5 THE WELL-BEING OF SCOTLAND'S PEOPLE
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IS ABOUT SECURING A BETTER QUALITY OF LIFE FOR CURRENT GENERATIONS, WITHOUT COMPROMISING THE RIGHT OF OTHERS IN THE WORLD AND FUTURE GENERATIONS TO DO THE SAME
Scotland from space
5.1 Promoting personal well-being is one of the core aims of sustainable development. Good health, a decent income, meaningful work, a high quality local environment, spending time with friends and family, taking part in activities that are not linked to work - sport, culture, leisure, studying, volunteering: these are all part of the mix that contributes to our sense of well-being, as individuals and as a country.
5.2 Sustainable development is about securing a better quality of life for current generations, without compromising the right of others in the world and future generations to do the same. As a developed and relatively wealthy nation Scotland's concerns are more about maintaining than securing the fundamentals of life that we take for granted: enough food to eat, a safe water supply, shelter and protection from disease. But we still face major challenges in terms of delivering improvements to the quality of people's lives, their health and well-being.
5.3 For most people, work is a key part of what helps us to flourish. Employment and economic activity rates are at historically high levels. And yet at any one time about 13% of our young people aged 16 to 19 are not in education, training or employment; 11% of the working-age population are not working but want to do so 10. The creation of opportunity for all is a major priority and a key route to improving the well-being of people in Scotland.
WE WANT PEOPLE IN SCOTLAND TO ENJOY HIGHER LEVELS OF WELL-BEING, THROUGH:
- INCREASED ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL
- AN ENVIRONMENT THAT PROVIDES THE CONDITIONS FOR HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
- A FOCUS ON THE PROMOTION OF GOOD MENTAL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
Image: Greenspace Scotland
5.4 Our health and well-being are inextricably linked to the quality of our air, water and food. Aspects of the social and physical environment are believed to be particularly important in the burden of ill health and the absence of well-being, and to be a significant factor in health inequalities. This is a critical issue for Scotland. Although people are living longer, they often do not spend those additional years in good health. There are unacceptable inequalities in life expectancy and health by almost every measure and at every stage of life between the most affluent and the most deprived areas in Scotland.
5.5 Many people in Scotland suffer from mental health problems at one time or another. Around a third of all GP consultations and a similar proportion of absences from work are due to mental health problems. This represents a social and economic burden for the country - but more importantly a huge personal challenge for individuals and their families. Learning how to promote good mental health for individuals, communities and as a society is a prerequisite for the modern Scotland we are trying to build.
5.6 We want people in Scotland to enjoy higher levels of well-being, through:
- increased economic opportunities for all
- an environment that provides the conditions for health and well-being
- a focus on the promotion of good mental health and well-being.
Image: Greenspace Scotland
INCREASED ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL
5.7 The primary contribution of economic development is through the provision of opportunities for all people to participate in and benefit from the ongoing economic activity within Scotland.
5.8FEDS highlights the need for all in society to enjoy enhanced economic opportunities, with social development in turn contributing to economic prosperity, and identifies closing the opportunity gap as one of its key outcomes.
5.9 Although the current Scottish employment rate of 75.2% and economic activity rate of 79.6% are at record levels, there are still some areas of concentrated unemployment, economic inactivity and deprivation. The Employability Framework for Scotland and NEET (not in education, training or employment) Strategy will be published shortly. Together, these will set out how the Executive and its partner organisations will ensure that those who want to work - whatever their current circumstances - are given the best support to help them to develop the confidence, ability and skills to enable them to move into work and maintain and develop their job and career. They will place increased emphasis on the development and delivery of locally based solutions able to support those furthest from the jobs market, those closest to the job market and those in low-paid, low-skilled jobs into more rewarding and sustainable work.
AN ENVIRONMENT THAT PROVIDES THE CONDITIONS FOR HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
5.10 Investment in the quality of our environment is a necessary condition for health. Major programmes are in place to ensure that people in Scotland have:
- clean and safe air to breathe
- safe and healthy food to eat
- clean and safe water to drink
- protection from the threat of flooding
- waste dealt with safely.
5.11 Air quality, largely as a result of traffic emissions, remains an important environmental issue in some urban areas. Air-borne pollution can cause many health problems, especially for the very young and elderly. Air quality has improved greatly over the last 10-15 years as a result of technological improvements and tighter legislation, leading to significantly reduced emissions. However, increasing traffic levels are forecast to start offsetting these gains unless more is done. Councils are required to declare and take action in Air Quality Management Areas ( AQMAs) to tackle air quality hotspots. Edinburgh and Glasgow already have AQMA plans in place and Aberdeen's is being finalised.
ProjectScotland was specifically set up to connect young Scots with full-time volunteering opportunities. It is part of the Scottish Executive's Volunteering Strategy and was established in response to a demand from young people from all backgrounds to play an active role in their communities, broaden their horizons and enhance their experiences.
