This Manifesto for the Future, produced by the SCVO Policy Forum, outlines a number of future-focused recommendations which aim to address some of the most profound social, economic, political and environmental changes in living memory. Scotland’s voluntary sector is already carrying out important work which is beginning to influence the country’s future direction. This work requires support and expansion if Scotland intends to be seen as a leader in protecting human rights, the environment and our democracy. This is a 2030 blueprint for Scotland’s future.
The challenges of the next decade are significant, and they are real.
- By 2030, Scotland’s population will be larger and older.
- The ongoing advancement of technology will radically change the jobs market and the world of work.
- The free movement of people, goods and money between Scotland and its neighbours will be fundamentally changed by Brexit.
- Slow growth and possible recession has been predicted in some quarters.
- The success of populist and divisive politicians has profound implications for all countries.
- A radical global response to the climate emergency and nature crisis must be agreed and enacted to limit warming to 1.5 degrees and reverse the loss of biodiversity.
Scotland’s voluntary sector is wide reaching and covers every area of society. Organisations are working tirelessly throughout the country to ensure that human rights are protected, that the environment is considered in policy decision-making and that the rights of citizens living within our democracy are upheld. The voluntary sector will remain a constant presence amongst ongoing political uncertainty, therefore there needs to be agreement and consensus within the voluntary sector and beyond that urgent action is required to ensure Scotland’s place as an innovator is retained now and in the future.
As the planet suffers from a changing environment, environment focussed voluntary sector organisations have helped to mobilise communities to push for change at all levels of Scottish society. In areas related to human rights, the voluntary sector is a strong advocate for the creation of rights-based policies and decision-making. Within health and social care support, the voluntary sector often steps in to deliver important services that can help relieve the capacity burden and deliver tailored specialist approaches within the health service. These are just three areas out of hundreds in which the voluntary sector plays a role in demanding action in order to improve the lives of people living in Scotland and around the world.
Led by our politicians in collaboration with the public and private sector, academia and civil society, Scotland must be ready to respond to these challenges. With the right drive and vision, and by delivering on Scotland’s commitment to meet the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, it is possible to make our response an historic opportunity to build a fairer, greener and more prosperous country.
A thriving, sustainable voluntary sector is critical to the realisation of these goals.
There are over 40,000 voluntary organisations in Scotland, with almost half categorised as registered charities. The sector employs over 100,000 people – making it one of the country’s biggest employment sectors – and has a turnover of over £6 billion. Each year, around 1.4 million volunteers donate their time to help these organisations to support communities and people in need.
This manifesto is a rallying cry from Scotland’s voluntary sector to collaborate to achieve the visionary transformation these challenging times call for. The SCVO Policy Forum has identified three areas of significant importance which require action:
- Planet: We want Scotland to secure environmental action and take responsibility for the planet and its future generations.
- Humanity: We want Scotland to lead the world in supporting human rights, equality and wellbeing for all.
- Citizenship: We want Scotland to foster a society which enhances citizenship, democracy and participation.
This manifesto outlines the foundations required to ensure that Scotland stands ready to share its knowledge and expertise to face the challenges of the next decade and help to build a fair and prosperous future for everyone.
To achieve responsible environmental action for Scotland and the planet for future generations, Scotland must address the climate emergency and secure nature’s recovery, according to the principles of environmental justice.
2019 was a milestone year in the global response to climate breakdown. Severe weather events have become the norm, a landmark report has confirmed nature is in crisis, and popular movements and global reactions have demanded real change. The last decade was the warmest on record and global temperatures are continuing to rise. If we are to prevent irreversible damage to the planet, we must limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or below within 10 years and urgently begin to reverse the loss of biodiversity. As a result, many policy makers and politicians are now looking to 2030 as the year by which to have achieved significant progress.
