Embedding sustainable development across Government, after the Secretary of State’s announcement on the future of the Sustainable Development Commission

Written evidence submitted by Richard Lochhead MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, the Scottish Government (ESD 34)

Thank you for your letter asking about the Scottish Government’s approach to sustainable development and its response to the UK Government’s decision to withdraw funding from the Sustainable Development Commission.

The Scottish Government is still considering the best way forward for Scotland following the UK Government’s decision. We will make announcements in due course. I also note that the attached summary of SDC's current role, funding and activities in Scotland has recently been shared with the committee at official level.

On the wider question about how sustainable development is pursued by the UK and Devolved Governments, it might be helpful if I explain that The Scottish Government does not manage a separate sustainable development strategy. Instead, our distinctive approach has been to mainstream sustainable development across the organisation through our central Purpose of 'creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth'.

This is set out in the Scottish Government’s Economic Strategy, supported by the National Performance Framework, which now provides a shared set of high level outcomes to focus the whole of the public sector. In particular our 15 National Outcomes help us address the sustainable development principle of focusing across economic, social and environmental factors in decision making.

SDC looked closely at this structure in 2008 and were positive about the approach to sustainable development governance.

The Scottish Government attaches high priority to sustainable economic growth and our approach takes account of our unique circumstances in Scotland. However, we believe it is important that, whatever the solution going forward in our respective administrations, we continue to work together to share and learn from each other’s experiences.


ANNEX

Sustainable Development Commission’s role, funding and activities in Scotland

Summary for Environmental Audit Commitee

1. The Sustainable Development Commission is a company limited by guarantee, jointly owned by the UK Government and the devolved administrations, including the Scottish Government. SDC Scotland currently receives £260k of core funding per year for the following roles:

· Independent scrutiny:

o holding the SG to account on progress in sustainable development.

· Advisory:

o drawing on expert opinion (including through SDC in the rest of the UK) to input to policy development across the SG; and

o producing evidence-based public reports on important environmental, social and economic issues.

· Capacity-building:

o establishing good working relationships with key parts of the SG to build understanding and skills for sustainable development.

· Advocacy:

o encouraging a climate of opinion in which sustainable development can become a reality, promoting wider public debate and shared learning;

o developing effective partnerships with key networks and organisations to deliver best practice in sustainable development; and

o responding to SG policy initiatives.

2. In 2009/10, SDC Scotland also received £318k in project funding from SG to deliver additional services, drawing on their core expertise:

· Scottish Sustainable Development Forum secretariat (£35k) and events (£15k)

· Knowledge transfer (£5k)

· NHS Good Corporate Citizenship Assessment Model (£58k)

· Climate Challenge Fund Promotion and Knowledge Transfer (£133k) and Alliance Administration (£72k).

3. For Illustration, recent and ongoing activity in Scotland includes:

· annual assessment of Scottish Government performance on sustainable development;

· chaired and co-ordinated the Steering Group for the Education for Sustainable Development Action Plan;

· input to the Food & Drink Leadership Forum and Zero Waste Think Tank (chairing one of its sub-groups) via Scottish Vice-Chair, Jan Bebbington;

· ongoing input to the Zero Waste Scotland Programme Board and High Level Group Sustainable Scotland;

· working with SG and NHS Scotland to develop and implement the Good Corporate Citizenship Assessment Model for Health Boards to manage their environmental and sustainability impacts;

· recent Scottish studies on renewable heat and sustainable transport;

· dissemination seminars on its Prosperity without Growth? think-piece and Low Carbon Regions Wales work;

· assisting SG to develop an environmental and sustainability reporting system for use across the public sector;

· co-ordinating the Scottish Sustainable Development Forum; and

· co-ordinating the Climate Challenge Fund Supporting Alliance to deliver networking and learning (with a particular emphasis on behaviour change) between CCF communities and other key stakeholders.

3 November 2010