– in the Scottish Parliament on 16th January 2020.
The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-20261, in the name of Lewis Macdonald, on sustainable development goals. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.
That the Parliament welcomes the publication of On target for 2030?, a report from civil society organisations co-ordinated by the UWS-Oxfam Partnership and the SDG Network Scotland; understands that this report aims to offer a snapshot analysis of progress in Scotland against each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which officially came into force on 1 January 2016, from expert organisations operating within each relevant field; considers that the negative effects of slow progress on achieving Sustainable Development Goals are felt disproportionately by low-income households, including in the North East Scotland region, and that this undermines the pledge made by UN Member States to ensure that “no one will be left behind”; acknowledges that the report encourages Scotland to do more to meet its Sustainable Development Goals, and understands that progress in this area is not the responsibility only of government but also of business, the third sector and individuals, if Scotland is to fulfil its commitments by 2030.
I am delighted to speak to the motion and am grateful to all the members who signed it and to the many organisations that have provided briefings to support the debate, some of which are represented in the gallery.
The sustainable development goals are global goals. The 2030 agenda for sustainable development was agreed by the United Nations in 2015 as
“a plan of action of people, planet and prosperity.”
The agenda aspires to
“end poverty and hunger ... protect the planet from degradation”,
ensure “prosperous and fulfilling lives” for all and
“foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies”.
Those are big ambitions that require innumerable actions by very large numbers of actors: Governments, intergovernmental agencies, non-governmental organisations, businesses, trade unions, voluntary and community organisations and individuals around the world.
We can be proud of the actions that have been taken by many people from and in Scotland towards achieving the goals worldwide. Whether through NGOs, churches or faith communities, secondment from work in our public services, or directly as volunteers or as part of Government engagement with developing countries, many thousands of people make a real and substantial contribution to achieving the sustainable development goals in some of the poorest countries on the planet.
However, the global goals apply here, too. Scotland will be judged not only on the work that Scots do or support elsewhere, but on how we as a country measure up against the goals. That is why today’s debate is focused on the latest report from Scottish civil society on progress in Scotland towards achieving the UN’s global goals.
“On Target for 2030?” asks how we are doing here, measured against the same standards as the rest of the world, and it produces some challenging answers. The question really matters, so we are indebted to Oxfam, in partnership with the University of the West of Scotland, and to the SDG Network Scotland, for producing a comprehensive assessment.
We are also indebted to a total of 22 organisations in civil society for the informed and insightful contributions that they have made—from the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland to the Built Environment Forum Scotland, from the Child Poverty Action Group to the Marine Conservation Society, from Girlguiding Scotland to the Scottish Trades Union Congress, and from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to Business in the Community. Those organisations are all working at the front line on the whole range of sustainable development issues across Scotland. Scotland’s International Development Alliance puts all that in the context of Scotland’s place in the wider world, and emphasises that all the goals must be addressed together, not separately.
The report is a sobering assessment. Given that many of our constituents rely on food banks to feed their families, members will not be surprised to learn from Nourish Scotland that 8 per cent of the Scottish population described themselves as “food insecure”. Perhaps less familiar are the finding of research by Citizens Advice Scotland, that
“12% of households in Scotland may struggle to afford their charges” for water and sewerage, and the projection by Changeworks, that the current Scottish Government target
“means that in 2040, 5% of the Scottish population will still be in fuel poverty, due to poor energy efficiency.”
A common thread among many of the analyses is the need to tackle inequality. Another is the need to do so with the participation of the people who are affected by inequalities. Oxfam quotes figures from the Office for National Statistics that confirm that
“the wealth held by the top 10% of households is around five times greater than the wealth of the bottom half combined.”
Oxfam concludes that
“until we address inequalities of power and political participation, progress on addressing economic inequality will be hindered.”
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation demonstrates that, in recent years, Scotland has simultaneously reached record levels of employment and record levels of in-work poverty, which taken together mean that we have not met the sustainable development goal of “decent work for all”. The STUC highlights some sectors in which poverty pay holds back workers, particularly women, and calls for sectoral agreements to set minimum terms and conditions in social care and to promote collective bargaining in early learning and childcare.
