Earlier this month, I sat on a panel for the last of a Rethinking Wellbeing seminar series. The programme was run by Scotland’s Futures Forum, along with SEPA, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Government, and started in September.
Entitled ‘Different Routes to Enable Greater Wellbeing’, the seminar began with a speech delivered by Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts). Speaking on the foundations of a successful society, Matthew identified four pillars: hierarchy, solidarity, individualism, and the so-called ‘antimatter’ of fatalism. He argued that the first three must all be present in order for any societal body – be it economic or political – to be sustainable, whilst keeping the pessimism of the latter in check.
What Matthew identified is a fascinating theory, and one which exemplifies a growing awareness that governance needs to take a more holistic approach to addressing the needs of the Scottish people. The catch-all term of ‘good governance’ is often, in practise, taken to refer to structural hierarchy and the physical capacity of politicians to better the lives of their constituents. Can this be done, however, without a foundation in community solidarity or the entrepreneurial drive of individualism?
One way in which politicians seek to turn these theories into actions is through the Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework. Its overarching purpose aims ‘to focus Government and public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.’ Advancing the holistic approach, the NPF seeks to widen the perspective of politicians and populations alike through a participatory approach to national wellbeing. Unlike other forms of assessment, the NPF and ‘Scotland Performs’ measures outcomes in order to judge the success of policies, rather than inputs or outputs.
This is an approach I strongly advocate. I am keenly aware of the need for a cross-cutting dialogue that is so often missing from legislature on issues stemming from universal concerns. As an ex-Convenor on the Equal Opportunities Committee, for example, I have experienced this first-hand.
I believe that human complexity requires more of an all-encompassing approach if we are to meet today’s problems with any hope of sustainable success. Whilst platforms such as the NPF and ‘Scotland Performs’ broaden the scope of hierarchy, our civic solidarity and enterprising individualism must be further fostered. With this aim, I will strive to encourage the longevity of a holistic style of ‘good governance’ in the political discourse.