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New review on Scotland’s sustainable development progress lays backdrop for country’s recovery

At the end of July, the Scottish Government finally published its delayed 246-page review of the progress Scotland has made in delivering the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals pre-pandemic. Check out the full report here.

The extensive review, which was originally planned for publication alongside the UK Government’s  Voluntary National Review on SDGs in July 2019, is welcomed despite the big delay. Developed in partnership with SDG Network Scotland, a coalition of over 500 organisations and individuals, including ourselves here at the Alliance, it provides the most detailed and honest analysis to date of any nation within the UK on progress towards the SDGs pre-pandemic. 

Like many civil society groups across Scotland, here at the Alliance we think this report represents an important baseline from which to jumpstart renewed commitment to the SDGs in Scotland as the country aims to’ build back better’.  The coronavirus has hit all 17 goals, from hunger and inequalities to jobs and has diverted attention away from the global climate and nature emergencies.  

The report shows that Scotland is making good progress but it also highlights a number of gaps and challenges for the country that existed before the pandemic and suggests how we can move forward. In particular, the report repeatedly makes the case that we must lift international development out of its position as a discrete concern into a universal policy agenda, something the Alliance consistently calls for. Now in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of a global approach to a green and just recovery is further heightened. 

More generally, the report also makes the case that the Scottish Government and the rest of society can do more to ensure all policy action complements and promotes sustainable development aspirations, not least through further work aligning Scotland’s National Outcomes to the SDGs to ensure the country does not lose sight of where it needs to get to by 2030.

With over 300 Scottish organisations contributing through consultation and open drafting, a broad range of civil society organisations are hopeful this landmark review is the beginning of a more joined up approach to achieving a more prosperous and sustainable future for all. The timing could not be more important, as Scotland begins to plan its recovery from the pandemic and attempts to ensure that the country’s future direction is positive for both people and planet.

Jane Salmonson, CEO of Scotland’s International Development Alliance, said:  

“The Alliance welcomes this publication providing such a detailed analysis of Scotland’s progress towards the SDGs. We particularly welcome government’s commitment to policy coherence for sustainable development and the acknowledgement that much more needs to be done to interlink policy goals and measure our global footprint holistically as part of our commitment to goal 17.  

“More generally, the report also provides us with a good evidence base upon which to judge future performance, something which could not be more timely as we begin to think about how we can build back better after COVID-19.”

Paul Bradley, Coordinator of the SDG network, said:

“The timing of the publication of this review could not be more important, as Scotland plans to build back better and aim for a sustainable future. Through this network organisations and individuals have come together in partnership with the Scottish Government to show their commitment to creating a fairer and healthier planet, and I would encourage more to join the coalition to continue this important work.” 

Anna Fowlie, Chief Executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said:

“I welcome the unique approach the Scottish Government has taken throughout this review, which shows that the goals are challenging but achievable when it works together with the voluntary sector and wider society. The country’s commitment to sustainable development must now drive forward a green recovery that addresses inequalities in the wake of the pandemic.” 

Catherine Gee, Operations Director with Keep Scotland Beautiful said:

“The ambitions of the UN Sustainable Development Goals have never been more important.  We’ve all experienced the health benefits of our local environments during the global pandemic and with the interconnected social, health and justice benefits of a greener more sustainable recovery are clear to see.  Great work has been carried out in Scotland to support the delivery of the 17 SDGs but much more needs to be done. We’ll all benefit if we use the SDGs as a framework for further action, and we will continue to support the Network to make sure we see a clear commitment to ongoing monitoring of progress not just a one-off report.”

Judith Robertson, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said: 

“The Commission welcomes the publication of ‘Scotland and the SDGs – A national review to drive action’. The SDGs are underpinned by the human rights framework and this publication begins to better connect our rights to the SDGs. More progress is required, but the report provides a solid baseline to measure national progress towards the fulfilment of many fundamental rights through our SDG commitments.”

Rehema White, Chair of Scotland’s UN Regional Centre of Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development (Learning for Sustainability Scotland) and University of St Andrews, said:

“As a UN Centre, we are aware that global aspirations are usually pursued by local and national bodies. The UN SDGs are the responsibility of everyone. This review is an excellent example of how a network of individuals and organisations can work together with government to assess progress against the SDGs. This review is only the first step, but it is a significant one in considering how we can address inequalities, protect the environment and stimulate prosperity in Scotland.”



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