Scotland does not yet have systematic processes or mechanisms to ensure new and existing legislation and policy are considered through a ‘sustainable development’ lens. Such mechanisms should holistically consider the transboundary, short-term and long-term effects of any policy.
At a minimum, ‘proofing’ all legislation or policy in this way would allow the government to formally recognise any trade-offs that might exist between different dimensions of sustainable development; for example, economic development and environmental degradation. This is an essential part of making progress on SDG target 17.14.
Enshrine PCSD approaches into legislationEdit
In some ways, the rhetoric around the SDGs in Scotland has been ahead of the curve in UK terms for many years. However, this has not been backed up by enough concrete action to ensure policymaking and decisions are genuinely always supportive of sustainable development outcomes, here and elsewhere.
To do this, the Scottish Government must build on existing legislation to ensure that policy-makers and decision-makers are bound by sustainable development principles in everything they do.
The Community Empowerment Act 2015, which puts Scotland’s NPF on a statutory footing, was a good start. The latest iteration of the NPF (2018) sets out 11 National Outcomes. There is broad top-level alignment to the SDGs and it has the stated aim to ‘reduce inequalities and give equal importance to economic, environmental and social progress'.
However, this act only requires Scottish ministers to consult on, develop and publish a new NPF every five years. It does not require public bodies, the Scottish Parliament or local authorities to consult on the way we measure progress towards those national outcomes. Nor does it require public bodies to assess the impact of their decisions and actions against the 11 national outcomes. There is also limited understanding of how progress on the different outcomes impact upon one another. This act alone, then, cannot ensure a coherent approach to policymaking towards the realisation of the national outcomes contained within the NPF, nor the broader SDGs.
A Sustainable Development and Wellbeing (Scotland) ActEdit
One approach would be for the Scottish Government to bring forward a Wellbeing and Sustainable Development (Scotland) Bill, building upon the successes (and addressing failures) of other similar acts across the UK.
This legislation would make it a statutory requirement for all public bodies and local authorities in Scotland to take full account of the short and long-term Sustainable Development impact of their decisions, both in Scotland and elsewhere, and in relationship to each other (i.e. that local activities contribute to global impacts, and global events impact on local communities, lives and livelihoods). The legislation would assist in setting objectives towards achieving all the SDGs, and the linked National Outcomes, equally and ensuring that doing so impacts positively on communities and people’s wellbeing and the environment here in Scotland and globally.
Crucially, this would include a requirement to ensure, minimally, that decisions not only avoid negative social, economic and environmental impacts here in Scotland, but also have no negative impact on the lives and livelihoods of people elsewhere, particularly in ‘majority world’ and low-income countries. Acknowledging and responding to our current and historical role in creating global inequality between and within countries is vital. This will require active procedures that ensure access to information, public participation and access to justice in decision-making.
The legislation must also be linked to the SDGs, existing international human rights obligations and legislation for the National Performance Framework and National Outcomes, ensuring that all public bodies are working towards all of the outcomes, not just a select few. This is vital because the SDGs are the best framework for holistic and systemic action that we have globally, and our National Outcomes are already embedded in the Community Empowerment (Scotland) 2015 Act.
In contrast to the boldness of a wellbeing economy, which is about ensuring the economy delivers social justice whilst maintaining a healthy planet, a focus solely on a narrow definition of wellbeing, would miss a big opportunity to build on these existing frameworks while also potentially narrowing the scope of such legislation to a limited view of what ‘wellbeing’ means.
This Bill would therefore require that public bodies and local authorities set and monitor, with public participation, legally binding targets on all SDGs and National Outcomes, including:
- Poverty and inequality, including gender equality;
- Net-zero carbon emissions (including emissions created by goods & services produced overseas, but consumed in Scotland);
- Recovery from biodiversity loss;
- Universal human rights, linking directly to the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill and forthcoming Scottish human rights legislation incorporating social, economic, cultural and environmental rights;
- Mitigation of Climate-related socio-ecological disaster risks, impacting differentially on vulnerable communities;
- Social, economic and environmental impacts in majority world and lower income countries.
The Bill would also create an independent commission and knowledge exchange network to support public bodies to work towards sustainable development and wellbeing goals across their policy remits, monitor progress in setting realistic and achievable objectives, and review their outcomes. This will require new and better data to measure wellbeing and sustainable development progress.