Disturbingly, in the context of the goal of inclusive and sustainable economic growth, the STUC reports
“daily stories from young hospitality workers about bullying, harassment and unpaid wages”.
They are the kind of stories that we would hope not to be hearing in the 2020s.
What is to be done? The editors of “On Target for 2030?” do not attempt to summarise the range of contributions, but they draw some conclusions, which I hope the minister will address in closing the debate. Among other things, they conclude that
“whilst there is clear policy and political commitment on all of the Goals in Scotland, more needs to be done in order to meet the 2030 targets”,
“There is a lack of available, high-quality Scotland-specific data in some policy areas”,
“further work is needed to improve and build upon” the existing “fairly loose alignment” between the outcomes and indicators in the Scottish Government’s national performance framework and the UN’s sustainable development goals.
In briefing members in advance of today’s debate, the SDG Network Scotland built on those conclusions with specific asks of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament. The network supports the Scottish Government’s approach of carrying out a supplementary review to support the report by the UK, as the member state of the United Nations. The network says that the supplementary review was prepared on a transparent, collaborative and innovative basis, and that it provides a model that the UK Government would do well to follow. However, thus far, the report is available only online in draft form, and the network is keen for it to be concluded and published in its final form as soon as possible. I hope that the minister can give an undertaking on that today.
The SDG Network also calls on us, as a Parliament, to align our remits more closely with the sustainable development goals, with regular debates in the future to hold the Government to account on progress. As members of Parliament consider what priorities we might wish to suggest for members in the next session of Parliament, this might be the right time to highlight the 2030 agenda for sustainable development as a proper focus for the 2020s.
I thank Lewis Macdonald for the opportunity to discuss a substantial report of 82 pages, including what would probably best be called essays from 17 contributors. A rough count suggests that there are more than 200 references that lead the reader to further reading, so it is not only the report that is in front of us, but what underpins it that help us to have a proper discussion about whether we are on target to meet the United Nations sustainable development goals by 2030.
On our walks to Parliament and elsewhere, we all see the visible evidence of homelessness, and I am sure that many members will have spoken to people whom we see on the streets. Every 18 minutes, which is about the time it takes to get a bus down to Parliament from the centre of town, someone in Scotland becomes homeless.
Under the sustainable development goals, we have a target to get to zero poverty by 2030, which includes achieving zero hunger and achieving good health and wellbeing. In 2015, the First Minister adopted that target to help to reduce inequality across the globe, but inequality continues to exist in Scotland, as it does elsewhere.
Lewis Macdonald referred to people who are food insecure. Twenty-five per cent of our children live in poverty, and figures suggest that that will rise if we do not see amelioration of and response to Westminster’s position of financial constraint and austerity. Too many people rely on food banks, and nutritious food is yet to be accessible to and affordable for all. One of the things that my wife always thinks about at Christmas—it is actually at the top of her shopping list—is what she will buy to take to the food bank. I hope that others do the same, although it is disappointing that we have to do so.
That leads us to the broader question of socioeconomic disadvantage and marginalisation, which exists in the wealthy north-east of Scotland as it does in other parts of our country. That inequality relates to discrimination against women and too much unhealthy eating.
Are we on target to meet our goals? We are making progress on a number of targets, particularly on water and sanitation, energy share from renewables and forest management. It is an all-encompassing agenda. Steps towards the eradication of poverty and the phasing out of food banks have been made, along with the creation of the Scottish welfare fund, which provides cash grants that assist people in need.
There are tools that we can use—the report by the University of the West of Scotland and the Oxfam Partnership and the work of the SDG Network Scotland show that there has been progress. We are some distance from 2030, but the reality is—as one gets older time seems to speed up—that 2030 is almost tomorrow in planning and policy terms.
