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By Jan Eichhorn, University of Edinburgh

A lot of things have been said about those who have not made their minds up yet with regards to whether they will vote yes or no in this year’s referendum on Scotland’s constitutional future.

Sometimes those undecided have simply been declared as those who probably do not care at all and are therefore not likely to think about it – and who will probably not turn out. On other occasions links to a range of socio-demographic variables have been made suggesting that people from particular backgrounds, in particular those from lower socio-economic backgrounds would be less likely to make up their minds.

But very few of these propositions have been backed up with actual data.

The vote: should Scotland be an independent country? SSA

Using the representative 2013 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (SSA) we have been able to properly investigate what characterises those undecided. We found a lot of the commonly expressed assumptions paraphrased above could not be supported.

But about one-third of voters say that they have not made their mind up yet. Therefore it is worth engaging with them in more depth to properly understand their reasons for indecision.

Age, sex and class

First of all, demographic differences do not show major differences in the likelihood of being undecided. There is no consistent age pattern – most age groups are similar to one another. While those older than 65 appear to be a little more decided and those 25-34 a little less, none of these differences are actually robust when you account for other influencing factors at the same time, such as sex and social class.

Proportion of voters undecided by age group. SSA

Similarly there are no major differences in decidedness between different social classes. Most are very similar, with those that may be considered about in the middle (small employers and own accounts workers) being slightly less likely to be undecided and those in lower supervisor and technical occupations being slightly more likely. But there is no clear pattern. The percentage of those undecided is effectively the same for those in the highest and those in the lowest social class (at 35 and 36% respectively).

Again, when controlling for other demographic factors we do not find the relationship between social class and decidedness to be robust.

Proportion of voters undecided by social class. SSA

There is a small relationship between indecision and general political interest. A small group of politically very disinterested people (about 10% of respondents overall) has a substantially greater likelihood not to have made up their mind. These “usual suspects” indeed exist, but they are only a small proportion of all those undecided. Whether people have more or less interest in politics only relates marginally to their likelihood of having made their minds up.

Political interest only matters at the extremes. So many of the undecided voters are not disengaged, but can be identified by other factors.

Proportion of voters undecided by interest in politics. SSA

There are some differences between men and women, with women being somewhat more likely not to have decided yet. This is a robust finding when taking into account other demographic variables, but the difference can be explained when we look at whether people think they know enough about the issue.

Those who feel that they do not have enough knowledge about independence yet are more likely to be undecided – and women are more likely to report the desire to know more about independence before deciding.

Proportion of voters undecided by political party identification. SSA

Those who feel independence would affect their lives more significantly are more likely to have made up their mind. So campaigns for both sides have been given a clear message – and a strategic approach would need to clarify this indecision on how independence would affect potential voters on each side.

Playing politics

Indecision is greatest among those who do not identify with any political party (at 48% indecision). This makes some sense, as those voters are probably not receptive to the clear pointers that the various political parties are providing. But there are also differences between parties in the campaigns. While nearly all those who identify as Conservative and Liberal Democrat have made up their mind (89% and 85% respectively) Labour identifiers, show similar levels of indecision to SNP identifiers (36% and 35% respectively), despite Labour being part of the Better Together campaign.

There is one more important group of undecided voters the campaigns should pay close attention to: those who do not have their favourite option on the ballot paper.

Decidedness by constitutional preference SSA

Approximately one third of respondents in the survey stated their most preferred option for Scotland would be further devolution (commonly referred to as “Devo Max”). Among the Devo Max-inclined voters, 45% were still undecided (compared to only 30% among those who preferred other constitutional solutions). Neither campaign has been able to capture a large number of potential voters who would have preferred further devolution to either independence or continuing full union.

If they want to reach these people, they will have to convince them that their proposals come closest to the preferred option of these voters.

The Yes campaign would presumably have to convince them that a No is unlikely to result in substantial further devolution, while the Better Together campaign would have to persuade those people of the opposite, that a No would be followed by effective further devolution.

If either campaign is able to do this we may see a relevant number of those undecided still shift correspondingly.


Hard Evidence is a series of articles in which academics use research evidence to tackle the trickiest public policy questions. The graphics were reproduced with the kind permission of ScotCen Social Research.

