Independence ensures that decisions about Scotland are taken by the people who live here. The transfer of powers to our Scottish Parliament will empower the people of Scotland, and present us with the opportunity to transform our country for the better. However, to build that better society, one with compassion and wellbeing at its heart, we need to use these powers differently. We need to reset the relationship between government, at every level, and the people it is there to serve, founded on a renewed social contract that delivers for the people of Scotland – a social contract focused on the realisation of our human rights and the pursuit of equality, which will guide all policy and spending decisions.
The remit of the Social Justice and Fairness Commission was to present a route map for delivering a fairer Scotland. Our destination is a wellbeing society that values and cares for everyone who lives here, based on the central principle that the function of government is to make life better for everyone and ensure no one is left behind. With independence, we can build on the progressive policies of the Scottish Government. Unconstrained by a constitutional ceiling on our ability to effect transformative change we can think afresh about the policies we can choose to pursue, and how we make those choices at every level in Scotland.
The route map to a fairer Scotland is not a predetermined list of policy decisions for an independent Scotland. It is about three key elements: changing how we govern ourselves, agreeing the values we collectively view as our compass, and focusing on policies that prioritise the creation of a wellbeing society.
It is a model for inclusive decision-making that truly empowers the people of Scotland to shape our own future. At the heart of that model is a renewed social contract between citizens and the state, which clearly sets out the responsibilities of those who govern to do so in the interests of, and in partnership with, the people it serves. Government is there to serve us all – each and every one of us who has chosen to live in Scotland – whether we were born here or not. In order to ensure we can all have a good life, we need to work together to build our wellbeing society, which values and cares for everyone who lives here, from baby box to old age – a society in which everyone can fully participate, with opportunities to flourish socially, economically, and culturally. The foundations of that wellbeing society can be seen in the approach of the Scottish Government – using the powers of devolution to move us towards a fairer society.
The use of Experience Panels to design and implement a new social security system in Scotland based on dignity, fairness and respect is an example of inclusive decision-making; of the government developing policy with people it is there to serve, not just for them.
The Commission believes that with independence we can build on the foundations that have been laid under devolution by the Scottish Government. Our report offers a conversation starter to find consensus about the kind of Scotland we want to build with independence and how best to get there.
In our report, we consider three key elements of the route map to a fairer Scotland:
- Democratic renewal – changing how we make decisions
- Values rooted in human rights and equality
- Prioritising wellbeing – through transformative policies that put the wellbeing of people first