Seize the chance to build a different, better Scotland – Richard Dixon. This week the Scottish Government is expected to announce its response to the recommendation from its Advisory Group on Economic Recovery. I’m hoping they will use the opportunity to make some other positive announcements because the Advisory Group’s report really wasn’t up to much. The Advisory Group was created in April and is one of a number of ways in which the Scottish Government is getting external advice on how Scotland should come out of the coronavirus pandemic. This is a real chance to create a different, better Scotland as we come out of lockdown, a chance to leap forward in tackling inequality and climate change. Indeed the First Minister has said we must have a “green recovery,” build a “wellbeing economy” and build “a fairer, greener and more equal society.” The problem is that it was obvious from the start that the Advisory Group did not have the right people around the virtual table to deliver on these admirable aspirations. It was chaired by Benny Higgins, ex-boss of Tesco Bank and currently chair of massive landowner Buccleuch Group. Neither he nor any of the other members appeared to have expertise in how a recovery might be green nor what a wellbeing economy might look like. No surprise then that when the Advisory Group published its report at the end of June it was pretty disappointing. The report was called “Towards a Robust, Resilient Wellbeing Economy for Scotland.” It contained 25 surprisingly-vague recommendations and hardly anything recognisably green beyond some high-level words. Despite the title, it states the first priority of a wellbeing economy as strong economy growth, thereby ignoring several decades of important debate about what the economy should really be for. What the Advisory Group should have called for is a major boost to funding for energy efficiency programmes, investment in building new renewable heat networks and more renewable electricity schemes, new permanent walking and cycling routes, and action to give people the skills needed for the zero carbon economy. This kind of programme would create thousands of much-needed jobs, while drastically cutting our climate emissions.
Scotsman 4th Aug 2020 read more »