The Scottish Government has officially declared a ‘Climate Emergency’ after widespread protests at inaction and the First Minister has recognised the loss of biodiversity as an equally serious problem. As a country, Scotland has been forward thinking in its approach to climate change, with ambitious emissions reductions targets and other policy action, such as doubling funding for active travel, to address the emergency which we currently face. The recent UK Committee on Climate Change report stated that the UK can reduce its territorial emissions to net-zero by 2050. Scotland, due to its larger capacity to store greenhouse gas emissions in new woodlands and restored peatlands, has committed to meet this target by 2045. The Scottish Government has now brought this target into law in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019, which requires Scotland to have reduced its emissions by 75% by 2030, and incrementally working towards net-zero by 2045.
Maintaining, restoring and enhancing biodiversity will be essential to mitigate climate breakdown, adapt to current and future changes in the climate, and increase the resilience in both rural and urban environments.
Promoting and encouraging modal shift from cars to active travel (walking, cycling and wheeling) and public transport (more sustainable modes) for short everyday journeys, and ending the continued expansion of the trunk road network in Scotland is essential in order to deal with the challenges of climate change and fundamental for achieving the 2030 target. The transport sector is the single largest emitting sector in Scotland, accounting for 37% of greenhouse gas emissions, with emissions starting to rise again following years of decline. Vehicles are also the primary source of particulate matter emissions (from braking and tyre wear) – small, very fine, invisible particles – which has a significant negative impact on air quality and are widely accepted to be harmful at any level/concentration. This has a clear social justice and inequalities impact, as it is people in the most deprived areas, often with pre-existing health conditions, who suffer the most from poor air quality, and has important implications for transport accessibility.
The Scottish Government’s 2030 target means that it must act now and implement the solutions for three-quarters of the emissions problem – the current and next government are crucial. However, arguably these targets do not go far enough, as fossil fuel extraction and multi-million pound road building programmes continue to be supported. A much more immediate and radical response is required that details how we will address the climate emergency and ensure action matches the high-level commitments. Clearly, public desire for climate action is there; it must now be matched by political action.
Internationally, the SDGs provide a solid foundation for action on climate change and offer a platform for united and coherent action at an international, national, regional and local level and the voluntary sector has a key role to play in this. The SDGs are intended to bridge policy silos, and highlight the deep intersectionality of global social inequality, unequal development, climate change, access to resources and justice and biodiversity loss. The recent review, led by Oxfam Scotland, the SDG Network, and the University of the West of Scotland, with contributions from across the voluntary sector, concluded that significantly more action is necessary in Scotland.
Reduction – A significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is required in Scotland. Widespread and swift action needs to take place to achieve as well as look beyond the current net-zero targets.
Meaningful – There needs to be recognition that urgent action is required which helps to facilitate the meaningful recovery of nature and living within planetary limits.
Principles – Environmental justice principles must be built into the foundations of all climate, ecological, and related social policymaking. By assessing the impact of policy on the environment at the very beginning of the decision-making process, future challenges can be identified and addressed.
- Ambitious targets: If we are to prevent irreversible damage to the planet, we must limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or below within 10 years and urgently begin to reverse the loss of biodiversity. To achieve this, more ambitious targets are required in Scotland, targets which must be set now. Additionally, following the hopeful achievement of net-zero ambitions, Scotland should seek to implement targets which work towards the country becoming carbon positive.
To reach these ambitions, there must be widespread agreement on what is required to reverse the trends which are significantly impacting Scotland’s biodiversity. Cross-sector consensus is pivotal to facilitating the effective protection of Scotland’s natural ecosystem.
- Stress-testing and empowerment: Environmental stress testing should be implemented for every new policy and budgetary decision made in Scotland, alongside the embedding of robust environmental governance practice. By ensuring those at the top levels of decision-making are considering the environment, communities will be inspired and empowered to make positive environmental changes at a local level.
Many policy decisions are made without ensuring their sustainability in relation to the environment. If Scotland wishes to protect the environment, sustainability needs to be moved into the heart of all policymaking, and should be present throughout the policy cycle.
- Restore biodiversity: Scotland must maintain, restore and enhance biodiversity in order to mitigate climate breakdown, adapt to changes in climate, and increase the resilience in both rural and urban environments. Committed action must be taken to protect and restore Scotland’s biodiversity and natural assets.
