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. 

How can a wellbeing culture inspire people and deliver a new nation?

I have seen a few blogs and articles recently bleating that the wellbeing economy is a gimmick and that the Scottish Government doesn't really understand the concept. Those are usually written by well-known left-wing commentators who see wellbeing as a threat to socialism.

The wellbeing economic approach is not purely economics but rather an integrated socio-economic mindset change. So if you think that taking the best (workable) ideas of socialism and mixing them successfully for the first time with the best (sustainable) ideas of capitalism to create an approach with a higher purpose is a threat, then I suppose it is.

A lot of the criticism is based around the time it takes to embed wellbeing thinking in the multilayered operations of government, Holyrood, councils, the NHS, the care service and various grant-awarding quangos such as Scottish Enterprise etc.

The National:

Yes it's frustrating and as I have spent a good portion of the last decade trying to champion the idea of a wellbeing economic approach I think I have more of a right to be frustrated than most. However, only an idiot would think that a government hamstrung by devolution in the middle of a cost of living crisis and a political crisis (the latter of its own making) can just wave a magic wand and make the transition happen overnight.

The pace of government is always frustrating to activists

That said, the transition has to accelerate, and although the Scottish Government has made a start with the Wellbeing and Sustainable Development (Scotland) Bill Consultation, I would like to challenge the Government to go further and to understand that the transition to a wellbeing economy needs to speed up if it is to form the foundations of a positive vision that will lead to an independent Scotland.

So the Scottish Government's Wellbeing and Sustainable Development Bill is a start, but it's only half of the formula. Consultations are fine and admittedly fixing the definitions, measurements, and understanding how it should impact on economic and environmental policy and planning at all levels of government and crucially how it relates to the performance frameworks are key elements of making wellbeing thinking the core theme of Scotland’s socio-economic planning.

Policies are boring, ownership is everything

However, none of that will easily seep into the culture of the nation. For the average voter to buy into this change they have to engage with it and to feel ownership of it.

It's a national culture change project and consulting with think tanks, academics, pressure groups and unions etc. Accessing professional opinion is fine, even necessary, but it's invisible to the public - and cultural change has to involve the public, even be driven by the public.

The Scottish Government has found this out with its massive consultation exercises on gender reform and the bottle return scheme (below), both of which went swimmingly until they crashed head first into cultural resistance and died.

The National: Scotland’s deposit return scheme has been delayed until March 2024 (Johnathan Pow/PA)

When it comes to cultural change, emotional responses eat rational thought for breakfast. The pre-2014 National Conversation on independence was a cultural engagement, not a political consultation, and as such laid the groundwork for the increase in independence support that we have struggled to maintain through the wilderness years.

READ MORE: Labour peer wants early Holyrood election if SNP lose MP majority

Give the people alternative institutions and alternative visions

If we want to destroy the institutions that maintain London’s control over Scotland we must create alternative institutions, have them engage the people in the process of change and begin to act like the independent nation we aim to become, rather than give the impression that we will accept our half-nation status.

With the right approach the SNP can win a majority of seats at the next General Election and earn the mandate to set up a Constitutional Convention on Independence. That can be the vehicle for a new national engagement programme, a new national conversation on how independence with a wellbeing economic approach will enrich the lives of the people of Scotland, create the conditions for businesses to thrive in a sustainable way and save our environment. It can't be a government consultation, it needs to be an engagement of the people by the people - the core of a new phase of the independence movement.

It's a movement thing

That means that no political party, no one leader or organisation can lead the Constitutional Convention on Independence. The Congress must reflect the diversity of our country and the wellbeing, green and other the independence movements and parties.

Unity in the independence movement is impossible unless we move away from our addiction to political debate, from imagining that political policies will lead us to independence - they won't, they will just serve to divide us. The UK Government will do all in its power to block a referendum and keep the path to independence dependent on people voting SNP as they know not everyone wants to. They know if we become a non-political party-led movement again we will win and we will win big and so some form of cross-party alliance at a de facto Holyrood 2026 election will have to be considered.

READ MORE: Analysis predicts pro-independence majority in Scottish parliament

Scotland's new conversation has to be about our shared values, our shared culture and stories not of the past but of the future. This new Convention’s goal should be to let the dreams and aspirations of the people of Scotland shape the future institutions of an independent Scotland. Let's get started.

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.