The bill should also make it a statutory requirement that mechanisms necessary to ensure policy coherence, including through good governance and healthy parliamentary scrutiny (outline below), are in place, such that PCSD approaches become embedded and, over time, are seen as normative.
Parliamentary scrutiny - using PCSD screening toolsEdit
The Scottish Government’s international engagement (and all other activities) should be subject to systematic and regular parliamentary scrutiny using a PCSD approach, perhaps using a screening tool like the OECD Screening tool.
Such scrutiny might be effectively carried out by a standalone committee like the Committee for Culture Tourism Europe & External Affairs. This would be a step forward, especially if scrutiny of this kind was built into its remit, and there was a duty to report regularly. Indeed, in the next parliamentary session, it may be appropriate to consider a new committee that focuses on the NPF. Its implicit broad remit would allow the committee to scrutinise a broad range of government activities against the principles of the NPF, but through a PCSD lens.
However, a PCSD approach to parliamentary scrutiny would better be embedded across all committees to ensure a coherent approach to everything Scottish Government does, as per the PCSD definition laid out in this Wiki.
This could involve building more time into the current parliamentary processes to allow existing Committees to scrutinise legislation for policy coherence and reform of parliamentary processes. The Commission on Parliamentary Reform's recommendations on committees and changing legislative scrutiny from three stages to five might allow for for policy coherence scrutiny to be embedded into a specific stage or stages.
Furthermore, all new legislation and policy should be systematically ‘proofed’ against thematic priorities, such as climate justice, gender equality, and fair-trade principles, and publicly reported on and debated in Parliament. This could be done using the NPF and SDG frameworks, and incorporate the use of established SDG interaction typologies, such as Nilsson et al.’s 2016 7-point typology.
Scottish Parliament Sustainable Development Impact Assessment (SDIA) toolEdit
Impact assessment (IA) is defined by the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) as ‘the process of identifying the future consequences of a current or proposed action.’ Assessing the potential impact of proposed legislation or policy in advance of enacting or implementing it can help to avoid or mitigate unintended, negative or perverse consequences.
The concept of sustainable development (SD) arose out of what Purvis et al (2019) refer to as the twin social and ecological critiques of economic growth. However, in 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), which had been set up to consider the problem of environmental degradation (caused by human economic activity) and its effect on human wellbeing, published its report, Our Common Future. One of its conclusions was that economic growth was necessary to tackling these pernicious issues. The WCED’s report, also known as the Brundtland Report after its chair, Gro Harlem Brundtland, was hugely influential, and the term ‘sustainable development’ rapidly became part of international, national and local policy discourses.
However, possibly because the very report that popularized the term, also embodied the conceptual and policy contradiction of more growth being the cure for the ills of growth, international, and especially UN, sustainable development policy has retained and perpetuated it (Purvis et al., 2019). This can be seen, for example, in the Sustainable Development Goals, of which SDG8 is about economic growth.
However, not all conceptions of SD incorporate economic growth as an aspiration. One example is the UK Shared Framework for Sustainable Development, developed in 2005 by the now-abolished Sustainable Development Commission. It goes back to the original roots of SD, and sets out two essential principles or conditions that must be met for development to be sustainable: intact ecological limits, and social equity. It does include economics – specifically a sustainable economy, rather than a perpetually growing one – as well as evidence-based decision-making and participatory governance, as supporting principles / conditions.
The UK Shared Framework appears to be the extant policy framework for SD in Scotland. However, the National Performance Framework still contains the overarching purpose of ‘sustainable and inclusive economic growth’, which could be said to mirror the Brundtland contradiction.
Previous SD impact assessment (SDIA) tools, such as the one developed for the Scottish Executive, circa 2008, have often been in the form of spreadsheet-based checklists. Users are required to rate the impact of a proposal on various criteria such as health. Responses are automatically processed in some way, and an overall score or impact rating is produced. However, these checklists do not necessarily require the user to engage with the legislation / policy in question, and the assessment exercise can become a mechanical tick-box one.
