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2021-2026 Policy Priorities for Scotland

This is our flagship report outlining policy priorities for political parties to include in their 2021 Scottish Election manifestos. It covers five key areas important to our members and will remain a key policy document for us throughout the 2021-2026 parliamentary session.

Download the full report here, check it out in the PDF viewer below, or read through the text summary on this page below.

The world is at a critical juncture, with multiple intersecting crises. No longer can we separate the nature crisis and the climate emergency from our consumption habits and fossil-fuel dependency, nor can we decouple our own economic prosperity from the poverty experienced elsewhere.

The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated clearly that the health of everyone, everywhere, is only as strong as the health of the most vulnerable and that we all have a responsibility to help one another. This is not only true for collective health, but also across all dimensions of sustainable development, our economic prosperity, our climate and our environment.

With the global economy suffering a historically deep economic recession, we must recognise that pre-existing inequalities mean that those with the least, especially in the Global South, are often affected in the most regressive ways.

It is more important than ever, therefore, for the Scottish Government to maintain and increase its commitment to global sustainable development. While, initially, it linked its National Performance Framework (NPF) to the SDGs, this approach has largely been focused internally, on domestic wellbeing, rather than on making a more holistic assessment which would address the impact of Scottish actions on global inequalities and planetary challenges.

Scotland’s economic development has, for centuries, benefited from, and exploited, global inequalities, from the slave trade era to the vastly unequal burden of emissions on Global South countries. 

However, historically, Scotland has also been highly supportive of global development and funding for it, and the Scottish people continue to do so via the UK Government’s Official Development Assistance. Today’s challenges in an interconnected world, though, require more than just traditional aid from nation states.

Achieving global sustainable development requires leadership from all corners of global society to reduce emissions, to consume ethically, to welcome migrants, to challenge injustice, to reject inequality and to build a society that does not harm others, internationally or intergenerationally. 

Our role in Scotland must be coherent in terms of reducing inequalities and achieving universal sustainable development. We must underpin our words with concrete actions that set an example as a good global citizen.

This is a summary of our report above that outlines the Alliance’s and its members’ key policy priorities for political parties to include in their 2021 Scottish Election manifestos.

The full report also presents a vision for the next Scottish Government to make Scotland a leader in sustainable development, through joining up and building upon existing activities, such as the international development programme, commitments to climate-just action and the creation of the NPF and, crucially, linking its external affairs and domestic agendas more coherently.

For more depth behind any of the recommendations, or to read the wider vision for making Scotland a leader in sustainable development, the full report can be found above.

This summary, and the full report, have been compiled by the Alliance Policy Committee, and were subject to extensive consultation with all members over summer 2020.

Summary of Recommendations

Members of Scotland’s International Development Alliance urge political parties to consider and adopt the following commitments in five key areas:

1.)    Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development

Policy coherence for sustainable development is a central pillar of the 2030 Agenda… it provides us with the means to understand the barriers to sustainable development, the economic, social and environmental implications of global challenges, and the interlinkages between them. Ultimately, it is an important tool allowing us to promote and sustain change.

José Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary General

Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development (PCSD) ensures different parts of government – or society more broadly – work together to identify common goals while ensuring one area of work does not undermine that of another. It stops one arm of government inadvertently detracting from the good being done by another. It creates a systemic framework for identifying potential conflicts and, where possible, mitigating these in a transparent manner. 

To ensure we do not make our planet uninhabitable, leave people behind or lose sight of what is important in terms of our own wellbeing, it is vital that we find a way to make sure we work together better and in a systematic way, especially in government, but also in society.

We have seen small but positive steps already taken to enhance PCSD in Scotland, with improvements to the NPF, and political commitment at the highest level. However, in order to augment this, the next Scottish Government must implement specific mechanisms and structures that promote joined-up thinking and broad stakeholder engagement, while ensuring it measures progress on sustainable development transparently and holistically. 

Recommendations: Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development (PCSD):

  • Put forward a Wellbeing and Sustainable Development (Scotland) Bill during the next Parliament that makes all public bodies set objectives towards sustainable development outcomes, ensuring that they impact positively on people and the environment here in Scotland and in low-income countries.
  • Formalise the Inter-Ministerial Working Group on PCSD.
  • Measure and report on Scotland’s global footprint holistically through the NPF and SDGs. 
  • Develop collaborative policymaking and foster a culture of participative decision-making through the Citizens’ Assembly
  • Ensure systematic scrutiny of government legislation and activity using a PCSD approach (through sustainable development impact assessments, redefining parliamentary committee remits, etc.).

2.) A Sustainable and Equitable Economy for All 

The wellbeing economy does not start nor end with national borders. It demands we put global justice firmly on the agenda and do all we can here in Scotland to ensure everyone – wherever they are in the world – can thrive

Dr Katherine Trebeck, Advocacy and Influencing Lead, Wellbeing Economy Alliance

The human and environmental impacts of Scotland’s economic activity ripple across the world, and if approached through a sustainable development lens, can be one of the most powerful drivers for reducing global inequalities and protecting the planet. Much of the discussion in response to the Covid-19 pandemic has rightly been focussed on ‘building back better’. To truly build back better, a sustainable development approach to the economy and a recognition of global impact need to be central.

GDP growth for growth’s sake is no longer an option in a rich country like Scotland. We need economic thinking, planning and activity that are designed for long-term sustainable development, not short-term financial gains for some, at the expense of people and the planet.

