One of the privileges of my role is that I am invited to do things which give me an insight into aspects of life of which I might not otherwise be aware. Recently, I have been working with the Scottish Leaders Forum Strategic Leadership Group as it seeks to help the public sector and other leaders meet the challenges of Brexit and other events.
In that role, I have learned about Scotland’s National Performance Framework (NPF). Developed by the Scottish Government and based on consultations with people and organisations across Scotland, it sets out purpose, values and national outcomes.
By legislation, Scottish Ministers must consult on, develop and publish national outcomes for Scotland and review them every five years. Public authorities must have regard to these. It embeds sustainable development goals and social, economic and environmental indicators designed to measure national wellbeing with a view to enabling all citizens to flourish.
It is designed to be open, transparent and non-political and to encourage a shift from “business as usual”. It draws attention to the complex interplay between human stuff and system stuff. It recognises that we live in a VUCA world: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.
It would be easy to be cynical. More jargon, words, aspirations. However, I was impressed by the ambition and language used.
‘Our purpose’ is stated to be a focus on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all to flourish through increased wellbeing and sustainable and inclusive economic growth.Values are identified as being a society which treats all our people with kindness, dignity and compassion, respects the rule of law, and acts in an open and transparent way.
Among the expectations about how the National Outcomes will be achieved, one particularly caught my attention: “We grow up loved, safe and respected so that we realise our full potential.” It is not often that we see the word “love” in government policy.
My mind turned to the legal profession. How well tuned-in are our firms and individual practitioners to the NPF? It seems very relevant.
“We have thriving and innovative businesses, with quality jobs and fair work for everyone.” Do lawyers tick that box? “We are open, connected and make a positive contribution internationally.” Could we do more? “We respect, protect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination.” How well does the legal profession demonstrate this and ensure that it is a reality for others? “We tackle poverty by sharing opportunities, wealth and power more equally.” How many of us contribute to our society in this way? Should we at least ask the question?
I suggest that this is interesting stuff as we join other sectors in facing unprecedented risks in the present and future: inequality, shifting demographics, climate change, environmental degradation, technological disruption, post truth discourse. And so on.
The implications are no different for lawyers. But we may also have something to contribute to wider society. Problem-solving competence, rigorous analysis, communication skills, ability to understand many sides of a story and to get alongside those less skilled and less well-off. Compassion? Kindness? Dignity? Respect? Love? How would we wish to be remembered? Happy Christmas!
John Sturrock QC is senior mediator at Core Solutions.