The Parliament’s tool is based on the UK Shared Framework for SD, and is a discursive tool. That is, it requires verbal deliberation, and for the users to think about and answer more open questions, rather than simply rating impact. Because SD is about the development of society as a whole, and is therefore highly complex, it does not seem likely that reducing SDIA to a handful of criteria can comprise adequate assessment. The Parliament’s tool therefore asks broader questions relating to each of the five principles for SD set out in the Framework.
The SDIA tool can be readily adapted, for example to focus more strongly on particular aspects of SD, or for a purpose other than parliamentary scrutiny.
Aspects of SD in the toolEdit
Most of the elements of SD that users of SDIA tool are required to engage with are themselves cross-cutting. The tool can therefore highlight the same policy issues more than once when applied to a particular piece of legislation or policy. It has been constructed in this way to ensure that the assessment is as holistic as possible – different users may respond to elements that are related but framed differently, or questions that are similar, but looked at from the point of view of say society, economy, environment, or governance. The elements currently included are:
1. Living within environmental limits – local environment, material and energy use, ecosystem services, planetary boundaries.
2. Ensuring a strong, healthy and just society – human needs and wellbeing, equity, social capital.
3. Achieving a sustainable economy – livelihoods, resilience, society (distribution), environment (costs).
4. Promoting good governance – participation in decision-making, institutions, economy (governance of), environment (governance of).
5. Using sound science responsibly – evidence for the proposal, improving knowledge and understanding, monitoring impacts.
For more information, check out the explanatory notes on the above themes here.
Use in the Scottish ParliamentEdit
The tool has been extensively tested and revised since its development in 2015. Alpha testing was carried out with the Parliament’s Non-Government Bills Unit, which now uses the tool to assess all Members’ Bills. Beta testing has been carried out with researchers in the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe), who provide much of the information, analysis and papers that support scrutiny processes.
It has been found to highlight cross-cutting issues and unintended consequences, and can help to ensure more cross-cutting scrutiny, thus supporting policy coherence.
It is not currently being routinely used in committee scrutiny, as there is no staff resource in place to support its use.
An Inter-Ministerial Group on Policy CoherenceEdit
In September 2019, Ben Macpherson MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development (at the time) announced that he would be launching a new Inter-Ministerial Group that will take forward the Scottish Government’s commitment to policy coherence for sustainable development.
On 18th March 2020, Mr Macpherson’s successor – Jenny Gilruth MSP – re-affirmed the government’s commitment to forming this group during Portfolio Questions on External Affairs in the Chamber at the Scottish Parliament.
She said that the first meeting of the PCSD working group is scheduled for May 2020, but no details of how this group will function, who the group will comprise of and what the group will focus on have yet been published.In September 2020, the Minister then announced that the Scottish Government would be doing a review of its international development programme, and no further new about this group has been offered.
In light of the short, medium and long-term socio-economic implications of the coronavirus outbreak domestically and globally, nested within the ever-present climate and environmental crisis, the time has never been more apt to enhance policy coherence for sustainable development and ensure our societal priorities have long term global prosperity at their heart.
Why is this important?Edit
The Alliance (formerly as NIDOS) and many of its members have consistently called for ‘mechanisms for cross-government planning and policy review’ and ‘the involvement of all ministries and leadership from the highest level’ to enhance policy coherence, since as far back as 2013.
In 2013, the focus was specifically on PCD rather than PCSD, but with the advent of the SDGs in 2015, the concept has shifted to something much broader and presents an opportunity to mainstream a policy coherence approach across government.
A timeline of work in Scotland on this issue is available here.
In more recent work, through its membership of the OECD PCSD Partnership, the Alliance has endorsed and fed into the new OECD Recommendations of the Council on Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development. This new 2019 Recommendation amends the Council’s 2010 Recommendation on Policy Coherence for Development.
The Recommendation presents a set of eight principles for promoting PCSD, four of which could be directly and positively influenced by this new Ministerial Group. These are:
- Build a strong, inclusive political commitment and leadership at the highest political level to foster whole-of-government action for PCSD.
- Ensure whole-of-government coordination and leadership to identify, assess and address divergences and incoherence between sectoral priorities and policies, including external and domestic policies, and promote mutually supporting actions across sectors and institutions.
- Engage public sector, civil society and private sector stakeholders effectively to sustain broader support for PCSD and its implementation.