Increased action to restore biodiversity requires increased awareness, the integration of biodiversity values in strategies and policies alongside the promotion of sustainable consumption and production. From these foundations, Scotland can begin to make steps forward.
- Future looking: Scotland should adopt a Future Generations principle which moves beyond political and economic short-sightedness and recognises Scotland’s responsibility as a global citizen.
Following the example of Wales, who have implemented the Well-being of Future Generations Act, may help to curate cross-sector solutions to long term challenges such as climate change in a long-term, non- partisan way. Scotland should consider options for implementing similar legislation in order to revolutionise the way in which policy is developed and executed, and prioritise citizen wellbeing as a key measurement and outcome.
Scotland must be a place where all policy and public services support human rights, social justice, equality and well-being for its people, and whose politicians and public bodies are accountable to the people for delivering on these principles.
Scottish society has equipped itself with the right set of tools which, if used appropriately and proportionally, can facilitate the building of a fairer society for its citizens. Equality is built into the foundations of Scotland, as seen by its inclusion as a founding principle of the Scottish Parliament. Whilst work to achieve equality in gender, health and other social circumstances has progressed since the parliament’s creation in 1997, more work across all sectors of Scottish society, public, private and voluntary, is required to effectively combat inequalities and ensure a fairer and a just society for all, regardless of background.
The ambition to create an equal society is intrinsically linked to human rights. Social issues should be tackled with a human rights based approach front and centre. Solutions to issues such as homelessness, social security and poverty must have human rights embedded into their foundations. These rights expand beyond civil and political rights such as freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial, privacy and non-discrimination. They include economic, social, cultural rights and more, such as: the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to a standard of physical and mental health, to social security and work rights, as well as the right to take part in cultural life.
Policy action such as the creation of the National Performance Framework, Fairer Scotland Action Plan and the Tackling Child Poverty Action Plan, as well as the foundation of Social Security Scotland are taking this approach. Additionally, the consideration of citizen’s income pilot projects illustrates a step-change in thinking amongst the country’s policymakers. Co-design of policy frameworks with those whom the policy impacts, shows that the citizen’s voice is being incorporated and goes beyond a simple stakeholder consultation. Furthermore, this co-design approach is often guided by human rights principles which ensures dignity and respect is at the heart of decision-making.
However, whilst the acknowledgement is there from decision-makers that human rights should be the foundation of policy development, too often, in practice, services are not meeting the needs of their service users and are therefore infringing on basic human rights principles. This is down to a combination of reasons such as barriers prohibiting people from accessing services, or the level of service failing to fulfil the needs of citizens.
This is in evidence throughout Scotland, and is particularly acute in specific areas such as rural communities, or specific sectors, such as the social care support industry. This may be as a result of public bodies and local government securing or being provided with insufficient funding, with budgets unable to stretch to meet the demand of what is an ageing and growing population. This may be a result of workforce challenges related to recruitment, retention, resource and training. In conclusion, there is no one challenge which is preventing Scotland from becoming a truly human rights based, fair and equal society. The First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership stated in 2018 that from a human rights perspective in Scotland, there is a demonstrable need for a greater coherence and consistency in law and policy and its subsequent implementation, to ensure that human rights are considered throughout the implementation stage. Scotland has the skills to fill this unmet need in relation to protecting and enhancing human rights, it just requires more drive and desire.
Equality – Work across all sectors of Scottish society, public, private and voluntary, is required to effectively combat inequalities and ensure a fairer and just Scottish society for all, regardless of background.
Rights – Social issues should be tackled with a human rights based approach front and centre. Solutions to issues such as homelessness, social security constraints and poverty must have human rights embedded into their foundations.
Barriers – Barriers exist throughout the country that prohibit access to services, or there is simply just not the level of service there to fulfil the needs of citizens. Institutions must be resourced and supported to ensure their policies, upon implementation, are effective in supporting human rights.
- Embedding human rights: Human rights must be embedded into the very foundations of Scots law. Taking this approach would ensure that citizens have their rights vehemently protected and upheld, given that obligations to meet them would be statutory.
The embedding of human rights into law, alongside empowering people to become human rights defenders, would support Scotland in its ambition to become a fair, just and equal society.
