Ministerial Joint Bilateral Meeting minutes: 13 June 2023

Minutes of the meeting between Minister for Higher Education, Further Education and Veterans, Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council, held on 13 June 2023.

Attendees and apologies

Scottish Government

  • Graeme Dey, Minister for Higher Education, Further Education, and Veterans
  • Stephen Pathirana, Director for Lifelong Learning and Skills (LLS)
  • Adam Reid, Deputy Director, Directorate for Lifelong Learning and Skills (LLS)
  • Lesley Ward, Head of Strategy, Directorate for Lifelong Learning and Skills (LLS)
  • Elspeth Hough, Head of Programmes Unit, LLS
  • Linda McCourt, Team Leader, Programmes Unit, LLS
  • Jonathan Thompson, Private Secretary

Skills Development Scotland

  • Frank Mitchell (Chair), Skills Development Scotland
  • Damien Yeates, Chief Executive
  • Chris Brodie, Director of Regional Skills Planning and Sector Development
  • Diane Greenlees, Director, Critical Skills and Occupations

Scottish Funding Council

  • Mike Cantlay, Chair
  • Karen Watt, Chief Executive
  • James Dunphy, Director of Access, Learning and Provision Scottish Funding Council
  • Sharon Drysdale,  Deputy Director, Work-based Learning and Skills Programmes
  • Elizabeth Shevlin, Deputy Director, Coherent Learning Provision
  • Sinead Griffin, Business Manager

Items and actions

Implementation of the Shared Outcomes Framework (SOF)

The Minister welcomed participants to the meeting and invited SDS and SFC to provide updates, by exception on the progress of the projects on the Shared Outcomes Framework.

The following points were made:

  • a discussion paper on the lessons learned from the Education and Skills Impact Framework (ESIF) project which had now concluded, had been taken at the May meeting of the Shared Outcomes Assurance Group. Partners were continuing to take a collaborative approach to the development of future analytical work
  • SFC confirmed that the delivery of the Regional Tertiary Pathfinder projects remained on track.  7 pilot projects were underway; 4 in the North East and 3 in the South Of Scotland. The focus was on curriculum planning and responsiveness
  • SDS confirmed that the CESAP Pathfinder Work Package 1 project to understand the evidence base for skills demand in the transition to net zero is complete. It was anticipated that this would be published in July 2023;  SOAG members will receive a copy of the draft report prior to publication
  •  the first stage of CESAP Pathfinder Work Package 2 (focusing on the skills needs for the decarbonisation of heat in domestic and commercial buildings in the two pilot areas of Shetland and City of Glasgow)  is complete. SDS are now working with employers and training providers to interrogate the gaps in skills provision

Shared Outcomes Framework– reflections and learning

The Minister acknowledged the positive feedback from the partners on the status of the projects and encouraged participants to reflect on whether the progress achieved to date delivered upon the collective commitments that the Scottish Government, Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council had made in response to the Auditor General’s  ‘Planning for Skills’ Audit Scotland report, published in January 2022.       

The following points were made in discussion:

  • partners agreed that significant progress in the execution of the projects to the project plans and timescales had been made and could be evidenced;  what remained important was to ensure that as the projects matured, partners remained focused on the emerging project outcomes to enable these to feed in to wider system change
  • partners gave examples of the changes to the working relationships that had been inaugurated prior to the publication of the Planning for Skills. This report had been a fair assessment of the historic situation which had improved already by the time of publication.  Working relationships were now close at operational and strategic levels
  • there was also a closer and more regular connection between officials in the Scottish Government, SFC and SDS which provided the opportunity for ongoing discussion and mutual constructive challenge. Scottish Government officials had a role to play in ensuring that the Minister was provided with regular progress reports
  • with the recent publication of Skills Delivery Landscape Review, partners continued to work on business as usual but noted the impact of uncertainty on staff and the importance of Government setting out soon its intentions with respect to the recommendations made
  • it would be important, following the Government’s response to set out clearly any implications for the delivery of the Shared Outcomes Framework and to consider whether current structures remained appropriate
  • it was noted that there remained areas of potential duplication in the skills landscape that had not formed part of James Withers’ remit, e.g. the range of separate skills partnerships and funding streams: this was also a further example where there remained scope for improvement

The Minister confirmed that at a high level, the Government accepted the case for change that James Withers had set out and that it was important to take action to ensure that Scotland’s education and skills system would be fit for the future.

The Minister acknowledged that this was a difficult time for the staff of SDS and SFC, noting that the Government proposed to work through the implications of the Withers recommendations and would outline to Parliament the detail of its approach in the autumn. This would provide an opportunity over the summer for more extensive engagement with stakeholders and staff of affected organisations, and for detailed consideration of the technicalities of the recommendations.

The Minister welcomed the suggestion of further areas for improvement, and encouraged the leadership of the SFC and SDS to engage with their staff on the content of the Independent Review and to bring forward ideas from staff that would contribute to better outcomes from the collective investment. 

Partners discussed briefly the schedule and programming of meetings and agreed that this should be kept under review to ensure that there would be scope for discussion of relevant issues in the appropriate fora. 

The Minister indicated that he was content for bilateral updates on the Shared Outcomes Framework to take place less frequently than on the current 8 week cycle provided that he continued to receive positive reports of progress.


  • SOAG Secretariat to review meeting schedules, in consultation with SDS and SFC)
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