Issue 14 - December 2016
TACKLING UNCERTAIN FUTURES
In this issue we focus on uncertainty and change, which seems to have become a persistent feature of domestic and international public policy in 2016. We also feature other contemporary issues as usual. As always, we welcome comment and contributions. Please contact us if you would like to discuss advertising in or writing for the next edition at firstname.lastname@example.org. Issue 15 will be published in Spring 2017 and will reflect on 'Scotland - What's Next?' with discussion on Brexit, our public finances, the search for economic growth, the Scottish Parliament's new powers and the future for our public services in the context of May's Council elections.
While the rates and bands of income tax are being devolved, income tax on dividends and savings, as well as control over the personal allowance, remain at Westminster. With only one major tax, there is very little scope for reforming the tax system in Scotland, especially as that tax isn't even being devolved in full.
Scotland in the 21st century faces serious challenges and - rightly - has ambitious aspirations. How do we solve the housing crisis? How do we tackle climate change? How do we deliver inclusive growth? How do we create a fairer Scotland? How do we become a low carbon economy? How do we protect our most valuable landscapes, places and buildings? How do we support our town and city centres?
Concepts and fads come and go in public policy, often with little in the way of lasting impact. What may seem central to decision making for a period of time can swiftly drop out of fashion, replaced with another equally transient approach. Bearing this in mind, how then should we respond to more recent trends towards putting citizens at the heart of economic decision making, and of broadening our societies so that growth is more inclusive and sustainable?
Public sector spending cuts, and their impact on service provision, are dominant themes of current political and media discourse. On an almost daily basis we are told that the social care system is in crisis, the NHS has reached breaking point, or the prison system is creaking at the seams.
Trust is a deeply personal affair. It is grounded in personal experience and knowledge, but in today's modern age, it can often be formed through hearsay or by evaluating others' experiences. Sometimes, through the power of social media, this can result in us being influenced by the opinions of people we don't even know.
The Scotland Act 1998 was a game changing piece of legislation. It set up the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government and a new relationship between Westminster and Holyrood.
The term digital is a much used, confused and abused word today. Whenever I hear anyone using it, I find myself listening intently to understand the depth of their thinking. To some, digital is simply about enabling people to use their iPhone to do the things that they have previously done face to face or with paper or over the phone.
We live in challenging and uncertain times and it's easy to feel as though there is more to separate and divide us, rather than unite. Inequalities continue to grow in health, wellbeing and household incomes, food and fuel poverty are on the rise, and stigma and discrimination persist against people with disabilities, long term conditions, and those who access social security.
One possible starting point might be with efficiencies. The need to save money drives different ways of doing things. However, the output might be money saved, doing similar things. And, the opportunity cost is in not changing the culture of the doing of the doing to tackle what needs to be done.
CalMac's winning the bid to operate the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry services contract was built around a commitment to not just deliver smart ticketing for our passengers but to improve community relations and support freight operators and other commercial vehicle users to drive the economic and accessibility agenda for Scottish Ministers.
At a time when Scotland was considering its constitutional future, it brought together local government, wider civic Scotland, and other expertise to look beyond just Holyrood and Westminster and explore why local democracy matters.
It has been a source of pride over the last 15 years within the housing sector and amongst politicians, that Scotland leads the world in tackling homelessness. But this is a claim that Shelter Scotland has argued always needed to be earned rather than simply asserted.
Attempts to restrict the availability of cheap alcohol have resurfaced periodically on the Scottish policy agenda since devolution. While a law introducing minimum unit pricing (MUP) was passed in 2012, it has yet to be implemented following strong opposition from commercial interests. The Scottish experience offers important lessons: internally, for Scottish policymakers wondering what they would do differently; and externally, for other governments seeking similar measures.
A city like Edinburgh prides itself on being a fantastic place to live in, to work within, and also to visit. And here in 2016, Edinburgh really is one of the UK's most vibrant and fastest growing cities.
The saying, we live in uncertain times, just seems so inadequate to describe the current world state of affairs. From Brexit to Trump, policy makers are struggling to come to terms with public concerns. Capitalism isn't delivering what it says on the tin and neither are mainstream politicians.
The EU referendum, US elections and now developments in Italy, France, Germany and elsewhere have brought home to policy-makers across the globe the deep divisions in society.
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