A COALITION of 80 organisations including charities, unions and churches has written to the First Minister calling for a radical economic recovery programme that prioritises people and planet over profit.

Signatories include those working in health and inequality, climate and environment, international development, food and housing and include Poverty Alliance, Oxfam, Unison, the Common Weal and many more.

It aims to highlight how the double crises of coronavirus and climate change are exposing and exacerbating deeply damaging inequalities within society.

Their letter – published in the Sunday National today – says Scotland must invest in a recovery that improves life for all its citizens rather than a return to “business as usual”.

It comes weeks after concerns were raised by the environmental sector about the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery’s lack of green credentials. It was appointed by Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop in April with Benny Higgins, executive chairman of Buccleuch Estates and former chief executive of Tesco Bank, as its chair.

The new coalition is asking for the Scottish Government to prioritise essential public services, and claims national policies should promote more equal wealth distribution, with minimum income guarantees.

The letter asks for new funds to be put into helping Scotland meet its emission cutting targets and address the biodiversity crisis. Human rights should be strengthened in law, it says, a stated pre-Covid ambition of the First Minister.

Richard Dixon, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, which co-ordinated the letter, said: “The idea is that this opens the door for a bigger conversation. We hope it will be well received by the Scottish Government as a genuine approach about how we work together on implementing this.

“I have no doubt about the First Minister’s sincerity, so when she says she wants a wellbeing economy and she wants a green recovery, I think she is absolutely serious.

“But whether what is happening underneath is going to add up to delivery is a significant doubt for me. That’s why we need this type of intervention.”

Katherine Trebeck, of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, said the time was ripe for change. She added: “The way the economic system was structured in Scotland prior to the Covid-19 crisis was not delivering the goods on so many fronts. It wasn’t lifting enough people out of poverty, it wasn’t delivering enough good lives and it was putting a burden that was more than Scotlands fair share on the planet.

“The extent to which we need massive economic system change is huge. Suddenly what corona has done is created a situation where all bets are off – governments are doing things that two months ago they wouldn’t even have dreamed of doing. We need to think about how do we move away from that economic system that wasn’t cutting the mustard and make use of this new era, where government support is aligned to the types of economic activities that will deliver for both the people and the planet.”

The Very Rev Susan Brown, former moderator of the Church of Scotland and now conveyor of the Faith Impact committee, said she hoped the Scottish Government would see that this must be “the start of a dialogue with people, organisations and communities about our shared vision for the future”.

She claimed the church had seen intense suffering during the pandemic and said Scotland was now facing “an emotional black hole”. “We need to recognise that our focus solely on profit margins does not treat either Scotland’s people, or its land, with the respect they deserve,” she added.

Several organisations warned against a repeat of 2008, when banks were bailed out with public money following the financial crisis, which only led to greater levels of inequality and higher climate emissions. This time, they said, the poorest must benefit.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented global crisis which has fundamentally changed every aspect of our lives and the immediate focus for Government continues, rightly, to be on protecting lives and livelihoods.

“We also recognise that the dual emergencies of climate change and biodiversity loss have not gone away and must form a central part of our recovery from this difficult time. We welcome this contribution to our discussions on how we can deliver a green recovery and a just transition to net zero as we explore the new challenges and opportunities we face.”