Jan Eichhorn receives funding from the Economic and Social Research Council as part of the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2013 with ScotCen Social Research.

This research has been funded by the ESRC. Members of the research team are Jan Eichhorn and Lindsay Paterson (both University of Edinburgh) and John Curtice, Rachel Ormston and Susan Reid (ScotCen Social Research).

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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Jenny Niven joins the Creative Scotland team
(Picture from Flikr)

In the latest moves of Janet Archer to strengthen the team at Creative Scotland, has arrived from Australia to take up her new post as a Portfolio Manager, leading on Creative Scotland’s work supporting Literature, Publishing and Languages. Prior to joining the team, had been Associate Director at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas. There, she headed the programming department, responsible for creating over 300 literary and cultural events annually, in UNESCO’s second City of Literature.

Creative Scotland logoJenny has also spent six years in Beijing, where she directed the events programme at The Bookworm, China’s foremost English-language literary events venue. She was director and co-founder of The Bookworm International Literary Festival, which runs annually across the three Chinese cities of Beijing, Chengdu and Suzhou. Continuing the books and travel theme she spent April and May 2008 and 2009 working on the PEN World Voices Festival in New York.

During her time in Beijing Jenny was books editor at Time Out Beijing from 2006 to 2008, and has continued to provide books commentary and reviews for a range of broadcast stations and publications including The Age, and Triple RRR Radio. A frequent events host she has interviewed writers including David Mitchell, Jeffrey Eugenides, Kate Grenville and Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan. She was a founding board member of Australia’s Stella Prize for women’s writing.

Jenny is originally from Scotland where she gained an MA in Scottish Literature and Film and a PG dip in broadcast journalism. She also spent time as an arts researcher for Hopscotch Films and BBC Scotland for ‘Writing Scotland’, an eight part TV series of hour-long documentaries on Scottish literature which screened on BBC2.

Laura Mackenzie Stuart

Laura Mackenzie Stuart

Laura Mackenzie Stuart, Acting Director of Creative Development, said that she was “delighted to welcome Jenny to Creative Scotland. She brings a high level of experience and expertise in her field along with a clear ambition and passion for literature in Scotland. This is also matched by her proven international success which I am sure will continue to be a source of inspiration and opportunity for writers and publishers in Scotland”

Jenny herself described her appointment as an “exciting new challenge. “While living overseas I’ve kept a strong engagement with literary Scotland and am looking forward immensely to being ‘back on the ground’ and engaging fully with the excellent work being produced here, by individuals and organisations alike. It feels a very vibrant time culturally in Scotland, and in books and writing specifically, despite the challenges of the changing market and cultural environment.

“I’m looking forward to meeting people from across the literary sector, and to applying my experiences overseas to Scotland’s unique context. And of course to working with Creative Scotland’s impressive team to support and develop all kinds of new and existing work, and to help bring great ideas to fruition.”

Craiglockhart – where Sassoon met Owen in 1917

We’re entering the second week of this year’s History Festival. What makes this event special is the way in which it blends expert knowledge with trips to the places where history was made, the way in which it takes history out of the classroom and into bookshops and tearooms, galleries and theatres.

Siegfried Sassoon  by George Charles Beresford (1915) (Picture: Public Domain)

Siegfried Sassoon
by George Charles Beresford (1915)
(Picture: Public Domain)

Tomorrow for instance (Tuesday the 19th), there’s a special event to celebrates the war poets of Craiglockhart. Now part of Edinburgh Napier University. the campus started life in 1880 as a Hydropathic establishment where the wealthy could take fashionable water treatments. However, it took on a completely different role during the First World War when it was turned into a hospital for officers suffering from shell-shock (what we’d now call PTSD). And in the summer of 1917, the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen met there. The University has a small special collection of material covering the history of Craiglockhart and Catherine Walker, its curator, will host a guided visit and talk about the many interesting characters who have had links with the place over the years.

On Wednesday, you can travel back in time to experience the classrooms of the Victorian era. The Victorian Schoolroom is located in Leith Walk Primary School and when ‘pupils’ can go through an hour long lesson using Victorian-style slates and slate pencils, old fashioned pens and ink from ink wells. The events are led by experienced, volunteer role-play teachers – corporal punishment however is NOT on today’s menu!