I am pleased to see businesses, individuals and civil society standing behind the effort. We are making progress on perhaps only a minority of the indicators in the national framework that relate to the issue, but we are making progress. We need a coherent approach; the proposal that Lewis Macdonald made on aligning Parliament’s activities more closely with the issue is not one that I had heard before, but it is interesting.
I close by congratulating all who have been involved with the report and saying that I hope that we hear some interesting things from the minister.
I congratulate Lewis Macdonald on bringing the debate to the chamber.
I will say a few words about the significance of the sustainable development goals. They are important aspirations that were agreed by the 193 countries that participate in the United Nations, and they follow and build on the previous work of the millennium development goals. They were crafted at a decisive point in our history and reflect the world’s shared hope that a better and fairer planet can be created.
They are common goals that are shared around the world. Some start from a lower base than others, some in very different circumstances to ours, as I will touch on later. That unified effort should drive us both here and locally.
That is not to argue that the goals are beyond criticism. We can see that there will sometimes be practical trade-offs between objectives, and we will have to make sensible judgments. The goals have been seen by some as being more diffuse than the millennium development goals that preceded them. However, as aspirations they point us forward in a positive direction.
Lewis Macdonald’s motion refers particularly to his region of North East Scotland, although we should consider that, while we debate the issue, progress will be being made in hundreds of small ways in communities across the globe. Indeed, many assessments recognise that the policy commitment to the SDGs here, in Scotland, is strong. However, ultimately, it will be what happens on the ground and the positive impact that the goals make to lives and communities that will be measured. Therefore, it is certainly worth reflecting on the local angle to building progress towards common objectives and on some of the contrasts that can exist.
My region, the Highlands and Islands, is quite different from much of the rest of Scotland. We can look with some pride on the contribution that we are making at the same time as recognising some of the difficulties. SDG 7, for example, highlights the importance of affordable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Looking around my region, I see projects such as the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney making a global impact and driving forward progress that can provide benefits not only locally but across the world.
There are many other examples of technology driving forward progress. However, on the other hand, we still have a high concentration of homes in energy poverty, which are often off-grid and without financially viable alternatives to unsustainable oil heating. When we consider approaches to renewable heat, it is vital that we take into account the many communities that are still left behind.
Some of the differences are now enshrined in law. l am thinking, for example, of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018. However, as we enter the 2020s, it is clear that there must be a change in pace for real progress to be made.
At the general assembly last year, the state parties committed to
“gearing up for a decade of action and delivery for sustainable development”.
There is little doubt that acceleration of such action is on the table for the decade ahead—and it will be necessary if ambitious progress is to be made. In the Highlands and Islands, we are used to delay and being at the back of the queue for development. However, for sustainable development to be meaningful, development must occur.
We can look around the world for great examples of societies that have made rapid progress in recent years. Often, we have played a hand in that progress. The UK’s international development work is a huge credit to this country. The UK has worked with international partners to build on development goals around the world, often in difficult circumstances, in areas recovering from conflict, in underdeveloped rural communities and in places that are hard to reach. That should drive us on to make sustainable development a priority at home, too.
Scotland does not have such disadvantages—the Highlands and Islands region does not either—but instead of development we have, too often, seen decay, a decline in public services and the Government’s inability to adapt quickly to meet people’s changing needs. Sustainable development is about looking forward to the future. That cannot happen without real development in our communities now.
Thanks must go to Lewis Macdonald for initiating this important debate. The strong interest and wide range of valuable briefings are testament to the significance of the sustainable development goals in and for Scotland.
In its briefing, the Scottish Wildlife Trust stresses that
“Agenda 30 was designed to be interconnected—but the current approach is fractured.”
The SDGs and our national performance framework are our compass—both moral and directional—in tackling extreme poverty and inequalities, combating climate change and so much more. None of the aims can be achieved in isolation. I suspect that political parties, Governments and civil servants still find it hard to break the habit of working in portfolio silos, which has an apparent simplicity, but we fail to do that at our peril.