Stuart McArtney was a ProjectScotland volunteer at BTCV Scotland, the UK's leading charity in creating better environments where people feel valued, included and involved. Stuart is committed to conservation and sustainable development issues. This is what he says about volunteering -
"I was a volunteer officer for BTCV in Stirling. Having finished a Forestry degree last year I found it difficult to get a job as I did not have any experience. Volunteering with BTCV gave me great experience. I planned projects, made funding applications as well as building upon my technical skills. I also built up a good network of contacts that have helped me to find the right job - as an Assistant Forestry Consultant.
"I can't give volunteering enough praise for the opportunities that it has given me so far."
For more information on ProjectScotland, click on www.projectscotland.co.uk
For more information on BTCV, click on www.btcv.org
5.12 The serious health effects of flooding can range from those associated with sewage contamination to the long-term anxiety of dealing with its aftermath. There is some evidence that recent flood losses in Scotland's heavily-populated urban areas struck low income groups hardest. This is compounded by the fact that these communities may be the least resilient to disruption and least likely to be able to afford insurance. The Executive has commissioned a study into the range of social impacts of flooding in Scotland and the most effective interventions, and has established a Flooding Issues Advisory Committee to advise on taking forward Scotland's National Flooding Framework, founded on the principles of 'awareness, avoidance, alleviation and assistance'.
5.13 The environments we live in should make healthy choices the easy choices. That means:
- safe, accessible, attractive places where we can cycle and walk
- access to affordable, healthy food
- public spaces that are free from smoke
- healthy workplaces
- access to recreation, be it gyms, parks, arts centres, swimming pools or libraries, the countryside and its woodlands, hills and lochs, greenspace - places where we can stretch our legs, our lungs, our minds and our spirits.
5.14 Parks and greenspaces within our communities make an important contribution to physical health by providing places for walking, play and sport, and to mental health by offering 'breathing spaces' away from the stresses of modern life. They help to make neighbourhoods attractive places where people want to live and work and provide for biodiversity and opportunities for people to learn about nature and our cultural heritage. Improving the quality of our greenspace in Scotland will be a priority for this strategy: building on the investment which is already being made to deliver projects throughout Scotland, identifying the most effective delivery mechanisms, and releasing funding opportunities through a review of funding streams.
5.15 Our home environment can also play a significant contribution - positive and negative - to our health and well-being. Measures to reduce cold and dampness in Scotland's homes and investment in our housing stock are now beginning to have an impact. Programmes like Warm Deal and the Central Heating Programme have contributed to the substantial decline in the proportion of people living in fuel poverty (738,000 households in 1996 to 286,000 households by 2002) 11. The Executive has the target of eradicating fuel poverty, as far as reasonably practical, by 2016. To this end, it is currently consulting on how best to take forward this work when the present programmes end in 2006. The price of fuel is a significant factor in achieving this target and the Executive will need to work with fuel supply companies to help their most vulnerable customers.
5.16 Public health and environmental improvements have historically gone hand in hand. That tradition continues today through major investment programmes, for example in our water infrastructure and the quality of our housing stock. We are still limited however in our understanding of the specific ways in which the environment affects human health and well-being. The Executive is developing a new strategic framework that will map the connections between health outcomes and environmental factors, including the impact of the broader environment (poverty, unemployment and other causes of stress) in which people live. The initial focus of the programme will be on childhood asthmas and cardiovascular disease. This new approach should allow us to identify the most effective interventions that will secure improvements in both the environment and health.
A FOCUS ON THE PROMOTION OF GOOD MENTAL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
5.17 We know from research - and indeed personal experience - that many factors influence our happiness and well-being. Good health, social networks, community involvement, the quality of our local environment and living conditions can all have a powerful impact on how we feel. A decent level of income, a good job, the opportunity to progress: these are all factors that contribute to our well-being. Yet we also know - from international comparisons and studies over time - that for society as a whole once countries have reached a certain level of development there is only a weak link between further increases in income and happiness. This may be because our expectations and aspirations continue to rise or are relative to those around us; it may be because increased consumption brings a different set of problems: a poorer work-life balance, more time spent commuting, concerns about traffic fumes and air quality, less time to spend doing things we enjoy.
5.18 The Executive is committed to developing a better understanding of the components of personal well-being: how they interact, how public policy can influence them and how overall well-being might be measured in Scotland.NHS Health Scotland is developing proposals for a core set of national mental health and well-being indicators for Scotland. The Executive will support the work of Defra to investigate the concept of well-being and explore how policies might change with an explicit well-being focus. Depending on the strength of the evidence, the results of this research may be used to develop a more comprehensive set of well-being indicators to measure progress across the UK. The Executive will also encourage public debate around well-being: what it means to us in Scotland, how to measure it and how public policy can influence it.