Health policy is as modern as social democracy. This is not to suggest that social democracy is some sort of ’cause’ of health policy, but that their environments – political, economic, demographic, social and ideological – are shared. Underpinning all of these is a common, modern epistemology, which frames the causes and effects of social problems and the capacities of government in specific ways. This paper begins by outlining the conditions under which, historically, health policy has been made, in Scotland as elsewhere in Europe. It goes on to review health policy in Scotland since 1997 and finds much to confirm a social democratic model of government. But it also identifies elements of unease and uncertainty about what might be achieved, and how. It describes a new, emergent body of theory and practice in Scottish public health derived from an appreciation of complex systems. It points, too, to the widely-regarded work of the Millan Commission and the transformation of mental health legislation it set in train. Each provides indications of the ways in which both health and government might be renewed, and in which social democracy might be redefined.

Source: Keating, M (ed) Scottish Social Democracy: Progressive Ideas for Public Policy, Brussels: Peter Lang