- Analyse and assess policy and financing impacts of policy incoherence to inform decision-making, increase positive impacts and avoid potential negative impacts on the sustainable development prospects of other countries, in particular on developing countries.
Crucially, PCSD principles are not just about ensuring better development outcomes in the poorest countries, but are about achieving better sustainable development outcomes everywhere, including here in Scotland.
Therefore, this group has the potential to help achieve better coherence and joined up action on domestic issues as well, such as embedding gender equality, moving towards a well-being economy or decarbonising the economy.
But to do so, it must help foster cross-party recognition and commitment to the importance of action on PCSD as well act as an internal government mechanism for enhancing coherence.
What could this group aim to achieve?Edit
This new group could aim to impact positively on the four principles outlined above (or revised Scottish interpretations of these principles).
A Scottish-specific interpretation of these four principles might look like this:
- Encourage reference and attention to PCSD by all Government Ministers in all policydocuments going forward, and indicate how policy focus areas can interact with others using the SDGs as the framework for comparison.
- Identify and work on specific thematic areas that overlap ministerial portfolios to minimise unintended consequences and enhance impact on SDGs/NPF outcomes, e.g. the business pledge (international development and trade portfolios), climate proofing (climate and international development), etc. (More on this below).
- Ensure regular and systematic communication with and involvement of stakeholders from a different interest groups including local government, the private sector, public sector and local and international NGOs. Promote and facilitate regular parliamentary scrutiny of the work undertaken by the Group and ensure that there is a lead Committee in the Scottish Parliament to do this.
- Promote a common approach to Sustainable Development Impact Assessment for policy teams across government that goes beyond standard impact assessments (tick box exercises) like this one developed by the Scottish Parliament.
Other priority aims for the group should include:
- Raising awareness and generating support for action on SDGs both domestically and internationally.
- Considering how the group can outlive electoral cycles and changes in government/cabinet compositions. Long-term and sustained promotion of PCSD requires this.
- Laying the groundwork for formalised institutional mechanisms for cross government and cross-party parliamentary planning and policy review through a PCSD lens.
- The group should meet regularly (minimum quarterly) and publish reports on its activities.
- The group should endeavour to be open and transparent in acknowledging unavoidable trade-offs between different policy areas.
- The group should engage and invite views from a variety of stakeholders on every policy area it works on
- The group should be open to parliamentary scrutiny
The membership of the Group should ideally include all 14 Ministers, and depending on the focus of particular meetings, relevant Cabinet Secretaries should also be present. As mentioned above, the potential to help achieve better coherence and joined up action on domestic issues as well as development outcomes elsewhere should increase support for this group.
Thematic focus areas for the groupEdit
The Scottish Government has committed to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As such, the SDGs provide a suitable frame for assessment, review and stakeholder engagement. Importantly, any specific policy area that the group works on should be considered by:
- Systematically applying a climate, poverty, gender and human rights perspective in line with the 2030 Agenda
- Using existing tools such as strategic foresight, scenario development and systems thinking to identify, prevent and mitigate actual and potential adverse impacts on the well-being and sustainable development prospects of future generations here in Scotland and elsewhere.
The current coronavirus crisis provides an urgent cross-portfolio issue for Ministers to consider as this groups establishes. The effects of this crisis will be felt across society in Scotland and the social, economic and environmental ramifications of the Scottish Government’s response will have both domestic and overseas consequences.
Therefore, our medium and long-term policy response to this crisis demands a PCSD approach – short-termism and tunnel vision are not an option.
Going forward, and linking clearly to the just and green recovery that will be necessary following the Coronavirus, is our long-term approach to the climate crisis. At a minimum, future policies to achieve climate targets, as part of a green recovery package or delayed Climate Change Plan, should be aligned with the SDGs – domestically and internationally – to comply with the 2019 Climate Change Act. The group could also go further and seek to address gaps, such as ensuring Scotland’s carbon and environmental footprints are reduced without inadvertently ‘transferring’ emissions elsewhere or making it harder for other nations to make their own fair contribution to the global effort.
The National Performance Framework: the primary vehicle for actionEdit
Scotland is well placed to use an existing mechanism, the National Performance Framework (NPF), to coordinate and align policy across government, both vertically and horizontally.
By making this the primary vehicle for achieving better PCSD, it would also reinforce the whole-of-government, systems approach necessary to achieve sustainable development, both at home and abroad.
