Healthy, Wealthy and Wise”
The session took the form of an interview with Hillary by Nick Kuenssberg about the background to and issues emerging from his book entitled “Scotland 2070 – Healthy, Wealthy and Wise”, followed by a lively question and answer session.
Introducing Hillary, Nick outlined his varied career. He graduated in Physics from St Andrews, later completing an MSc in Applied Optics at Imperial, London. He worked for with Ferranti (now Leonardo) in engineering, science and complex systems working of lasers and optical systems before moving to what was then Barr and Stroud. Although based in Scotland he travelled a lot, Europe and USA and also India, Asia and South America.
His experiences led to him to see how everything is joined up, and that there is such a thing as an optimum compromise, for example in relation to recent challenges such as Covid and climate change. This in turn led to his asking some big and uncomfortable questions which, linked to his passion for Scotland, have given rise to an extraordinary book, written in collaboration with Ian and Dorothy Godden
Hillary explained how the book came to be written by three Scottish authors with very different backgrounds and experiences frustrated with the state of Scottish debate at present, all of whom believe there is a big gap in its forward, progressive thinking. He had known Ian Godden at school, later coming across him occasionally professionally. Independence sparked Ian and Dorothy into action on Scotland’s future in 2014, and Brexit sparked Hillary later. They communicated in 2018/19 and wrote and finished the book during Covid.
The book specifically excludes discussion of politics, focusing instead on the art of the possible. They believe that Scottish politics has become an end, not the means to an end and that 80% of this vision can be achieved irrespective of political route.
The discussion touched on a wide range of topics. On climate change and energy security he discussed the implications of the melting of the Arctic ice for dramatic shift in possible trade routes, potentially bringing Scotland into a central position geopolitically; the need to re-examine nuclear power to have power when the wind stops, and to develop hydrogen electrolysis and storage for grid stability. He also pointed to Scotland’s massive renewable energy export potential. He noted that the UK is one of the biggest net importers of timber in the world, with the lowest level of tree cover in Europe, and suggested that we need to plant 5 billion trees – a highly productive resource, to replace 1 million deer – a highly unproductive resource, and to stop using wood as a fuel for power stations and instead to use it for building.
On the challenges faced by health services, among other suggestions, Hillary noted that many of our health issues are symptoms of deep-seated social problems and the need to focus on prevention and on policies that will address the social problems that cause our severe health inequality. A healthier population will put less strain on the NHS and since people will be more productive for longer, also increase the capacity of the economy.
The discussion also covered a range of other topics including: education; transport; fast broadband roll out; and of course the vexed question of how these changes could be paid for. It was followed by a lively Q and A session.