The 13th of the SDGs is on climate action and, to my mind, is relevant to the achievement of all the other goals. That section of the report by Oxfam and the University of the West of Scotland was authored by Stop Climate Chaos, whose collective work in coalescing parliamentarians around this action in the climate emergency I want to recognise.
The World Economic Forum’s “Global Risks Report 2020”, which was published yesterday, reinforces the grave concerns that exist across Scotland today—I am sure that I do not need to highlight them for the Parliament. Action on climate change is urgently needed, but if it is delivered without justice, it is simply a pyrrhic victory.
The Scottish Government should be disappointed that the report by Oxfam and the University of the West of Scotland finds that the Government’s current commitments
“do not stack up to the levels of urgent action we need.”
The next decade, leading to 2030, will be crucial, and I am proud that Scottish Labour’s amendment to create a steeper interim target in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 was agreed to. It is right that the Scottish Government accepted the Labour amendments that added to the legislation the requirement for consideration of and reporting on the SDGs and the impact on the global south.
We must all work together to shape the Scottish Government’s updated climate change plan. There must be a just transition for agriculture and land use, with nature-based solutions. Transport and energy efficiency are in all our interests.
The section of the report on SDG 13 concludes by proposing that
“Scotland could pioneer parliamentary or policy mechanisms which ensure policy coherence and which scrutinise policies that contradict domestic and international climate policy commitments.”
We can do that together. The Scottish Government is making a start, as is the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee. We need to work together. With COP26 taking place here, in Scotland, we will have the chance to be inspirational leaders in contributing to tackling climate change in a fair way, but that cannot be done without policy and action. Ambition is not enough.
Perhaps the most complex and challenging SDG to tackle through collective action is SDG 14, “Life Below Water”. As we move into the year of coasts and waters, in parallel with significant showcasing, we must scrutinise SDG 14 and ensure that our policies and actions always take it into account. We can be leaders here, too, recognising the actions that are needed to enhance our marine environment, as we committed to doing in the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010.
The report states:
“The restoration of ‘blue carbon’ stores can contribute toward mitigating and adapting to climate change by making our oceans more resilient to change.”
More broadly and importantly, it states:
“Without a step-change in approach we risk losing not only iconic nature, but also the ecosystem service benefits that a healthy marine environment provides for people, including food, energy, recreation, and a sense of wellbeing.”
Here, the interconnection with other SDGs is in sharp focus and has a clear global as well as Scottish resonance.
The 2030 agenda declares:
“The sustainable development goals and targets are integrated and indivisible.”
We need to take account of that as we move towards 2030 and beyond.
I thank Lewis Macdonald for bringing the motion and the debate to the chamber.
The SDGs have changed the relationship between international development and domestic policy. In many ways, they are a recognition that we need a coherent integrated approach. Rather than seeing those as separate spheres of policy, we must see them as coherent.
I will reflect on the way in which the position of international development has changed in this Parliament. Before I was elected, I worked in sexual health. When I was first elected, I fell into conversation with Susan Deacon who, as Minister for Health and Community Care, had established the first sexual health strategy. We were concerned that the strategy was gathering dust on the shelf and was not going to be properly implemented, so we set up a cross-party group on sexual health, which we thought would have an overwhelmingly domestic focus. We were quickly invited to take part in European and then global discussions with other parliamentarians working on the same agenda at the domestic and global levels.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights are indivisible, and the values that drive our progress on the domestic aspect of those issues, in relation to HIV, maternal health or anything else, are also the values that drive us to take action on the global stage to achieve many of the same objectives in international development. That interconnection between domestic and international policy has developed hugely over the years, and the SDGs are a global recognition of that.
The issues that MSPs will want to talk about cover many of the themes that have been touched on already. Soon I will invite MSPs to take part in an event in Parliament led by young people, who have been involved in work with Project Scotland to look at what they consider to be the most important aspects of the SDGs and how those relate to their lives in Scotland, as well as the issues that must be taken on globally.
