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November 15, 2022

Running short of patience

The relationship between government and civil society is complex and often nuanced. They both need each other but both have limits on how much they will tolerate their own interests being compromised by the other’s actions (or inaction). Such a point of divergence may be approaching around the ambition to transform our conventional GDP-centric economy into one which values our collective wellbeing. The Scottish Government has long trumpeted its founding role in the Wellbeing Economy Governments Partnership but the rhetoric is starting to falter. A long list of civil society voices, including ourselves, has just written to the First Minister.

Wellbeing Economy Alliance

Dear First Minister


We are writing to you as a group of social and environmental justice NGOs, local authorities, grassroots community groups, faith groups, service providers, funders, economists, academics, think tanks and business leaders united in our belief that Scotland must urgently transition to a Wellbeing Economy. 


Many of us are firefighting to provide frontline support to those swept up in the rising tide of destitution. Others among us are trying to play our part in the transition to an economy that values people and the environment, for example, piloting new ways of providing for each other, running community energy projects and deploying alternative business models that contribute to our communities. Others are directly involved in efforts to restore nature and tackle poverty.

Too many people in Scotland are living in cold homes, skipping meals and falling behind on rent while Scotland’s 20 richest families own more wealth than 30 percent of the poorest citizens combined. In the most deprived 30% of Scottish areas life expectancy is falling. At the same time, there are growing fears that Scotland’s legal emissions reductions targets will be missed and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently warned that the world faces a “brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.” The IPCC also echoed our collective belief that GDP is a poor metric of human wellbeing. 


As a founding member of the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership, Scotland has played an important role in building momentum for change among governments. We were pleased to see the aspiration to become a Wellbeing Economy contained within Scotland’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation. We also welcomed the publication of the first iteration of the Wellbeing Economy monitor, efforts to encourage fair work, support for community wealth building and the commitment to review how to increase the number of purposeful and democratic businesses in Scotland. And we are looking forward to seeing the recommendations of the Business Purpose Commission and Just Transition Commission being taken forward. These are steps in the right direction.


But we are writing to you today because we are concerned that progress isn’t happening fast enough to meet the very real and urgent challenges we face. To date, we have not seen substantive progress in redesigning our economy which continues to break planetary limits and create high levels of inequality. With its narrow focus on GDP growth, the National Strategy for Economic Transformation is grounded in the same logic that has delivered decades of poverty, inequality and environmental degradation. What is required now is a robust plan to put the wellbeing of people and nature at the heart of our economy.


Today we have published a joint statement on what we envision such a Wellbeing Economy to look like in Scotland, which will require actions from governments in both Westminster and Holyrood. 


As next steps on the journey to a Wellbeing Economy we ask you and the Scottish Government to use the powers at your disposal to:

Transform the National Performance Framework into a Wellbeing Framework and strengthen its power and reach.

  • In the short-term, this requires a comprehensive engagement process to underpin the review of the National Outcomes so the people of Scotland have a voice in shaping what the framework measures.
  • In the medium term, ensure the upcoming Wellbeing and Sustainable Development Bill puts the wellbeing framework on a stronger statutory footing to provide a clear vision for public bodies, bringing together and strengthening a range of duties to put collective wellbeing and environmental sustainability at the centre of decision-making. This should include enhanced support and scrutiny mechanisms, for example through the promised Future Generations’ Commissioner. The Scottish Government should also bring forward a clear outcome budgeting framework, evidencing how public spending delivers wellbeing outcomes.

Use devolved tax powers to share Scotland’s wealth more evenly and support public investment in a strong social safety net, universal basic services, fair public sector wages and environmental improvements needed for a Wellbeing Economy.

  • In the short-term, the next Budget should continue progressive moves to increase tax revenue more fairly and clearly set out both the distributional impacts of this and how revenue will be invested in areas that can help Scotland progress to a Wellbeing Economy. 
  • In the medium term, the Scottish Government should undertake wide-ranging public engagement to develop options to realise a fully progressive tax system, including more fundamental reforms to income tax rates and bands, a clear roadmap for reforming/replacing the regressive council tax, and options to utilise local tax powers.

Reshape the business environment in Scotland to facilitate a shift towards purposeful and democratic business practices that support collective wellbeing and environmental sustainability and do not profit from undermining either of them.