Billy Kay - speaking on both nationalism and wine!

Billy Kay – speaking on both nationalism and wine!

The historian Billy Kay is leading two discussions on his favourite topics – Scottish nationalism and wine! Earlier this year, he produced and presented a series for BBC Radio Scotland on the history of Scottish nationalism. ‘The Cause’ ranged from the identity forged in the Wars of Independence, through the radicalism of the 19th century, to the dramatic transformation of the SNP from a small, marginalised “sect” to a dynamic political machine capable of winning two elections and a referendum.

Much longer ago, Billy wrote a fascinating book on what he genuinely believes should really be regarded as “Scotland’s other drink” – Claret! Though made in Bordeaux from grapes not girders, claret once linked Scotland with France, so closely that it was known as the “Bloodstream of the Auld Alliance.” Billy looks at the fascinating history of the Scots involvement with not just claret but also other great wines of the world. Both events will be held at the Adam House Theatre in Chambers Street.

Arts & Business Scotland has announced that Chief Executive, Barclay Price will retire at the end of March 2013.

Barclay joined Arts & Business Scotland in 2001 as Chief Executive having been Depute Director of the Scottish Arts Council since 1997. His career has spanned employment in a bank; setting up and performing in a community-based theatre company; supporting the creation of small craft businesses; developing cultural policy; and engaging business with the arts. He is currently a Board Member of Creative Scotland and has just successfully funded his first novel through crowd-funding.

Arts & Business Scotland engineers funding and expertise for the arts and sustains and increases business support and individual giving for the cultural sector.

Barclay Price said: “After more than eleven years as Chief Executive of this great organisation, and having overseen the demerger from the UK structure in November 2011 that established Arts & Business Scotland as an independent Scottish charity, I believe that now is the right time to step down and allow a new leader to take the organisation forward. I am proud of the work I have led in helping arts organisations cultivate business and private support, and grateful to my supportive board and exceptional staff team who have ensured the organisation’s success. I know they and my successor will sustain the work of Arts & Business Scotland into the future.”

Jane Ryder, Chair of Arts & Business Scotland said: “ …..Barclay’ s contribution to the development of arts and culture in Scotland over the last 2 decades has been exceptional and Arts & Business Scotland has been truly fortunate to have him at the helm over the last 11 years . As well as the successful initiatives such as the New Arts Sponsorship Scheme, the smooth transition to an independent charity and the platform he has created for Arts & Business to develop our ambitious programme of support for the arts will be an outstanding legacy. We wish him every success in the future “

Colin Borland

Colin Borland

By Colin Borland

So the controversy – complete with protests, crisis talks, questions in the House and corporate casualties – about whether or not the long-term unemployed should be offered unpaid work experience continues into another week.

If nothing else, it has at least focused minds on some of the really difficult calls we are going to have make if we are to avoid losing another generation to mass unemployment.

On the one hand, I’m uncomfortable with the principle of anyone working for free – especially if it denies paid employment to someone else. On the other hand, when there are still people in proper bonded labour across the world right now, labelling this initiative “slave labour” is hyperbolic and insensitive.

In my experience, you’re always better off with a line on your CV than with a blank space. I also know that it’s an employers’ market out there at the moment and we can be very particular about the experience candidates for vacancies need to have.

And this isn’t just my experience. A few weeks ago, I took part in a fascinating event, run by some young unemployed people who were sharing their reflections on the UK government’s flagship Work Programme.

These were keen, bright young people deeply frustrated that they were wasting their best years on the dole. Time and again they spelt out the catch-22: no experience, no job; no job, no experience.

How did they get into this mess? Well, a frustration at never being given a chance wasn’t all that united them. What came through from almost every individual’s story was that, when they had to make the key decisions earlier in life, neither they, nor anyone who was advising them, possessed enough information about the world of work to make the smart choice. It was only now, after learning from people with a real knowledge of the jobs marketplace, that they had a better understanding of their options.

This isn’t an easy problem to solve. Children are not born with an understanding of the world of work. Parents’ knowledge might only ever have been sketchy at best – and could be 15 years out-of-date by now anyway. Many teachers will have been shielded from the job market for some time – and, without up-to-date information to hand, may not be able to advise their students appropriately.