If members decide to come along to that event on 25 February—I will plug it now—with young people leading the discussion, they will hear about the emphasis on education in SDG 4 and about the need for financial education for young people in Scotland. The young people recognise that we are not addressing that adequately yet, and that we need to do better to ensure that young people growing up in Scotland, who will face much more severe financial pressures than previous generations did, are equipped with the necessary skills.
The young people will also focus on SDG 13, on climate action. It is interesting to reflect on that on a day when we know that Extinction Rebellion activists are taking their demands for urgent change to Shell and the climate criminals of the global fossil fuel industry, who have a long-standing track record of blocking the action that is needed on climate change. On 25 February, the young people will be talking about the importance of divestment from the fossil fuel industry and the need to break our reliance on it.
The young people will also talk about SDG 5, on gender equality. In particular, they are keen to raise issues that relate to the experience of young trans people. As we heard from the First Minister during First Minister’s question time, there is a real need to recognise that feminism and the advancement of women’s rights and the wider gender equality agenda are not just compatible with but necessarily linked to trans people’s human rights. Whether everybody in this Parliament gets that yet remains to be seen, but, overwhelmingly, the younger generation get it and want that argument to be heard.
I close by encouraging members to keep an eye on their inboxes for my invitation to the event on 25 February, so that they can hear what young people in Scotland have to say about the SDGs.
I thank Lewis Macdonald for bringing to the chamber this discussion of progress on these important global goals, and to Oxfam for its collaborative approach to assessing the SDGs and its insightful snapshot report.
It is clear from the high level of engagement in the SDGs and the review process from across a broad section of Scottish civil society that the global goals are useful and relevant to our country. The SDGs are a tool for galvanising efforts in reducing poverty and creating a more peaceful and just society in Scotland.
Although this Parliament is not yet able to legislate on all areas relating to SDGs, Dr Graham Long’s consultancy work shows that, under acts such as the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 and the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, among others, action can be taken to bridge the gap in legislative power. Consequently, those acts and other Scottish Government policies and initiatives bring us closer to achieving the SDGs. Examples range from Scottish Government campaigns to maximise benefit take-up to the provision of free school meals.
The goals are, by definition, ambitious. How do we go about achieving them, particularly when some issues can seem intractable or require complex solutions alongside the investment of substantial sums of money in projects and people? Although we will never be able to fully eradicate inequality in all its forms, our collective imperative is to address injustices to the best of our ability, with our attention going to those who are most disadvantaged, such as those who live in poverty. That equitable effort defines the global goals.
My colleagues in the chamber will know that I am an advocate for nuclear disarmament, and my reason for that is the inhumanity of nuclear weapons. Last October, I spoke at the UN in New York in support of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money’s campaign, using the SDGs as a point of comparison with the money that is wasted annually on nuclear weapons across the world. Globally, more than $100 billion is spent every year on the maintenance and development of nuclear weapons. As an illustration of how much money is wasted, we asked people in the street to count out mock million-dollar notes and place them into baskets representing each of the 17 SDGs. After a week’s worth of counting, we managed to redistribute $542 billion to the 17 goals—and $542 billion is the approximate amount of money that will be spent on nuclear weapons from 2020 to 2025. Although money cannot solve everything, I know that spending $542 billion on tackling poverty, the climate and protecting women and girls from violence would go a long way towards achieving those goals.
At times, we might feel overwhelmed by the task of ending poverty, hunger and the many other issues that are covered by the global goals. However, if we recognise how much money is spent every year, without real questions being asked, on weapons that thankfully have not been used since 1945, we should accept that moving substantially closer to achieving SDGs is as much a matter of priority as it is of challenge.
When it came to my turn to allocate million-dollar notes to the SDGs, I chose to put my lot into the baskets representing no poverty, climate action and peace. I ask my colleagues to consider which goals they would personally prioritise, and whether that would be a better way to spend $100 billion a year, rather than pouring it into weapons of mass destruction.