The author of this section is particularly interested in sustainable development outcomes overseas in developing countries, and therefore approaches PCSD and the NPF in this section through that lens.
However, we hope that scrutiny of international impacts would co-exist alongside effective mechanisms to ensure policy-making and decisions are tested across the 11 outcomes to ensure a fully PCSD approach is adopted for domestic policy making as well. In fact, we believe that adopting a PCSD approach is fundamental to the success of the NPF as a whole.
What is the NPF?Edit
The National Performance Framework (NPF) was developed in 2007 to guide a whole-of government approach for developing policy and assessing progress.
Following the introduction of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, Scottish Ministers have a duty to consult on, develop and publish a new NPF for Scotland and to review it at least every five years.
The newest framework (2018) includes 11 National Outcomes that set out the kind of country Scotland wants to be, and 81 National Indicators that will be used to track and measure progress towards achieving them. It aims to reduce inequalities and claims to give equal importance to economic, environmental and social progress.
The framework is also designed to be for all of Scotland, not just the government. To that end, the Scottish Government consulted widely before refreshing the NPF and coordinated a cross-party roundtable as part of the review, which included civil society.
The refreshed NPF’s stated purpose is to:
● create a more successful country
● give opportunities to all people living in Scotland
● increase the wellbeing of people living in Scotland
● create sustainable and inclusive growth.
The aspirations of the NPF have been lauded internationally as an example of a progressive approach to evaluating a country’s success. As the NPF has evolved since its inception in 2007, there continues to be a genuine desire to move away from traditional measures of progress (such as GDP), towards a greater focus on well-being.
Used and developed properly, the NPF provides the government with machinery to translate complex, deep-rooted, issues into real, long-term, sustainable and preventative public policy. In other words, it can be a genuine tool to achieve better PCSD.
However, the NPF as it stands is not perfect. Different organisations have pointed out that the continued inclusion of economic growth as part of the overall purpose is problematic. Focusing on sustainable economic growth as an objective unto itself is not always coherent with the objective of improving societal well-being, as recognised in its purpose statement.
We know, for example, that while economic growth (as measured by GDP) is a proven means to increased well-being up to a point - and remains an important measure for many developing countries - in richer nations there is an increasing case that growth is no longer a necessity and that instead we should focus on wealth distribution. Furthermore, economic growth often comes at a long-term environmental cost, which in turn negatively impacts the potential overall well-being of future generations. It is important, therefore, to unpack what is meant by sustainable economic growth.
By considering the purpose of the NPF through a policy coherence lens, contradictions like this could be addressed openly and transparently.
Alignment with the SDGsEdit
Since 2018, the refreshed NPF is explicitly intended to align with the SDGs. This decision is a massive step forward to viewing societal progress in a more holistic way. In theory, it will help to mainstream the SDGs across all policy areas in government and provide clarity over the responsibility of Ministers for the delivery of the SDGs.
Moreover, the decision to align to SDGs means that the 11 National Outcomes are implicitly and explicitly interconnected with one another in the same way that the SDGs are, as discussed in Chapter 1. Therefore, the recognition of interlinkages that underpin the SDGs must also underpin the NPF. At this point, the NPF does not explicitly link each of its outcomes together.
To do so properly requires a complex set of multidimensional indicators that measure progress towards different outcomes (the outputs from spending and how they contribute to outcomes) and crucially how progress towards one outcome affects progress on others.
The NPF is also not yet explicitly linked to the Scottish Government budget and therefore we are not yet able to assess how public spending is committed in support of each of the outcomes or indeed the SDGs more widely.
Linking budget to wellbeing is possible, as seen recently in New Zealand. New Zealand is the first western country to design its entire budget around wellbeing priorities and instruct its ministries to design policies to improve wellbeing.
The New International OutcomeEdit
The new NPF includes for the first time, an internationally oriented outcome:
‘We are open, connected and make a positive contribution internationally.’
This is an important addition to the NPF because it demonstrates a willingness that as a nation we judge ourselves not only by how we treat each other here in Scotland, but by considering what effects our decisions in Scotland have on other parts of the world as well. This adds a much needed trans-boundary policy coherence element to the NPF.
