Measuring Wellbeing

– in the Scottish Parliament on 27th June 2013.

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Photo of James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

3. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on its strategy for measuring wellbeing, in light of the publication of “Shifting the Dial in Scotland” by the Carnegie UK Trust. (S4O-02314)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Our approach to national wellbeing is to start from a broad vision of the Scotland that we want to see, which is set out in the Government’s purpose and national outcomes and is supported by a dashboard of indicators, on the Scotland performs website, to measure progress towards our goals.

I recently hosted two positive and constructive round-table discussions with members of different parties and key third sector organisations, including the Carnegie UK Trust. The discussions established a consensus and identified several areas for development, to ensure that Scotland remains, in the words of the Carnegie UK Trust,

“an international leader in wellbeing measurement”.

Photo of James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

The report supports the view of Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who commended the Scottish Government’s efforts to develop better measures of performance, and notes that Scotland is a world leader in having wellbeing as a policy consideration. Does the cabinet secretary agree that it would be better if all policy decisions that affect Scotland had the wellbeing of our citizens at heart? Does he agree that the best way to ensure that is by taking decisions out of Westminster’s hands and voting yes in 447 days’ time?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

That is a helpful reminder from Mr Dornan—if I needed any reminder—of what lies ahead in 447 days’ time. I agree with the member. The Scotland performs initiative, which the Government introduced in 2007, has become an established part of the policy framework in Scotland and provides a broad assessment of progress in Scotland. There are areas for reform, which I am discussing with members of the Parliament and the wider community, to ensure that we take decisions wisely.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I commend the Government for the steps that it has taken and I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in the round-table discussions that the cabinet secretary mentioned.

I am still a little unclear about the status of wellbeing in the Government’s mind, compared with other indicators. Does the cabinet secretary share the view that the central flaw of gross domestic product measurement is that it counts everything that is positive and everything that is negative in our lives in the same way? Does he agree that wellbeing should have a higher status than GDP?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The purpose of the national performance framework is to give a balanced and rounded assessment of the areas in which progress needs to be made if we are to create a more sustainable, cohesive and prosperous society. The efforts that I am making as part of the round-table discussions are about ensuring that that view is deeply embedded in the political consensus in Scotland and in the consensus outside Parliament.

I am grateful to Mr Harvie and other members for their participation in the exercise. I think that we are making progress. The last round-table discussion even elicited a positive tweet from Mr Macintosh, which I welcomed enormously, so it shows that some progress can be made on those questions. It represents an important way forward, and it will be founded on the dialogue that we have with organisations such as the Carnegie UK Trust.