The top 10 in the list of the world’s happiest nations is dominated by smaller, north European countries, writes Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop.
Finland, in top spot, has almost exactly the same population as Scotland. And it is followed by all of its Nordic neighbours, as well as the Netherlands and Switzerland.
In fact, the average population of the leading eight countries, which also includes New Zealand, is around seven million. Measuring happiness may be seen as subjective in some ways – but it is surely no coincidence that these particular nations head the list of the happiest on the globe. Many of them have for decades pursued progressive economic and social policies, founded on principles of equality.
Meanwhile, the UK comes in at 15th on the list. There are surely lessons for Scotland here. We can and should seek to emulate the economic and social progress of our near European neighbours. But in order to do that properly, we need the full powers of an independent country.
Already, with the powers we do have, we are making a difference. Just this week, the Equality and Human Rights Commission noted that the Scottish Government’s “positive policies” meant that people here were being protected from the worst effects of the UK Government’s welfare cuts. But our ambitions as a nation should stretch far beyond simply mitigating Westminster austerity.
Being independent doesn’t in itself guarantee a country’s happiness. Nor does being a smaller country. Nonetheless, the lessons for Scotland seem clear enough – we stand a better chance of being a more prosperous, more equal, content and happy country if we are given the chance to take our own decisions.