As we have seen in other sections, the way we are perceived in other countries, the way we choose to trade internationally, the global partnerships we develop and the development approach we take are all interconnected and contribute towards our ability to create a truly successful country. While the addition of the internationally focused outcome is welcome, we need to recognise that many (if not all) of the other NPF outcomes have the potential to impact on our international contribution.
Therefore, we suggest any indicators used to assess our realisation of the NPF outcomes must recognise the interconnected nature of outcomes domestically and internationally. This means that we must be coherent in our approach to how indicators are used across different outcomes to measure our success.
It will be necessary to use a range of indicators ( e.g. environment and climate, trade, migration and global citizenship education) to measure how positive our international contribution is, as well as measuring success domestically. If there is no explicit connection made between the impact of outcomes domestically and internationally, then we are not approaching our new NPF through a coherent lens.
From the NPF Website, for the international outcome, it says that it links to SDG 5, 9, 10, 16 and 17. Why only these ones? We would argue that the NPF should be much bolder and state that it links to all SDGs by the very fact that progress on any dimension of sustainable development abroad is interconnected to progress here in Scotland. Ultimately, the SDG framework makes this comparison itself, so the NPF must do the same, if it is to successfully support and monitor Scotland’s delivery of the SDGs.
The stated vision underpinning the international outcomes says:
“We pursue happiness and quality of life as legitimate social goals. Our family, communities and people are important to us and we are committed to being fair and socially just. We are respectful of all who chose to visit, live and work in Scotland and acknowledge the positive contribution they make. Our visitor economy is thriving.
“We are proud of our achievements and are confident, ambitious and positive about the future. We are regarded as a vibrant, modern country and have positive international relations, influence and exchange networks. We recognise the interconnectedness of people and the obligations which flow from this and play a valuable role in providing aid and supporting developing countries. We are committed to promoting peace, democracy and human rights globally.”
The vision above expresses an acute awareness of the interconnections between our actions at home and the results abroad, so alignment to SDGs must recognise this explicitly. We explored the reality of these inherent interconnections using our action on climate and the 2019 Climate Change Bill as a case study in chapter 7.
What’s missing in the NPF to make it more useful?Edit
→ Awareness of the NPFEdit
In order for the NPF to be useful, it needs to be used more. All Directorates and Public Bodies must ensure their policies, as well as contributing to National Outcomes relevant to their area of work, are not undermining others. Thus embedding the concept of PCSD.
However, for that to be possible, every Scottish Government Directorate and Team must fully understand and integrate the NPF outcomes into the work they do. Beyond this, if the NPF is to live up to its aspirations to be ‘for all of Scotland’, the Government must also fully commit to helping other sectors and crucially, all local authorities to embrace the outcomes approach and values that underpin the NPF.
To make this possible, a sustained and appropriately funded awareness raising campaign for what the NPF is, why it exists and how to use it is necessary.
→ Getting the indicators rightEdit
Further work aligning NPF indicators with SDG targets could help to achieve the explicit recognition that the NPF outcomes are far more interconnected than they currently present themselves to be. In order to successfully support and monitor Scotland’s delivery of the SDGs, the NPF should more clearly link to all of the relevant indicators and targets associated with the SDGs.
Furthermore, the international outcome in the NPF does not yet have fully developed indicators to measure progress on international development, and any indicators that are developed must go some way to measuring coherence in relation to international development outcomes across the whole of government, as well as development-specific measures.
Recent work by the Government demonstrates that they are moving in this direction, but caution should be taken not to adopt proxy measures where it is deemed particularly difficult to measure progress on particular areas such as cross sectoral impact, partnerships and public engagement.
An NPF indicator that specifically measures progress on policy coherence should also be developed. This composite indicator should measure the process of improving PCSD, and could take the form of a rating scale that measures the extent to which sustainable development outcomes are considered by each government directorate, or it could develop and contextualise the OECD framework that we use in chapter 7. Either way, without a specific indicator that considers how we are improving PCSD, it will remain difficult to systematise and embed PCSD approaches in Scotland.
In this sense, the NPF has the potential to be genuinely ground-breaking in terms of its use to measure policy coherence for sustainable development.
