National Suicide Prevention Advisory Group minutes: May 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 30 May 2023

Attendees and apologies


  • Rose Fitzpatrick CBE QPM, Chair
  • Cath Denholm, Chief Operating Officer, Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Dr Linda Findlay, Chair, Royal College of Psychiatrists Scotland
  • Louise Hunter, Chief Executive, Who Cares? Scotland
  • Douglas Hutchison, President, Association of Directors of Education Scotland
  • Peter Kelly, Chief Executive, Poverty Alliance
  • Sheriff David Mackie, Board Member, Scottish Association Care and Rehabilitation of Offenders (SACRO)
  • Catherine McWilliam, National Director, Institute of Directors Scotland
  • Brendan Rooney, Chief Executive, Healthy n Happy Community Development Trust
  • Dr Andrea Williamson, Professor of General Practice and Inclusion Health, University of Glasgow

In Attendance

  • Professor Rory O’Connor, Co-Chair of Scotland’s Suicide Prevention Academic Advisory Group (AAG)
  • Professor Steve Platt, Co-Chair of Scotland’s Suicide Prevention Academic Advisory Group (AAG)
  • Haylis Smith, Scotland’s National Delivery Lead for Suicide Prevention
  • Morag Williamson, Scottish Government
  • Craig Wilson, Scottish Government (Secretariat)

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed members to the first meeting of the National Suicide Prevention Advisory Group (NSPAG) (“the group”) and thanked each for agreeing with thoughtfulness and commitment to be part of the group. It was highlighted that all members shared a passion for suicide prevention, and there were clear connections to preventing suicide in Scotland through the range of sectoral policy knowledge, practice expertise and experience that each member brought to the group.

The Chair remarked that it was clear that each member would have been touched by suicide in some way.  She reassured members that there was no expectation that any individual member would share their personal experience explicitly, but intended that the group should maintain a safe space for anyone who chose to do so. 

The Chair invited members to introduce themselves, highlighting the diverse range of experience that made up the group. This included expertise from areas including human rights, equality and diversity, children and young people, care experience, education, mental health, tackling poverty, criminal justice, community development, primary care and public health.


No apologies had been received.

Suicide In Scotland

The co-Chairs of Scotland’s Suicide Prevention Academic Advisory Group (AAG), Prof O’Connor and Prof Platt, had circulated in advance and then spoke to presentations outlining Scottish and international data, trends and research into suicide and suicide prevention in Scotland. This was followed by a wide-ranging discussion in which members asked questions and made observations about the research and data, including (among others) points about the importance of effective evaluation of suicide prevention action in Scotland, overlaps between suicide deaths and – for example – deaths arising from substance abuse, and the importance of informed decision-making in the criminal justice system.

Members expressed their thanks to Profs O’Connor and Platt and looked forward to working with them.

Creating Hope Together – Scotland’s Suicide Prevention Strategy and Action Plan

Morag Williamson, Head of Distress Interventions and Suicide Prevention, Scottish Government, and Haylis Smith, National Delivery Lead for Suicide Prevention, gave an overview of Creating Hope Together, Scotland’s Suicide Prevention Strategy and its initial three-year action plan, both launched in September 2022. 

It was highlighted that the strategy and action plan were jointly owned by Scottish Government and COSLA, through the Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport and the COSLA Spokesperson for Health and Social Care. It was noted that the delivery and governance arrangements for year one of the strategy and action plan would be launched on 28 June 2023, currently planned to be an event in the Borders which all members would be most welcome to attend. The secretariat undertook to share further details with the group when they became available. Action 1.1

The group heard about the strategy’s vision, outcomes and priority areas, as well as arrangements for governance and delivery. It was reported that Strategic Outcome Lead organisations had been appointed for each of the four strategic outcomes and that an outcomes framework – which would be the basis of reporting on delivery – was almost complete. The secretariat undertook to share the outcomes framework with the group when it was published. Action 1.2

The group had the opportunity to ask any questions about the strategy. Members observed that there was a need to identify early, medium and longer term priorities among the many actions set out in the action plan.  It was noted that there was an appetite to meet and engage with Scotland’s Suicide Prevention Lived Experience Panel (LEP) and Youth Advisory Group (YAG). Ms Williamson undertook to consider options to facilitate this and to update members with proposals. Action 1.3 

Following a broad discussion about the strategy, Ms Williamson and Ms Smith noted that they would be pleased to speak with members individually about any additional questions they may have, and invited members to contact them as necessary. Action 1.4

NSPAG Draft Terms of Reference and Draft Working Together Principles

Draft Terms of Reference and separate draft Working Together Principles had been circulated with the papers for the meeting. Members reviewed the group’s draft Terms of Reference. The Chair highlighted the following key points:

  • Membership:  appointment of a Vice Chair would take place once members had had the opportunity to get to know each other through the first meetings of the group.
  • Overall Remit: members would contribute to collective leadership on suicide prevention in Scotland, across their wider policy and practice areas and networks.
  • Responsibilities: in its work with the LEP, YAG and AAG, the group committed to giving equal weight to evidence by experience, practice insights and academic research.
  • Working Arrangements: there would be three business meetings of the group and one engagement session a year. 

Members reviewed the group’s draft Working Together Principles.  The Chair highlighted the following key points: 

  • Membership would involve a commitment of usually three/up to four years, although this may be reduced depending on personal circumstances and members should feel free to raise this at any time with the Chair should their circumstances change.
  • Members were appointed for their individual personal and professional skills and experience; it would not therefore be appropriate for deputies to attend group meetings on their behalf.
  • Members would commit to attending meetings in person (occasionally this might involve virtual online attendance in exceptional circumstances).
  • Absence from two consecutive meetings would mean that a member had not attended in some eight months and that member may therefore, at the discretion of the Chair, be asked to stand down.
  • Members were asked to agree not to speak specifically on behalf of the NSPAG other than to express the agreed collective view of the group.
  • The role and remit of the group in providing independent impartial advice was such that it would be important to maintain independence from the arrangements for delivering the strategy and action plan. 

Members welcomed and expressed general support for both draft documents and the Chair undertook to finalise these by email with members, asking for any further feedback direct to her by email by 7 June 2023 Action 1.5

It was agreed that the group’s next meetings would take place as follows: 

  • 13 September 2023, 10am-1pm at St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh (strategy and action plan update)
  • 24 January 2024, 2pm-5pm in Glasgow (review of year 2 delivery plan)
  • 29 May 2024, 10am-1pm in Edinburgh (focus on NSPAG draft Annual Report 2024, due June 2024). The secretariat undertook to send diary invites to the group. Action 1.6 

The group were asked to email the secretariat with suggestions/offers for venues for future meetings. Action 1.7


The Chair thanked members for the enthusiasm and thoughtfulness with which they had each agreed to join the NSPAG, and for the quality of their contributions to the group’s first meeting.  She looked forward to working with the group and reminded members that she was available via email and telephone for any issues which might arise between meetings. 

The next meeting of the group would take place between 10am and 1pm on 13 September 2023 at St Andrew’s House, Edinburgh. A meeting request with further details would follow shortly.

Back to top