £225.00 per week (now revised to £235.00 due to inflation). 

We asked the respondents: “If the Scottish Government’s wellbeing economic approach included a commitment to increasing the basic state pension from £141.85 to a Wellbeing Pension of £225.00 per week in an independent Scotland – how would you vote in a Scottish independence independence referendum?” 

Support for independence skyrocketed to 60%. That is a full 12-point increase through simply clarifying the message and doing the right thing, allowing people to live with dignity – another core wellbeing value.

READ MORE: The wellbeing economy: What it is, and why it'll boost independence


Independence is within reach – we simply need to do the right thing by the people of Scotland and offer them a wellbeing socioeconomic vision that inspires, one with the purpose of creating greater prosperity, equality and environmental sustainability.