  • In the short-term, enterprise agencies and all public business support should prioritise purposeful and democratic business practices, including social enterprises, cooperatives and employee-owned enterprises, as recommended by the Business Purpose Commission. All projects to support entrepreneurship, innovation and start-ups delivered as a part of the National Strategy for Economic transformation should be focused on those businesses that can make the biggest contribution to a Wellbeing Economy and should be tailored to different rural and urban contexts.
  • In the medium-term, fair work conditions on public sector grants and contracts should be strengthened and extended to other dimensions of a Wellbeing Economy, including environmental aspects and democratic governance structures. Options should be developed for better incentivising purposeful business – for example, reforms to non-domestic rates and the introduction of environmental levies.


Scotland is full of hopeful and inspirational action that is putting the Wellbeing Economy thinking into practice. But transforming such actions into the economy we all need will require bolder action by the Scottish Government to set the direction of the economy, it requires a stronger infrastructure for participation in economic policy-making, ensuring that seldom heard voices are listened to, and it requires increased public investment into places, people and nature to deliver what really matters to people. 


We hope that you will consider our asks and we would be keen to meet to discuss this further. 


Signed by


Jimmy Paul, Director, Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland (WEAll)

Roz Foyer, STUC General Secretary

Sarah Davidson, Chief Executive, Carnegie UK
Philip Whyte, Director, IPPR Scotland

Peter Kelly, Director, Poverty Alliance

Theona Morrison, Chair of Scottish Rural Action

Neil McIntosh, Assistant Director, NSPCC Scotland

Mary Church, Head of Campaigns, Friends of the Earth Scotland

Darren McGarvey, activist, musician and Orwell Prize-winning author of Poverty Safari and The Social Distance Between Us

Sara Redmond, Chief Officer of Development, Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE)

Tracey Dalling, Scottish Regional Secretary, UNISON Scotland

Nikki Slowey and Lisa Gallagher, Co-founders, Flexibility Works
Satwat Rehman, Chief Executive, One Parent Families Scotland
Osbert Lancaster, Director, Realise Earth Ltd
Simon Poole, Co-Founder & Chairman, Jerba Campervans

Amanda Burgauer, Executive Director, Common Weal
Philip Revell, Convenor, Scottish Communities Climate Action Network (SCCAN)

Elio Caccavale, Reader in Transdisciplinary Design Innovation, The Innovation School, The Glasgow School of Art

Clare Cooper, Co-Initiator, Bioregioning Tayside
Jamie Livingstone, Head of Oxfam Scotland

Tabitha Jayne, Founding Director, Earthself Community Interest Company
Ewan Aitken, CEO, Cyrenians
Gerry McCartney, Professor of Wellbeing Economy, University of Glasgow

Professor Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development and Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP)
Michael Cook, CEO, Circular Communities Scotland
Simon Farrell, Co-founder, Today the Arena, Programme Lead at Everyone’s Edinburgh Business for Good

Hana Shono, Convener, United Nations Association Scotland

Sarah Deas, Director, Sustainable Futures
Professor Gordon Hush, Head of The Innovation School, The Glasgow School of ArtGiles Ruck, Chief Executive Officer, Foundation Scotland
Fiona Garven, Director, Scottish Community Development Centre
Leah Black, Regenerative Futures Fund
Craig McCormack, Co-director, Greencity Wholefoods
Frances Guy, CEO, Scotland’s International Development Alliance
Carolyn Sawers, Chief Executive, Corra FoundationLiz Murray, Head of Scottish Campaigns, Global Justice Now
Dr Clementine Hill O’Connor, Research Fellow, School of Social and Political Sciences

University of Glasgow

Dr Karen Bell, Senior Lecturer Sustainable Development, University of Glasgow

Professor Michael Roy, Professor of Economic Sociology and Social Policy, Glasgow Caledonian University

Professor Mike Danson, Professor Emeritus of Enterprise Policy (Ollamh Poileasaidh Iomairt), School of Social Sciences, Heriot-Watt University and Chair, Basic Income Network Scotland

Professor Katherine Smith, Professor of Public Health Policy, School of Social Work & Social Policy, University of Strathclyde

Professor Daniel Wight, MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow

Pauline Smith, Chief Executive, Development Trust Association Scotland (DTAS)

Professor Jaime L. Toney, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Solutions, University of Glasgow

Professor Sharon Simpson, Professor of Behavioural Sciences and Health, University of Glasgow

Lee Fitzpatrick, Managing Director, Zebra Growth

Professor Andrew Cumbers, Professor of Political Economy, Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow

Dr. Ewan Gibbs FRHS, Lecturer in Global Inequalities, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow

Professor Andrew Watterson, Emeritus Professor of Health, Stirling University
Emmy van Kleef, Managing Director, Mustardseed Trust
Annette Hastings, Professor of Urban Studies, University of Glasgow
Elizabeth Allen, Clerk of General Meeting For Scotland, Quakers in Scotland

Chris Martin, CEO, Social Enterprise Scotland 

Louise Scott, Co-founder and Co-director, Media Co-op 

Rowan Lear, Co-founder, The People’s Plot, Glasgow

Bonnie Clarke, CEO, Remarkable

Alfie Stirling, Chief Economist, New Economics Foundation
Euan Leitch, Chief Executive, SURF – Scotland’s Regeneration Forum

Miriam Brett, Advisory Board Member at Common Wealth and Research Fellow at Wellbeing Economy Alliance and Democracy Collaborative 

Laurie Macfarlane, Research Fellow, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose

Dr Katherine Trebeck, co-founder WEAll global and WEAll Scotland
Dani Trudeau, Founding Director, Tribe Porty & Keystone Women
Kirsty Innes, Director, Kirsty Innes Marketing

Paul Kearns, Chair, Maturity Institute

Tom Morton, Convener, Cohousing Scotland

Frank Duffy, Founder, Code Division Ltd

Ailsa Raeburn,  Chair, Community Land Scotland

Dr Kirsten Jenkins, Lecturer in Energy, Environment and Society, Social and Political Sciences, University of Edinburgh

Meg Thomas, Head of Research, Policy and Participation, Includem

Dr Line Kikkenborg Christensen, Executive Director, Jubilee Scotland
Dr Judith Turbyne, CEO, Children in Scotland

Frazer Scott, CEO, Energy Action Scotland

Simon Anderson, Senior Fellow, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
Rev Karen Hendry, Convener of the Faith Impact Forum, the Church of Scotland

Professor Jim Phillips, Professor of Economic and Social History, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow

Marsha Scott, Chief Executive, Scottish Women’s Aid

Catherine Cosgrove, Chairperson of Scottish Ecological Design Association 

Joanne McClelland, Founder, EALA Impacts CIC 

Professor Dave Reay, Chair in Carbon Management & Education, Executive Director of Edinburgh Climate Change Institute, University of Edinburgh, and Policy Director of ClimateXChange

Dr Svenja Meyerricks, Fellow, Centre for Human Ecology

Dr Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor in Ecological Economics, University of Leeds

Professor Laurence Moore, Director, MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow

Angus Hardie, Director, Scottish Community Alliance 

Martin Avila, Group CEO, Community Enterprise in Scotland (CEIS)

Dr Tony Robertson, People’s Health Movement Scotland

Richard Murray, Trustee, Eco-Congregations Scotland
Zoi Kantounatou & Bruce Walker Co-founders, CFO and CEO, FutureX 

B.D. Owens, President, Scottish Artists Union

Neil Lovelock, Project Manager, Glasgow Eco Trust

Marie Ward, Chief Executive, Cranhill Development Trust
Pamela Candea, Director, The Surefoot Effect, CIC

Enough! Scotland
Terry McTernan, Project Lead, Darkwood Crew
Juliet Harris, Director, Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights)
Joanne McClelland, President, The Edinburgh Architecture Association

Reuben Chesters, Managing Director, Locavore CIC
Robbie Guillory, Director, Underline Literary Agency
Bridie Ashrowan, Chief Executive, Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations Council

Jason Schroeder, Chief Executive Officer, Scottish Men’s Sheds Association

Jill Kent, Chair of Justice & Peace Scotland

David Kelly, Director for Scotland, Community Transport Association

Donia M. Keith, Founder, LifeRoute

Jane Deary, Manager, Polbeth Community Hub

Alan McClouskey, Chief Executive, Voluntary Sector Gateway West Lothian

Mary Michel, Co-Founder, Ostrero

Sara Cowan, Coordinator, Scottish Women’s Budget Group

Janice Gibson, Plant (People Learning About Nature in Tayport)

Dermot O’Neill, Chief Executive, Scottish League of Credit Unions

Tara Wight, Scotland Policy and Campaigns Coordinator, Landworkers’ Alliance

Zoë Holliday, CEO, Community Energy Scotland

Carole Racionzer, Chair, Linlithgow Community Development Trust