→ A national Implementation plan for the SDGs and the NPFEdit
A National Implementation Plan that outlines how the Scottish Government plans to drive action on the SDGs and NPF outcomes would be very useful. Such a plan could also layout and assign clear lines of accountability and responsibility for achieving NPF outcomes, while clearly demonstrating the cross-departmental and cross-governmental structures that are necessary to ensure joined up systems thinking.
It should also be noted that the 11 new NPF outcomes do not map perfectly onto the 17 SDGs. This means it may be difficult to report on Scotland’s progress towards achieving the SDGs. Therefore, The Scottish Government’s National Implementation Plan should outline how the revised National Performance Framework will support reporting on each of the relevant indicators and targets associated with the SDGs.
This Plan should be co-created with Scotland’s people. It should be created transparently with meaningful stakeholder engagement and local involvement. Considerations of all eight OECD building blocks would ensure a PCSD approach is embedded.
→ Embed or consolidate existing Impact assessment tools into a broader NPF frameworkEdit
Embed or consolidate existing Impact assessment tools into a broader NPF framework oriented screening tool, to help align different approaches to policy development with different parts of government. In theory, a screening tool that emcompasses all 11 outcomes and considers policy effects (here and now, later and elsewhere) on all 81 indicators would ensure better policy coherence under the NPF framework.
It is understood anecdotally that different policy teams within different Scottish Government Directorates already use a variety of different impact assessment tools when formulating new policy, but that these often vary in focus and method. Getting buy in for a more standardised (and likely more complex) approach to impact assessment by all policy teams across government is a big ask, but hugely important to minimising the trade-offs between different policy areas.
→ Align Budgets to NPFEdit
Link the NPF outcomes to the Scottish Government budget. This could be done both in terms of how Government rationalises and frames its spending, and through budget scrutiny by Parliament. For the latter, the NPF can be used to provide focus to budget scrutiny, ideally using PCSD principles laid out in this report.This would allow both parliamentarians and civil society to better hold government account on progress towards NPF outcomes.
“Linking budgets to outcomes is notoriously difficult, for who can say that complex social and economic outcomes are ever neatly attributable to any one budget line? However, it should still be possible for parliamentarians to gain an understanding of the extent to which a budget line has made a positive contribution to an outcome. After all, budgets buy inputs which should lead to measurable outputs. The effectiveness of these outputs can then be assessed against desired outcomes.”
The Contribution to International Development Report - A monitoring and evaluation toolEdit
Scottish Government published its inaugural Contribution to International Development Report (CIDR) in September 2018.
In order to demonstrate the full potential of policy coherence across Scottish Government’s departments, it should provide the foundation for the Contribution to Development report, recognising that the international development portfolio is just one of the ways Scotland is meeting Agenda 2030.
Publishing less frequently (such as biennially) would allow the report to widen its remit, reporting on coherence across all policy areas rather than on Scottish Government international development funding and activities alone. The OECD Building Blocks provide a useful tool for monitoring PCSD progress as a whole.
However, the CIDR report offers a chance to look thematically at Scotland’s contribution to development and to challenge the us to do better in other areas. Ideally, it could have a focus on incoherence, policy trade-offs and gaps in how best to achieve sustainable development universality. This could be done thematically, with a new focus every two years.
At a minimum, producing a biennial report as opposed to annual one would allow more time to analyse policies across the external affairs directorate, and better report on policy coherence across a range of priority areas.
Concord Sweden produces a biennial report, which uses a thematic approach to review progress on policy coherence and sustainable development.
Potential themes for future reportsEdit
The CIDR 2020 could focus on climate. This will be a timely focus, given the 2020 UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) will take place in Glasgow. It will also reflect on Scoltand’s new Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill, which provides an opportunity for strong, world leading coherence on Scotland’s policies and their impact globally.
Scotland's Citizen AssemblyEdit
Deliberative democracy could be a vehicle for better policy coherence. It is well known that the more people are engaged, the wider and deeper their political understanding becomes. Short-termism can be replaced by long-term thinking: essential if we are to confront the tensions inherent to the economic, environmental and social dimensions of Sustainable development.*** This section needs developing.
- Purvis, B., Mao, Y. and Robinson, D. (2019) Three pillars of sustainability: in search of conceptual origins, Sustainability Science. Springer Japan, 14(3), pp. 681–695. doi: 10.1007/s11625-018-0627-5.