Nicola Sturgeon's Social Justice and Fairness Commission can help make Scotland a kinder place – Angus Robertson
Sometimes it takes a huge shock like the current coronavirus pandemic to properly reflect on the kind of society we live in and how we can make it better. An overwhelming 72 per cent of people believe it is important to learn from the outbreak to be more kind as a society.
The findings came from a survey that was published by the Mental Health Foundation at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, which this year has the theme of kindness. Two-thirds of people say that when others are kind to them, it has a positive impact on their mental health, according to the poll of 4,256 UK adults aged 18 and above.
Kindness shouldn’t just be our watchword for one week of the year, which is why we should heed the call to take kindness more seriously and make it an important part of public policy. Is it too much to ask that all government departments apply a measurable, values-based kindness test to current and new policies? This would go a long way to make sure they are informed by kindness, equality, dignity and respect.
An early positive start can be made by the Social Justice and Fairness Commission which began its work last week to chart the course for Scotland to be a better place for us all to live.
Set up by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the commission is looking at the best ideas from home and abroad which can be distilled into deliverable proposals. Some will be possible with the limited powers of devolution, others with the full powers of independence.
Amongst the leading ideas being considered is that of a Universal Basic Income, which would provide not only an enhanced social safety net for all, but also a mechanism that values carers and community volunteers. Unfortunately, the UK Government has already ruled out UBI, but I think it’s an idea whose time has come. As Scotland develops its own social security system and other institutions, it is easier to consider new groundbreaking ideas rather than hoping for the hidebound UK Government to be open to the challenge.
The Social Justice and Fairness Commission is correctly highlighting the need to consider universal services such as childcare, healthcare, housing, social care and public transport. It is hugely exciting to see a new social contract being considered between government and citizens.
The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the inequalities that exist in society, with particular vulnerabilities and hardship felt by people on low incomes, and parents normally reliant on the financial and social support that schools provide. Statistics suggest that people living in the poorest parts of Scotland have been dying at more than twice the rate of those in the richest areas. Analysis published by the National Records of Scotland found that people living in the most deprived areas of Scotland were 2.3 times more likely to die with Covid-19 than those living in the least deprived areas.
Scotland will have the opportunity to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and restore our society and economy on foundations which are stronger, fairer and kinder for all. Everyone who has suggestions about how best to do that should contribute their ideas to the Social Justice and Fairness Commission: www.socialjustice.scot
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