An ambitious and impactful Wellbeing and Sustainable Development Act
Deliver the promised Wellbeing and Sustainable Development Act to make all public bodies set objectives towards sustainable development outcomes, ensuring that they impact positively on people and the environment in Scotland and in low-income countries, and create a legal requirement for meaningful public participation in the democratic process and decision making by building on existing requirements for public participation under the Community Empowerment Act 2015 and, crucially, enshrining the role and remit of the Citizens’ Assembly into law.
The Scottish Government should use the proposed Wellbeing and Sustainable Development Bill to enshrine a statutory requirement for all future Scottish Governments to align budgets to sustainable development objectives. The Bill should create: clear definitions for key terms, such as ‘sustainable development’; clarify and strengthen duties on public bodies for delivering the national outcomes; and require the creation of national outcome delivery plans and annual progress reports.
All future economic strategies should also be underpinned by long-term sustainable development objectives, never short-term GDP growth for growth’s sake, regardless of how inclusive that growth might be.
The Scottish Government should also use the Bill to introduce an independent Wellbeing and Sustainable Development or Future Generations Commissioner to support implementation of the Act. Such a Commissioner would:
- be placed on a statutory footing as part of the Bill to signal the importance the Government places on sustainable development and the wellbeing of current and future generations
- provide a space for learning to coalesce
- help build the capacity of public bodies and support them to understand and implement duties relating to sustainable development and the delivery of the National Outcomes
- monitor the implementation of sustainable development duties through scrutiny and investigative power
- assess delivery of the National Outcomes and address the implementation gap
- be an ambassador to engage the wider public, and provide advice and scrutiny to the Scottish Government
Above all, the creation of a new Commissioner would support a shift towards long-termism in policy making. Current political structures reward short-term policy interventions, even when they incur future costs, on health, the environment and so on. By bringing a future generations lens to decision making, a Commissioner could help to embed the principles of long-termism, and as such should be seen as an investment in prevention, not a cost.
For further information:
- Towards a Wellbeing and Sustainable Development Bill, Scotland’s International Development Alliance, 2022, https://www.intdevalliance.scot/how-we-help/policy-and-advocacy/wsd-bill
- National Outcomes Review 2023: Response to Call for Evidence, Oxfam Scotland, May 2023, https://oxfam.app.box.com/file/1225834059244?s=nogb55ytbl5jhgrxukps5pas8go4m2fx
- Sarah Boyack MSP’s proposed member’s bill and the responses to it provide useful prompts on many key issues.