This, of course, is what politicians call inequality of opportunity, and expanding the horizons of children not born to lawyers, top civil servants or business people has to be a long-term priority if social mobility is to become a reality in Scotland.

Today, though, we have a problem which is reaching critical proportions. Innovative short-term solutions have to be found and work experience projects, whether wholly palatable to everyone or not, fit that bill.

Colin Borland is head of external affairs for the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland

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jwhite1Acorn to oak tree, caterpillar to butterfly, goat herder’s son to US President. The capacity for transformation in all creatures great and small is an often wondrous thing.

In the curious case of Jim White, it may have found the strangest example since Mark Wahlberg stopped modelling pants for Calvin Klein and became one of the most successful executive producers in Hollywood.

White first emerged, wide-eyed and legless behind STV’s Scotland Today desk with a cheery, mid-Atlantic drawl of “Gerry, thanks” as the programme’s so-called heavy hitter Gerry McNee regaled us with tales of Roma signing Brian McClair from Celtic, his interview with Silvio Berlusconi or updates on St Mirren’s move for Oleg Blokhin.

Scotland’s ingenuity for inventing things saw us superserve the nation once again. There is not a great international need for a chirpy sports reporting mascot who can’t hide their allegiance to Glasgow Rangers FC. With White and Chick Young, we had two where other countries had none.

His stint in light entertainment with STV’s Late Edition (co-hosted with Kirsty Young) can’t have helped.

It is remarkable that anyone involved in this programme was allowed to work again, let alone work again in broadcasting. To think that 50 per cent of the presenting team is now at the helm of one of Radio 4’s most loved institutions, Desert Island Discs, is even more remarkable.

Young is also the (non-photofit) face of Crimewatch. If they ever identify a convincing representation of the person behind Late Edition, they are likely to serve time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure for quite some time.

White’s reversal in fortune is more surprising than Young’s. Scotland being Scotland, being tarred with favouritism to one side of the Old Firm means The Other Lot will tediously heap abuse on you until they have proven their point (whatever that is)m or ridden you out of town (perhaps that is their point).

One friend spotted White at Glasgow airport’s departure lounge, where his girlfriend was asked “Does he wear Rangers pyjamas in bed?” This is the lot of anyone who is seen to have nailed any kind of colours to the mast working in Scottish football media.

And so it was perhaps inevitable he would wish to try his luck elsewhere.

Since his move to the unglamorous suburb of Sky’s HQ at Isleworth, a speck on the road to Heathrow, White’s reputation has been reinvigorated.

From reading bulletins about cartilages, call-offs and cup draws next to an autocutie, it was a peculiar facet of the modern game which changed White’s life: Transfer Deadline Day.

Sky Sports News was already a bizarre fashion parade of yellow tickers, clock countdowns and satellite links to men in company-branded anoraks outside cold training grounds.

Deadline Day gave the channel its own national holiday, with White its figurehead. With 31 January and 31 August, all Sky Sports’ Christmasses had come at once, and White was Santa Claus without the beard, but complete with little helpers.

From being lightly joshed in Scotland, White is now the focal point for the biggest day of deals in the richest league in world football. Unlike Sky Sports regular Charlie Nicholas, he definitely made it the first time he came down to England.

The ink is not dry on a transfer unless he decrees it so. He is accompanied by an array of glamorous assistants – but, like Terry Wogan on Children in Need, they may change but he doesn’t.

He was the man whom Mark Hughes called just after midnight when Manchester City signed Robinho. The man to whom we turn to decipher footage of Sir Alex Ferguson behind a pane of glass with Dimitar Berbatov. The man who made sense of Robbie Keane’s four months of paid employment with Celtic. Actually, not even Jim White made sense of that. He’d have a better shot at Algerian logarithms.

Sky even broadcast footage of White leaving his home on a 2011 transfer deadline day in rather the same fashion the BBC screens footage of a newly elected prime minister leaving Buckingham Palace to head for Number 10 for the first time. Jim White meeting Transfer Deadline Day was like Andrew Ridgley meeting George Michael.

