Putting people at the heart of Scotland’s future

We want a Scotland that has a shared sense of purpose, is fair and prosperous, and where the entire population has the opportunity to participate on equal terms.

This ambition is the biggest political, policy and practical challenge of the next five years and will take two generations to deliver.

What kind of society do we want?

The third sector has many ideas about the future of Scotland, particularly in relation to society (poverty and welfare), democracy and the economy.

  • Society:with 870,000 Scots still living in poverty and inequality, compounded by UK Government welfare cuts, poverty is now the biggest crisis to ever hit Scottish society
  • Democracy:people are disengaged from politics, the political process and political parties – they don’t see a reason why they should vote – and ultimately from any say or power over their own lives and that of their communities
  • Economy:we need a better way of ‘doing’ the economy and work better, with social justice at the heartof economic policy so it works for the many not the few to end poverty and inequality

There is general consensus on certain principles in each of these areas.



The starting point for developing a Scottish welfare state must be a set of founding principles which put people at the heart and which lay out what we expect from each other and from the state, including:

  • Human rights:human rights principles underpin key policy developments
  • Done together, not done to: the people who benefit from welfare systems and support should be central in designing a future welfare state
  • Choice: people’s choices about their lives sit at the centre of policy and planning
  • Enhancing dignity, ensuring respect: the underpinning principles in a Scottish approach to welfare system should be asset and people driven
  • Ensuring a minimum standard of living: to provide a basic safety net for those who are vulnerable or who are finding it difficult to get by, and an adequate benefit level


SCVO united with third sector organisations to deliver a campaign to raise awareness about the scale and impact of poverty in Scotland. Our umbrella policy ask was:

“We’re calling on the UK, Scottish and local governments, together with the wider public sector, private sector and political parties to work with the third sector to foster a healthy and constructive debate around poverty acknowledging that it can happen to anyone, and to build a system which helps people get out of poverty instead of perpetuating it. Government at all levels must prioritise work which helps prevent people falling into poverty in the first instance and this commitment to preventative action should be represented in government strategy and reflected by a proportionate commitment in their budgets.”

A fairer society

The kind of society we want to see has also been articulated by other complimentary discussions across the third sector.

The Campaign for a Fair Society brought together a wide range of third sector organisations to promote alternative approaches.

It argues that support for people to live well and independently is fundamental. It also provides a set of positive principles that seek to shift the power and control back to families and their communities through:

  • Family: giving families support so they are able to look after each other
  • Citizenship: we are all of equal value and we each have unique and positive contributions to make
  • Community: we support and root services in local communities
  • Connection: we all have chances to make friends and build relationships
  • Capacity: we help each other to be the best we can be
  • Equality: we all share the same basic rights and entitlements
  • Control: we have the help we need to be in control of our own life, and support to live that life

For many people, the simplicity of these seven principles is their key strength – we can all relate to them, as in many ways they reflect a vision for a fairer and more equal Scotland.


As people become increasingly disengaged from political processes our democracy becomes less representative and inequality rises.

To reverse this cycle, our democracy must better reflect people’s ambitions and engage them in ways that are meaningful. To achieve this we should:

  • Enable people to genuinely engage and participate directly within local representative (electoral) democracy and participative democracy, and act directly to make change happen
  • Empower and support people and communities to make the changes they want to see to in their communities
  • Devolve power directly to communities, particularlyto foster more participative approaches to budgeting and decision making
  • Support communities to take on increased decision-making and power over the changes they want to make for themselves and their environment
  • Ensure public services are jointly designed and delivered with the people they directly affect throughco-production and personalisation


The economy as it stands has not served the poorest in our society well, to the detriment of individuals, wider society and the economy itself. The four guiding principles which should underpin an urgently needed ‘re-doing’ of our economy are:

  • The wellbeing and collective prosperity of people across Scotland must be the end goal of our economy
  • All work must be properly valued, decently paid and secure
  • The value of people’s voluntary and unpaid contributions to economy and society must be recognised
  • The economy is a part of our environment and we must use our economy to enhance, not destroy, our environment


The challenge for all of us is too invent a new Scotland with the ultimate aim of a country that benefits everyone not just the few.

Creating this new Scotland will significantly challenging but the best way to predict the future is to invent it.

We can invent the future but only if the third sector, not government, have the will and shared ambition to work collectively and collaboratively with people and communities throughout Scotland. Helping people to help themselves will be the critical factor.

A Scottish Government and Parliament with the political will and a policy programme to match our goals and ambition would help, but the reality is – proven by experience – it is not just about having the powers, it is what you do actually do with them.