There is no doubting that we live in interesting times.
At the time of writing, the Prime Minister has just lost his working majority at Westminster, a snap election seems to be on the horizon, and the future of Brexit remains unknown.
Amidst such turmoil, policy must still be made. We have to respond to today’s challenges to ensure a chance at a better future. Yesterday’s announcement of the 2019/20 Programme for Government by the Scottish Government was a welcome contribution.
In its focus and intentions it offers hope for positive policy making in Scotland, with much that we at the RSA will look to explore, challenge and contribute to moving forward.
Five key takeaways from the Programme for Government
1. Tough commitment on climate change is the right one
Scotland has been committed to mitigating climate change for several years now – this Programme commits the Government to eliminating Scotland’s contribution to climate change altogether. This is a tough commitment, but one that should command support and input from across Scottish civic society.
2. Establishing Scottish National Investment Bank is a good starting point for change
We welcome the creation of the bank with a mission to drive change. However, this needs to help lead to system change, not just tinkering at the edges. Money alone is not enough to rewrite our systemic addiction to fossil fuels and unsustainable extractive economic approaches.
3. Circular Economy Bill moves this important agenda forward
This has been in discussion for a while now, and is critical to reducing both carbon emissions and wasted resources. It’s long been an important issue for the RSA (our new work in this area is focusing on the fashion industry).
We hope that the Scottish Government will look to learn from the existing body of evidence to maximise impact, for example the work of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce. A successful approach to the circular economy should also explicitly link environmental concerns and key social challenges, such as poverty and inequality, and seek to address them in tandem.
4. A Good Food Nation Bill is welcome
As the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission has shown, food security and sustainability is a critical challenge for the country.
5. Commitment to mental health support, including the introduction of school-based counsellors, is important
RSA research on mental health in schools showed that students benefited from mental health support across the whole school. But it’s important that the Government ensures that these services are supported for the long term and not just token gestures
Rhetoric is positive, reality is required
Much to welcome, but there is also an important role for organisations like the RSA to positively hold the Government to account in terms of delivery – rhetoric is positive, but reality is required.
We look forward to working with the Scottish Government and other partners across Scotland to ensure that this positive vision can have a real-world impact.