The drip-drip-drip of Harry Redknapp leaning out his car window to tell us that “I like Younes Kaboul”, a reporter with an oversized iPad explaining why Arsene Wenger has taken Yossi Benayoun on loan and another man in snug winter clothes with the Sky Sports logo outside the wrought-iron gates of Ibrox at 10:50pm with the breaking news that, no, Rangers will not be signing anyone – these are not the kinds of missives which suggest CNN should be looking over its shoulder.

The numbers are down, too. Last time’s Deadline Day yielded in excess of £259m. This time, it was closer to £40m.

And somehow the oracle was as breathless as ever, with none of the volume or brightness on his remote control turned down. The fever pitch was at the same warp level as ever, Big Ben struck at 11pm (yes, Sky show that happening), and White told us, as if a nuclear explosion was imminent, that we should “stay tuned because after the break, we’ll have news on Sebastian Bassong.” The Spurs defender had joined Wolves on loan. White made it sound as if they’d found the Queen Mum alive and well and breakdancing with Eminem in Trafalgar Square.

If you want to see the triumph of a man reborn, watch Jim White on Transfer Deadline Day. The transfer deals may be getting smaller. But, miracle of miracles, the man from Scotland Today definitely got big.

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Martin Sime

Martin Sime


Martin Sime is director of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, and writes a monthly column for The Caledonian Mercury.

The latest furore about the independence referendum highlights a rather curious fact. Opinion polls repeatedly suggest strong support among two-thirds of the people of Scotland for more powers for the Scottish parliament, yet all of our political parties seem to want to rule this out.

Much of what we hear about legalities and timing is nothing but shallow posturing designed for short-term political advantage, rather than long-term thinking about the type of Scotland we want to see in the future.

Nothing I have heard over the last few days suggests that our politicians want to move beyond rhetoric and party manoeuvres when it comes to our future governance.

The real issue with which we should all be concerning ourselves at this stage is determining what kind of Scotland we want to see. Our starting point needs to be a mature debate to get people talking and thinking about Scotland’s future with all options on the table.

What kind of country do we want Scotland to be? What ambitions do we have for ourselves, our communities and our society? What role and purpose should government have, and how and where should decisions be taken?

These are the questions that really matter and we need to create the space for a meaningful discussion that will help us answer them.

We should use the time between now and the referendum to debate and refine the choices, to improve understanding of their implications and to generate enthusiasm for participation in the poll.

This should ensure that people in Scotland are in a better position to make a decision in the referendum that is right for them and for Scotland. These hallmarks of a civilised approach to such a pivotal event are conspicuous by their absence so far.

This conversation ought to be open to people of all ages living in all parts of the Scotland. The wider the debate, the more meaningful it will be.

SCVO’s members have powerful connections across Scotland. They also have a strong appetite to play an active part in looking at the kind of society and country we would all like to see in the three years running up to referendum day and to focus discussion on issues impacting on their members, supporters and service users.

The third sector can play a key role in casting the net as widely as possible to maximise the number of people who make a valuable contribution to the debate.

Young people should be at the heart of this conversation, because they will inherit the consequences of the decisions we make – and, with the SNP’s plans to lower the voting age to 16 for the referendum, many of them may have the opportunity to play an active part in it. Yet many members of the Facebook generation are apathetic to formal politics. We need to find a way to engage them in the discussion about the future of Scotland.

Older people are about to become the majority, with many of them looking forward to decades of retirement – but their voices have been largely absent from recent discussions about the health and care implications of our changing demography when they should have been taking the lead. It’s time to hear what they have to say about Scotland’s future.

The unemployed, trade unions and employers of all sizes also need to make their voices heard. We need to motivate our ethnic populations and people of all faiths and none to contribute to the future of everyone living in Scotland.

Scotland’s future may be full of opportunities, but we also have to recognise our problems. Our economy is not working well and poverty is growing. Our public services need urgent reform at a time when public spending is under severe pressure. Inequality between rich and poor is growing and there is an ever-pressing need to create a more sustainable and low-carbon economy.

There are extremely important choices to be made, but before we reach that stage we need to build understanding and strive to promote the greatest possible degree of consensus around the issues which matter most.

SCVO is reaching out to build strong connections between existing initiatives and to develop new contributions. We want to listen and learn and join and contribute to an open debate which reaches beyond the usual suspects.

