Scotland and the sustainable development goals: a national review to drive action

This review provides a statement of our pre-COVID-19 ambition on driving progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in Scotland. It brings together evidence, actions and stories of how we are making progress to meet the Goals.


The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. As part of this, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal call to action. Scotland signed up to the SDGs in 2015 and this review brings together evidence, actions and stories of how we are making progress to meet the Goals. It contains inspirational examples of how people across Scotland are taking action to make us a more successful country and to ensure we are at the forefront of this international agenda. It also highlights some of the challenges we face.

This review, a collaborative effort between the SDG Network Scotland, Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), scratches the surface of the depth of activity across Scotland. It is intended to help shape future conversations about where our priorities lie, how we can learn from success and how to take action as a country to make good on the 2030 Agenda and our wellbeing framework – the National Performance Framework (NPF). There will be many individuals and organisations across Scotland that have important contributions to make but which have not been part of this review and the SDG work which underpins it. We look forward to extending the reach of the SDGs and the NPF to them in the months and years to come.

This review provides an overall picture of activity and performance based on the evidence currently available. Although the Goals are global by nature, the need to place them in the context of our ambitions in Scotland is important. We recognise too that the targets which underpin each of the SDGs may not always be the most relevant measures of success in a Scottish context. Also, where performance in Scotland is strong, such as with climate action and education, this does not mean that we are not seeking to go further than the ambitions laid out in the SDGs. Similarly, where we face challenges in meeting Goals, decisions will need to be taken on what to prioritise and what further actions are required. Complementary to this review are Scotland’s Wellbeing: Delivering the National Outcomes report which provides an overall picture of Scotland’s wellbeing, and the Scottish Government’s Medium-Term Financial Strategy: May 2019 which provides an important backdrop on available resources. Since this review was developed, the Scottish Government published its Programme for Government 2019-20 Protecting Scotland’s Future, and particularly relevant actions have been added to this review by way of update on the evidence received in 2019.

The relationship between the SDGs and the powers of the Scottish Parliament is complex and this review does not attempt to narrow or adjust performance on the basis of actions which would be within the powers of the Scottish Parliament. Indeed the actions that individuals and communities are taking often transcend this complexity.

The challenges outlined in this review are not exhaustive and more will emerge in the discussions and actions that follow. This review aims to provide a focus to kick-start these discussions and the collaboration around this.

In total actions from over 300 organisations from across civil society, the public and private sectors are included in this report. While much of this material describes the role of government – local and national – and public bodies, to be successful in delivering on the 2030 Agenda a united effort to mobilise people of all ages from all walks of life is needed.



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