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scottish elections

Scotland's Election 2021: Promising Promises

Published on 25 May 2021

Written by Chris Hegarty

Scotland’s political landscape is quite a polarised one at present. But I suspect most will agree that to hold an election in such turbulent times, and for turnout to hit record highs, is a huge achievement - testament to everyone involved, and to the level of political engagement across the country.

In the 12 months preceding the election, Christian Aid engaged with political parties across the spectrum – for example, we gave them our manifesto recommendations, helped to shape the Scottish International Development Alliance’s manifesto, and supported an international development online hustings event.

In the main, the political parties’ pre-election responses were encouraging. Of course, we almost always want decision-makers to go further and faster, but we saw many interesting and ambitious commitments that we were able to welcome, giving us plenty to get our teeth into over the parliamentary term to come.

With the SNP being returned as the party of government, there’s particular focus on their plans for the coming years.

The pledges to double Scotland’s Climate Justice Fund, and to increase the International Development Fund, are welcome in a time of international pressure on such budgets.

But if I was to highlight just one long-term opportunity, it would be the government’s commitment to introduce a Wellbeing and Sustainable Development Bill. Christian Aid is always keen to address the long-term, structural issues that cause and sustain global poverty. This legislation is intended to make all public bodies and local authorities in Scotland ‘consider the long-term consequences of their policy decisions... [including taking] full account of the short and long-term sustainable development impact… both in Scotland and elsewhere.’

Done properly, this has the potential to embed international poverty considerations into decision-making right across the breadth of the Scottish Government. For example: could our public sector make more ethical purchasing decisions? Does our NHS recruitment contribute to a ‘brain drain’ in other countries? How can we measure ‘progress’ in a way that better-reflects the (global) social and environmental costs of our activity?

We look forward to working across the political spectrum to turn these promising promises into reality over the coming years.

Please join us in our campaigning work!
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