Recommendations: A Sustainable and Equitable Economy for All:

  • Ensure the Scottish Exchequer aligns everything it does to sustainable development and wellbeing principles by assuring that all future budgets are aligned to sustainable development outcomes. 
  • Accelerate progress in shifting to richer measures of national success by adopting a headline measure of progress beyond GDP growth that represents the broader concerns of human and ecological wellbeing.
  • Use public procurement, public policy and leadership on business practice in Scotland to support sustainable development.
  • Ensure Scotland’s status as a ‘Fair Trade Nation’ is developed by supporting Fair Trade businesses as a key part of wider initiatives to support social enterprises and small businesses. 
  • Upskill and train staff across government in the economics of sustainable development.
  • Pledge support for a ‘debt jubilee’ in low-income countries.

3.) Climate Justice

And the floods? That we cannot do anything about. Like the night turning into day, the floods come every year. Earlier, many years back, they were still manageable and would replenish our fields, but then the floods started becoming more and more unpredictable, staying for longer periods, and destroying our crop.

Kailash Chandra, a farmer from Singiri, on the outskirts of Bhadrak, Bhuvaneshwar, Odisha, India. 22 January 2020. WaterAid

The climate crisis, and the way we choose to respond to it, will define this generation and our commitment to sustainable development. As a rich, developed country which has prospered as a result of unstable economic models, Scotland must accelerate action during the critical 2021-26 period.

In November 2021, Glasgow will host COP26. This is one of the most important conferences ever hosted in the UK, and is the most significant climate summit since COP21 in 2015 that generated the Paris Agreement. Scotland has the chance to show genuine leadership at a critical moment for global climate action. 

Recommendations: Climate Justice:

  • In reflecting spiralling climate impacts, and Scotland’s past and present influence on causing the climate crisis, significantly increase the Climate Justice Fund and champion global climate finance at COP26 to ensure continued alignment with climate action principles, as set out in the Paris Agreement (para 5, Article 7). 
  • Champion the issue of Loss and Damage in the run-up to, and during, the global climate negotiations in Glasgow.
  • Ensure that our national climate action to reduce emissions is proportionate to Scotland’s share of historical emissions, consistent with global targets, whilst also reducing emissions created by goods & services produced overseas but consumed in Scotland, as well as fossil fuels extracted in Scotland but consumed overseas.
  • Commit to publishing Scotland’s commitment to climate action in an indicative Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) well in advance of COP26.

4.) International Development Funding

Through helping 21 schools to grow breakfasts, this grant has helped children to concentrate at school, which will increase literacy, and in turn help us farm more sustainably, look after trees, conserve our soils – and branch out from subsistence farming

Mwayi Chirwa, Lecturer in Environmental Management, University of Livingstonia, and a director of Scottish NGO and Scottish Government grantee Thrive

As the world emerges from the COVID-19 crisis, principled, coherent, transparent and accountable international development funding is more important than ever. Any future Scottish Government should aim to maintain its programming and support of Scottish civil society organisations to implement projects overseas that address all dimensions of sustainable development holistically. It should also maintain core funding to the key networks that support this work, including Scotland’s International Development Alliance, the Scotland Malawi Partnership and the Scottish Fair Trade Forum.

To improve transparency and accountability, and to avoid duplications between donors around the world, the Scottish Government should commit to publishing its activities on the International Aid Transparency Initiative . 

Recommendations: International Development Funding:

  • Improve and expand the International Development Fund to £15m per annum.
  • Create new thematic funding rounds (open to projects in any country, not just the four partner countries).
  • Maintain existing funding opportunities and support for key networks and partner countries.
  • Mainstream climate action in all programming and safeguard against climate risks relative to development impact. 
  • Ensure that continued improvement and strengthening of safeguarding standards are prioritised and costed in all international development programming and organisations.
  • Raise standards of probity and public confidence, and implement standard practice of donors, by requiring Scottish applicants for Scottish Government funding to submit with their applications the audited annual accounts of their proposed overseas partners.

5.)    Global Citizenship Education

I am now able to integrate Lfs into my practice as I am more aware of the Global Goals.  Making the children aware of the injustice in the world and the impact they can have is of high importance in my classroom.

West Dunbartonshire Newly Qualified Teacher March 2019

Global Citizenship Education supports the development of engaged citizens, capable of thinking critically about challenges such as poverty, inequality, climate change, food insecurity and gender discrimination, in both their local and global manifestations, and empowers them to take positive action. The knowledge and skills underpinned by GCE encourage a joined-up way of thinking about the world and the interconnected challenges we face. GCE, within formal education, must be recognised as fundamental to Curriculum for Excellence.

It is a lifelong learning process and an approach that should be embraced by all parts of society including government institutions, not just within the formal education system in Scotland. The NHS Scotland Global Citizenship Network has already taken steps, working to champion ‘Scotland as an Active Citizen’ both at home and abroad, with the Covid-19 crisis making it clearer than ever how interlinked our societies are.

Scotland’s Development Education Centres (DECs) have been providing high quality professional learning for teachers and schools in GCE for many years. Since 2014, this has been funded annually by the Scottish Government and it is critical this continues. 

Recommendations: Global Citizenship Education:

  • Commit to the continued direct financial support for the five Development Education Centres in Scotland. 
  • Commission an independent review of Learning for Sustainability. 
  • Ensure Fair Trade is recognised in school education and lifelong learning.

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