The National:

This is from a newsletter from Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, called Reinventing Scotland. It explores the wellbeing economy. Sign up here to receive it every Tuesday at 7pm. 

It's a well-worn trope that the Scottish Government are virtue signalling when it comes to the wellbeing economy. Usually, it's an attack from socialist leaning think-tanks who, to be fair, have reason to be sceptical.  

Ill-defined buzzwords don't survive

Realising that the western world's political compass now points to due-right, left-leaning politicians have tried to woo the centre-right whilst maintaining left-wing votes, first with buzzwords such as progressiveness, more recently sustainable growth has been the flavour of the month. All have failed as they were ill-defined terms, well intentioned but with no commitment to the change they promised.  

I am a firestarter

Then guys like me come along proclaiming that socialism and capitalism are dead, they are last century's ideas and no longer relevant to current issues: Climate change, Big Data, robotics and AI, and I get why some of them have a go.  

He's a punkin instigator

They should read "Marx in the Anthropocene", the latest work from Japanese socialist academic Kohei Saito, which tries to revaluate Marxisim as a solution to the post-capitalism/global warming era. It’s worth a read but there is a fair bit of irony that the English language version costs £85.00. 

A change is as good as a …

Admittedly the Scottish Government swapping Wellbeing Economy Minister the week wasn't great news. But when I heard Neil Gray was going to health, my first thought was I hope the wellbeing economy goes to Màiri McAllan as she gets it.

The Scottish Government is taking a serious look at embedding wellbeing and sustainable development into the institutions of government. If they follow through with some of the ideas on the table, this could be evidence that they are getting real about wellbeing economics.

What is the point of Labour? It's not wellbeing

Contrastingly, Labour have backtracked on a ground-breaking £28bn green deal which could have been one of the pillars of a wellbeing economic approach. Presumably Starmer realised that so much of that investment would go to Scotland, with our renewable energy assets, and that wouldn't win him the Home Counties Tory votes he craves. 

Ironically, Anas Sarwar also chose this week to accuse the Scottish Government of leading “a largely a social policy parliament rather than an economic policy parliament", which Sarwar said was “against the interests of our economic opportunities, rather than for them”.  

The National: Scottish Labour group leader Anas Sarwar said economic growth was at the centre of his party's

During the General Election I expect Labour will talk about wellbeing, but there it is from Sarwar in black and white above. If elected Labour will act against Scotland’s economic interests whilst following Tory austerity measures and doubling down on neoliberalism and Brexit. Which all fly in the face of the wellbeing of our economy, our environment and of Scots trapped in poverty by the very policies Labour intends to maintain. Such a parcel of rogues in a nation.

Laying the foundations for wellbeing policy development 

The Scottish Government's Wellbeing and Sustainable Development (Scotland) Bill Consultation exercise is underway. If the bill defines what a wellbeing economy is, how we can measure it, how it should impact on economic policy and planning at all levels of government and crucially how it relates to the performance frameworks then there is a fair chance that wellbeing thinking will become core to Scotland’s socio-economic planning.

Scotianomics, the wellbeing economics think tank, has submitted a full response but let me highlight a few of the answers that can elevate wellbeing from a buzzword to a set of well defined policy rules. 

READ MORE: Weighing up SNP's odds of fighting another day

What does it mean anyway?

The first questions in the consultation are “Do we need a statutory definition of ‘wellbeing’ and if so what should it be?"

Over the years various definitions of wellbeing have circulated, the Health and Economy Cabinet Secretary jobs both contain the word wellbeing. How legislation defines it therefore impacts on policy guidance in multiple ministries. So the answer is Yes, but it requires an integrated definition. I’m sure this will start an argument in the comments but here is my starter-for-ten.

Creating overall societal wellbeing means balancing the outcomes of the five dimensions of wellbeing, these are: 

  • Sustainable development of the economy
  • The living environment
  • Human development
  • Community
  • Future proofing

By increasing each of these dimensions, such that the others are not diminished, you can maximise societal wellbeing.  

The Scotianomics report "Defining and Quantifying the Wellbeing Economic Approach", contains detail on each of those dimensions here on the Scotianomics website

READ MORE: The Scottish Government still lacks a compelling story

More basic definitions of regularly used terms and how I have seen them used might also be useful. 

A wellbeing economy: Any economic system whose main focus is the distribution of resources subject to the maximisation of wellbeing. 

The wellbeing economy: The collection of organisations with an economy whose focus is wellbeing. For example, charities, food banks, etc.

Wellbeing economics: A field in economics that studies policies and procedures aimed at creating a wellbeing economy. 

The wellbeing economic approach: The economic system, primarily being designed and championed by Scotianomics aimed at maximising wellbeing for the people of Scotland.

Everyone has their own definition but, in government terms, poorly defined concepts never become political reality.