The Wellbeing Economy Alliance and the Poverty Alliance have today written to Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, urging her to task the recently appointed Advisory Group on Economic Recovery with putting social justice at the heart of their work.
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear First Minister,
Economic Recovery and Covid-19
Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, we have witnessed in action the values that we all share. We have seen the compassion, kindness and solidarity that will be required to make it through this crisis.
But we have also seen that our economy is failing to live up to these values. Our social security system and labour market have failed to protect too many of us: particularly women, disabled people and people from black and minority ethnic communities.
It is clear that as we move through and beyond the current phase of the crisis, we must commit to redesigning our economy and systems to better reflect our shared values of compassion and justice. Instead of returning to the economy we had going into the Covid-19 crisis, we must build back better by creating a wellbeing economy that puts our collective wellbeing first.
We therefore welcome that the Scottish Government’s Covid-19: framework for decision making recognises the need to look at the “social and economic reforms necessary to achieve the best future for Scotland” and commits not to repeat the mistakes of austerity. This commitment is most welcome but must be made real. In the months ahead we urge you to maintain your ambitious climate agenda to ensure the post-Covid-19 economy is a sustainable one, and to ensure it is socially just we urge you to prioritise:
- Building a labour market that works for everyone: Too many people, particularly women and younger people, are trapped in poverty by low-paid and insecure work. Fair Work has been central to the Scottish Government’s approach to labour market policy, but more must be done to make it a reality for workers in Scotland.
- Designing a more just taxation system: While this crisis is impacting every person across the country, the disproportionate impact on people on low incomes has highlighted the very real consequences of our deeply unequal society. It cannot be right that the wealthiest 1% of households in Scotland own more wealth than the poorest 50% at a time when almost 1 in 4 children are living in poverty. We must inject justice and fairness into our taxation system.
- Securing adequate incomes for all: We have seen positive steps taken by the Scottish Government as it has started to deliver social security assistance. However, Covid-19 has highlighted that this support must not only be dignified, but should help deliver an adequate income too. The Scottish Government must use its powers creatively and to their fullest extent to ensure that our social security system can keep any one of us afloat during difficult times.
Even at this moment of crisis we must begin the task of investing in a better future, to ‘build back better’, with every policy decision we make helping us move towards a just society that’s in step with our values.
We must not return to the pre-Covid 19 economy that locked so many people into poverty.
The Advisory Group on Economic Recovery must not, therefore, simply seek to replicate the unsustainable and unjust economy that went before. Instead, it must focus on the steps we can take to create an environmentally sustainable economy that ensures a just distribution of income and wealth. We urge you to task the recently appointed Advisory Group on Economic Recovery with putting social justice at the heart of their work. In doing so the Advisory Group should liaise with the Poverty and Inequality Commission and the Just Transition Commission and collaborate with existing Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partners to show leadership in creating a wellbeing economy.
This time calls on us to reflect on the kind of country we want to live in. We believe in a Scotland in which wealth is justly distributed, our life chances are not determined by how much we earn, where our labour market guarantees Fair Work for every worker, and where everyone has enough money to get by. We hope you share this vision and will take the decisions in the weeks and months ahead to make it a reality.
We would welcome an early discussion with you regarding the role of the Advisory Group, as well as the broader concerns of our members regarding the long-term social and economic reforms we require.
Peter Kelly, The Poverty Alliance
Dr Katherine Trebeck, Wellbeing Economy Alliance