Once again, I thank Oxfam and many other organisations in Scotland for their continued work towards achieving the SDGs. May the next 10 years see real and substantial change.
I congratulate Lewis Macdonald on bringing to the chamber this important debate on the “On target for 2030?” report, analysing Scotland’s progress against each of the sustainable development goals.
I will focus my remarks on the progress that we are making towards achieving gender equality, and on health inequalities.
On SDG 5, which Patrick Harvie mentioned, I think that we can agree that we are making positive progress towards gender equality, but we have much more still to do. The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 is a good example, as is the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018, but we cannot be complacent.
I note that there is a commitment to better recording of hidden sexual harassment within schools, but we need to go further. I agree with Girlguiding Scotland and others that national guidance is needed for our schools so that we can have a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment.
The legislation on public boards is a step in the right direction, but I think that we all want to go further with positive measures to increase women’s representation and participation in political, economic and public life. Women 50:50, for example, has pushed all political parties—some have been easier to push than others—to ensure that they have 50:50 representation on their candidate lists.
Lewis Macdonald talked about some of the challenging questions that we need to address, and I am pleased that Patrick Harvie spoke passionately about gender equality. This Parliament has the power to decriminalise abortion, but I am not sure that it is ready to have that conversation or that there is a majority for doing that. We are behind some of the rest of the world on that issue, and if we want to lead the world those are the issues that we have to face up to.
The Scottish Government and health boards across Scotland are allowing very long waiting lists to exist for access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services; women are struggling to access contraception and other health services, and that is not good enough.
It will be no surprise to members that I want to talk about periods and access to period products, but this is about more than access to products: it is about period dignity and equality for everyone who menstruates. My member’s bill—I am not embarrassed to say that this is another plug for it—is at stage 1. I urge all members to listen to civic Scotland and to the wide support that exists, and to allow the bill to advance beyond stage 1 so that we can seek to improve it together. If we want to take bold and ambitious action, that is a perfect example of world-leading legislation.
I welcome initiatives that have been undertaken by the Scottish Government and others in the public sector to tackle period poverty in a targeted way, but we need a universal scheme that will leave no one behind. I am delighted that the Scottish Women’s Convention, Engender, the Young Women’s Movement and many others have agreed on that approach.
Girlguiding Scotland gave us a helpful briefing, and I want to congratulate it on the work that it has done on period equality. It has created an end period poverty badge, which is fantastic. In the region that I represent, 1st Stonehouse rangers completed the badge and has made donations of period products to South Lanarkshire women’s aid and beyond. Good work is happening but, as Alliance Scotland told us in its briefing, health inequality is a serious issue.
On life expectancy, we cannot continue to have people who live in the poorest areas in Scotland expecting to have 20 years less on this planet than those who live in the most affluent parts.
I agree with others that we need to be bold and ambitious. There is no room for complacency. We can pat ourselves on the back for some things, but collectively we must all do better.
I thank Lewis Macdonald for securing this important debate and I thank the report’s authors, Oxfam Scotland, the University of the West of Scotland, SDG Network Scotland and the multiple contributors. I know that a lot of stakeholders are in the gallery. The Scottish Government values enormously the work that they do in this area.
Contrary to Claudia Beamish’s view that we were disappointed with the report, the publication of “On Target for 2030?” was enormously welcome. It was really helpful because, as the report illustrates, we have been engaging widely with civic society in taking forward the important agenda around the SDGs, including as an active member of SDG Network Scotland. Evaluation is fundamentally important and, if we are to ensure that we meet our targets for 2030, it is important that we do not just consider what we are doing internally, but that we have that international analysis of progress to date.
In 2015, Scotland was one of the first nations to sign up to achieving the sustainable development goals by 2030. That demonstrates our commitment to playing our part both in achieving the goals in Scotland and contributing globally. Patrick Harvie mentioned the way in which the relationship between the international development and domestic policy elements have changed over the years. We are very mindful that there are means by which we can mutually benefit in learning from other countries.