- Transport accessibility: Universally accessible transport must be made available to all throughout Scotland. Scotland has a duty to ensure that its transport system is flexible and accessible for all of those who require it. This should involve incorporating the views of people throughout Scotland into the development of new transport systems.
Access to transport which is safe, affordable and sustainable is outlined within the SDGs. Transport inequality is a significant challenge in Scotland, and any solutions aimed at addressing this challenge must be rights based in order to ensure human rights to education, employment and health are met.
- Facilitate diversity: Scotland must look to implement processes which provide universally accessible physical, technological and human infrastructure to sustain all of our people. This means that diversity should be enshrined within the foundations of decision-making.
This includes an improved focus on community planning of local services to ensure that they address users’ and not just providers’ needs. Therefore addressing issues such as isolation and loneliness, as well as the challenges of remote and rural living. Diversification of those in decision-making is crucial to ensuring inclusivity.
- New approach to budgeting: A human rights based approach to budgeting, with a focus on wellbeing outcomes, should be implemented in Scotland. This would mean that resources would be distributed in a manner which puts people first. Human rights budgeting grounds budgeting decisions in five human rights principles which include universality, equity, transparency, accountability and participation.
The Scottish Government’s participation in the Wellbeing Economy Governments initiative provides hope that this is an approach that may be seen within future policy decisions. Taking forward this human rights based approach to budgeting would help Scotland to take steps towards placing human rights at the front and centre of decision-making.
People in Scotland have grown ever more critical of those with decision-making power. Trust between policymakers and the public has fallen and continues to do so, though this is a global issue, and one Scotland does not face alone. Respect for those making decisions on behalf of the Scottish public can no longer be taken for granted. With this growing mistrust and cynicism comes the need to find ways of opening up decision-making processes throughout the country, making them accessible and transparent for all.
With accessible and transparent processes, there is a need to ensure that any new ways of working come hand in hand with broadening the diversity of the people who influence this new form of decision-making. Scotland views itself as a strong liberal democracy, but growing mistrust of decision-making bodies coupled with processes which fail to promote inclusivity and diversity work against this perception. If Scotland is to truly be seen as a democratic leader, we need to rethink how we approach policymaking and implement innovative ways of working which embrace citizens and decision-makers as equals.
Since, and before, the UK voted to leave the European Union in 2016, the discourse surrounding the term ‘citizenship’ has been claimed by a divisive and quite often toxic discussion which links the term to the immigration status of an individual, and overlooks the true meaning of the term citizen within a democracy.
As political uncertainty continues, caused by the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU, what it means to be a citizen is put under a microscope by the public, parliamentarians and the media. However, we believe that citizenship is down to enabling individuals to fully participate in communities in the wider society and to contribute as much as they want to. We want to see citizenship inextricably linked with the promotion of inclusivity and empowerment, an ambition we believe that Scotland can both achieve and surpass.
However, the upskilling of citizens to ensure they are effectively participating in decision-making is only possible if the right structures and mind-sets that foster participation are in place throughout these bodies. This includes a commitment to further developing the concept of open government within Scotland. Open government is reliant on three key areas which include transparency, participation and accountability. Transparency related to the opening up of government data and information on areas such as public spending, government contracts, lobbying, the development and impact of policy and public service performance. Participation looks to ensure that Scotland has a strong and independent civil society, one which involves its citizens and other relevant stakeholders in decision-making processes. Accountability refers to the rules, laws and mechanisms that ensure government listens, learns, responds and changes when required.
We are aware that the Scottish Government has committed to the delivery of these principles which is exemplified by the Open Government Partnership. However, there is still work to be done to ensure that Scotland is truly embracing open government and harnessing the opportunity to transform the way government and public service work to ensure they are responsive and beholden to the citizens they serve.
This, open government, coupled with the strengthening of participative democracy in Scotland, would empower citizens throughout the country to engage in decision-making structures. Scotland can still be described as a representative democracy, one whereby citizens have minimal input into decision-making, with their role restricted to casting a ballot during an election every four years. To move towards participative democracy, official processes are required which empower citizens through participation. Participative democratic models are already beginning to manifest themselves in Scotland, for example, the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland. However, there is still a long way to go.