We do not have a corporate view. At this stage, we are aiming to open up rather than close down the options. We can only do this if more people across Scotland feel able and motivated to take part in the debate.

The hallmarks of a civilised approach to such a pivotal event are conspicuous by their absence from current political discourse. Is the future of Scotland too important to be left to the politicians? I think it is.

Let’s not miss this opportunity to ensure that everyone has a say in shaping all of our futures come referendum day.

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It’s been quite an exciting time for the Famous Grouse. “Gilbert” – the star of the annual adverts on television – is now part of the Famous Family. First came Black Grouse, then Naked Grouse and finally (for the time being) Snow Grouse. Creating the characters of the different blends has been the challenge given to master blender, Gordon Motion.

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The chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, Ron Hewitt, is leaving after six years in the job. His time in office has been something of a roller-coaster of a ride. The economy was booming when he started only for the credit crunch to hit just about every sector.

Despite this, the chamber has managed to increase its membership and, even in the bad times, keep the number of members above 2,000.

David Calder went to meet him to have him look back over his tenure:

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Martin Sime

Martin Sime


Martin Sime is director of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, and writes a monthly column for The Caledonian Mercury.

For too long, policymakers have viewed gross domestic product (GDP) as the sole measure of our success, but GDP growth does not necessarily indicate progress. It cannot tell us how happy we are, how fulfilled we are in our work or how much time we get to spend with our friends and families.

GDP does not capture what is most worthwhile in our lives or the valuable impact that people can make on their own lives, communities and the wider economy.

It is time to think differently about the economy and how it relates to our people and communities. Quality of life should take precedence over economic indicators, and the third sector is well placed to promote this alternative view of progress through its involvement in building and connecting society. It can drive economic growth based on people and well-being.

It is by helping young people at risk of long-term unemployment that the sector can make the most immediate impact. Investing public money in subsidising salaried jobs for young people within third sector organisations allows them to develop the skills, experience and confidence they require to contribute to their communities in a meaningful way, boosting their employment prospects in the process.

This approach sees all investment directed back to supporting civic society and offers young people the chance to develop positive social values which they will take with them wherever their career leads them. The Scottish government-funded Community Jobs Scotland initiative, delivered by SCVO through 500 third sector organisations, has already placed 929 young people in jobs in just 15 weeks, so we have proof that this model works. What we need to see now is the replication of this scheme on a larger scale for people of all ages, at least until the economy recovers.

Credit unions, co-operatives, social enterprises and third sector organisations are real engines of prosperity that can lift people out of the poverty trap and give them a renewed sense of hope in the face of a fragile economy. Investing in strengthening the self-help and mutual support that these co-operatives can offer, rather than pouring billions of borrowed pounds into the big banks, could make a radical difference to our most vulnerable communities.

Initiatives such as SCVO and Unity Trust Bank’s £50m loan fund scheme announced last week will help third sector organisations access affordable financing to purchase their own premises across Scotland. It will allow participating organisations to focus on delivering vital services to the people of Scotland safe in the knowledge that they are building up an asset base, improving the financial sustainability of the sector and boosting the wider economy.

The potential gains of community-led renewable energy initiatives are also very exciting, and could even outpace all the large corporate projects combined. Crucially, they also bring communities together, act as an anchor for community activity and help to regenerate communities. The proceeds generated could even be redirected towards tackling fuel poverty.

We all have something to offer and this should be acknowledged by our work and welfare programmes. Older people, people with disabilities and hard-to-reach groups all contribute to the economy, whether it is through work and volunteering or community building. It is vital that we see them as part of the solution for our economy and not the problem.

From campaigns to promote sustainable living to developing new measures of progress, the third sector and wider civic society are already rethinking the economy from the perspective of people and their communities.

The appointment of economics Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz to the government’s Council of Economic Advisers in Scotland is a welcome move. He is well known for his work advocating a shift in focus from economic production to well-being.

SCVO has called for alternative measures of progress based on well-being to be built into the government’s refresh of its National Performance Framework. As we await the announcement of the refreshed framework, a real opportunity exists to open up the sector’s offer to the wider economy. Let’s not miss it.

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