The UN’s sustainable development goals offer a vision of the world. Jamie Halcro Johnston talked about the need for aspiration and ambition and it is about that, from ending poverty and hunger through securing education and health services to combating inequality and achieving gender equality. Those aims set an agenda for tackling some of the world’s greatest problems, and we in Scotland want to pioneer outcomes, results and means by which we can meet the goals that might also be valuable to the rest of the world.
In signing up, the Scottish Government was required to demonstrate how it will work to achieve those targets by 2030. Many of the goals align with what we are already doing to tackle poverty and inequality, not just here at home but globally. However, the question for us all is how we can achieve that. Our internationally recognised national performance framework is the main vehicle by which we can deliver and localise the SDGs. Claudia Beamish rightly mentioned the importance of not working in silos, and the NPF brings it all together to ensure that there is a connection between different teams that are doing different things to achieve different goals.
The national performance framework is, essentially, Scotland’s wellbeing framework. It has the same aspiration for social, environmental and economic improvements, defining a country’s success as more than just growth in gross domestic product. The NPF is not just the Government’s framework; it belongs to the whole of Scotland. One of the most important lines in today’s motion is the last line, which is a rallying call to all Scotland to recognise the role that we can all play in embedding the SDGs and reaching them in the work that we do. The NPF fundamentally reflects the partnership principle that underpins the UN 2030 agenda. It enables us to mobilise partners, stakeholders and others on those outcomes, so that they can join in with meeting the SDGs.
As all the reports recognise, good progress has been made since we adopted the SDGs, including our commitment to tackle child poverty and health inequality. However, there is no question but that work remains for us to do to meet the 2030 target. As Bill Kidd said, much comes down to prioritisation. The Scottish Government is committed to achieving the SDGs by creating a more successful country with opportunities for all Scotland to flourish, in every region and every background, through increased wellbeing and sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
Stewart Stevenson mentioned child poverty, which I will take as an example. In recent years, the Scottish Government has passed legislation—the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017—published the tackling child poverty delivery plan and implemented the best start grants for low-income parents through the new Scottish social security system. Soon, we will start the new Scottish child payments. We should be proud of that programme of work, but we should also recognise what we are trying to achieve through it, which is to deliver on our commitments to tackle poverty. I believe that that will serve us well in meeting the SDGs.
That programme of legislation takes us closer to achieving goals that are ambitious but fundamentally and morally important. We will continue to take the necessary action to ensure that no one is left behind, which is at the heart of the NPF’s goal for an inclusive Scotland with opportunity for all. What has been refreshing in this debate—Monica Lennon mentioned this—is the recognition of the need to reflect on progress to date. That is not about patting ourselves on the back, but about recognising the work that many different parties and stakeholders are delivering and the scale of the challenge. Fundamentally, the SDG goals must be ambitious and aspirational if we are going to deal with the inherent inequalities that still exist in this country. To do that, we need all of Scotland to work together.
Lewis Macdonald asked a specific question on the Scottish supplementary review. It is worth reflecting briefly on the background to that. There were significant limitations with the UK Government’s approach, so the Scottish Government has been working collaboratively with stakeholders to develop content for our own specific Scottish review. There are fundamental differences between the UK Government and the Scottish Government in the approaches to some key issues—for example, SDG 1 on ending poverty is a particular challenge, given how strongly the Scottish Government feels about the UK Government’s welfare reforms.
Working with the SDG Network Scotland, we have been trying to assess performance and highlight the challenges and opportunities in realising an SDG specifically in Scotland. We are at the last stage of finalising the Scottish supplementary review and it will be published imminently and shortly—before or by the spring, hopefully. As Lewis Macdonald mentioned, stakeholders are aware of the position and a draft report is available online on the SDG Network Scotland web page.
Fighting inequalities continues to be at the heart of the Scottish Government’s vision for a fairer Scotland and it is enormously valuable when reports such as “On target for 2030?” highlight the work that has been done and what we still have to do to achieve our ambition.
13:32 Meeting suspended.
14:30 On resuming—