Communication – Institutions should do more to engage the public and work in different ways to ensure their communication is more meaningful, effective and accessible.
Participation – Institutions should offer people across Scotland direct and innovative ways to participate and have their voices heard in decisions across government.
Transparency – Institutions must be more transparent about data, procurement decisions and create a culture where their decisions are much clearer to the public.
- Open policy development: Communication relating to public policy development at all levels should involve a two-way communication process. Scotland’s decision-making bodies should engage with citizens to support policy development in a pro-active and accessible manner but should also engage with citizens on how and why the development is being undertaken throughout the process.
The involvement of service users in forming policy which impacts them from the very beginning of the process will help to identify challenges policies may face, further down the line, early in the process. This approach not only instils openness and transparency, but it also offers Scotland the opportunity to open the process up to new ideas, techniques and voices.
- Empower people to be active citizens: Decision-making bodies in Scotland should explore innovative ways to gather insight from the public in a meaningful way that places emphasis on those furthest from the decision-making process. Ensuring that all barriers are removed from participation, and no one’s voice or lived experience is more important than another’s.
Improving the scope and accessibility of channels which feed into decision-making improves the quality of those decisions and lends validity to the development process. Scotland should place importance in capturing the opinions of those who have been marginalised in the past and develop innovative methods of amplifying and embracing these voices in the policy-making process.
- Transparency: Comprehensive transparency processes provide citizens with the opportunity to independently scrutinise and examine governmental functions, therefore allowing greater levels of decision-maker accountability. Scotland’s Open Government Action Plan acknowledges this and must be built upon and advanced further throughout the decade.
In line with this, Institutions across Scotland should publish timely data in an open format. It should ensure all data is presented in an interrogative state as well as easily understood by the general public. This should include all detail relating to finance (including procurement activity), performance, and policy decision-making/delivery.
Beyond the Manifesto
This Manifesto acknowledges the imminent environmental, political and social challenges currently faced by Scotland. However, we wish to see the recommendations of this Manifesto built upon throughout this decade and beyond. Scotland must not rest on its laurels and continue to seek cross-sector collaboration in devising solutions to potential threats to this country’s natural ecosystem and democracy which are on the horizon.
Scotland’s voluntary sector is wide, varied and diverse. The expertise within organisations is extensive and has given birth to innovative concepts which improve the lives of people living in Scotland every day. This Manifesto is not a document which upon publication remains stagnant. It is a living, breathing document which we hope will inspire Scotland’s voluntary sector to highlight the important and at times life-saving work it is carrying out throughout the country. Work that, if replicated on a wider scale, has the potential to transform Scotland for the better.
We want Scotland’s voluntary sector to herald its work which aligns with the core themes contained within this Manifesto, work that is already underway that aims to improve human rights, protect the environment and empower people in Scotland to become active citizens.
The Manifesto for the Future’s Best Practice Bank highlights voluntary sector activity which is making a significant difference in Scotland and has the potential to be replicated on a wider basis. SCVO is keen to champion these ideas throughout the next year and beyond, and are calling upon voluntary sector organisations in Scotland to submit their activity to the Best Practice Bank to be used as evidence to support the sector’s engagement with parliamentarians and policymakers throughout the decade. Highlighting our sector’s activity which relates to the core beliefs of the Manifesto is crucial to facilitating change within society, and illustrates how the Manifesto’s recommendations can be implemented in practice and the subsequent impact they have on Scotland’s environment and people.
About the SCVO Policy Forum
The Policy Forum is an SCVO initiative to strengthen the voice of the voluntary sector in Scotland. Members of the Forum are supported by SCVO to take a lead role on behalf of SCVO and the wider voluntary sector to think about the future of the social, political, environmental and economic context within which the sector operates.
The Forum follows a process similar to a parliamentary committee;
hearing from key stakeholders, gathering evidence and intelligence, analysing
it, and producing reports on an agreed future focused topic and making
recommendations to SCVO.