Foresight is required to reimagine a resilient Scotland

Perspective
Publication Date
09/11/2021
A man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera
Professor Sir Ian Boyd FRSE, Chair of the Building National Resilience working group of the RSE Post-Covid-19 Futures Commission

This week, The Royal Society of Edinburgh has launched its Post Covid-19 Futures Commission report, which has identified key recommendations for the Scottish Government and public bodies to take forward to help Scotland recover from the pandemic.

I chaired the Building National Resilience working group, and we conducted research into what a resilient nation looks like, and what must be done to identify key threats and challenges Scotland could face in the coming years.  

In addition, work was carried out to explore how resilience is built; businesses must consider what changes can be made internally, and what infrastructure is required.

We worked with a diverse range of people, from subject matter experts to business leaders both based in Scotland and internationally, to discuss and debate the issues at hand. This allowed us to build insight and draw knowledge from those with lived experience.

Prevention and robust preparation are key in supporting an effective response to both emerging and known challenges

From the work conducted, the group identified key themes and recommendations to ensure the necessary infrastructure is in place to support better preparedness for future challenges. Prevention and robust preparation are key in supporting an effective response to both emerging and known challenges; this includes horizon scanning and foresighting to identify, and prepare for, societal risks and threats.

We recommend that business groups and sector leaders should work together to identify and build on learning gained from adapting to Covid-19, including how best to support financial resilience and how to build resilience into physical and administrative structures. This action will support companies with preparations on how to handle and survive a crisis while working together and identifying key learnings across the sectoral landscape can provide essential insight into new and different ways of working.

The Scottish Government should also establish a Foresighting Centre, independent of government and industry. This hub would be tasked with assessing future risks and preparedness, and advising Government, its bodies and business leadership organisations on the effective management of these risks. This will help to establish and identify potential future risks ahead of time, and set out response plans for each sector and area of society.

The RSE will also build on its existing international connections with national academies and other key institutions overseas to facilitate the sharing of learning between countries on communal challenges. This will be vital for building on our knowledge and gaining an understanding of how others have responded, how it worked, and what could be adapted should another crisis hit.

Alongside this, the RSE will work with the Scottish Government and the university sector to develop a rapid response service that enables the Government and wider public sector to rapidly access good quality, independent evidence and expertise from across the academic community in crisis/emergency situations.

The report provides a basis for the government, public and private sectors to inform conversations and collaborate to build knowledge and resilience as the nation emerges from the pandemic. These recommended actions are the beginning of a journey for Scotland as we reimagine its future in the wake of the Covid Pandemic.


Professor Sir Ian Boyd FRSE was Chair of the Building National Resilience working group of the RSE Post-Covid-19 Futures Commission

This article originally appeared in Business Insider on 9 November 2021.

The RSE’s Perspective blog series offers personal views from our Fellows on a variety of issues. These views are not those of the RSE and are intended to offer different perspectives on a range of current issues.