Population Taskforce minutes: October 2019

Minutes from the meeting of the Population Taskforce, held on 2 October 2019.

Attendees and apologies


  • Ben Macpherson (BM), Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development (Chair)
  • Jamie Hepburn (JH), Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills
  • Richard Lochhead (RL), Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science
  • Ivan McKee (IM), Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation
  • Kevin Stewart (KS), Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning
  • Paul Wheelhouse (PW), Minister for Energy, Connectivity And The Islands
  • Katy Bowman (KB), Special Adviser
  • Richard Foggo (RF), Director of Population Health
  • Dominic Munro (DM), Director for Fair Work, Employability and Skills
  • Rachel Sunderland (RS), Deputy Director, Population and Migration
  • Scott Wightman (SW), Director for External Affairs
  • Liam Kearney (LK), Population Programme Team Leader (secretariat)        


  • Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs
  • Jeane Freeman, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport
  • Mairi Gougeon, Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

BM welcomed everyone to the meeting, explaining he would be chairing the meeting in place of Ms Hyslop who had given apologies.

Notes of previous meeting (MPTF19(02)02) and action log (MPTF19(02)03)

The notes of the previous meeting were agreed. LK went through the action log, all actions had been completed from the previous meeting.

IM asked for population numbers data to be provided broken down by age brackets. 


  • NRS to provide data on Scotland’s population numbers, broken down by age bracket

Population aim and indicator (MPTF19(02)04)

BM presented the paper to the taskforce, asking members to agree the aim of the population programme and discuss potential measurements for the population indicator of the National Performance Framework (NPF).  The main discussion points were:

  • population changes are not just happening at a council area level, but also within council areas, and there needs to be understanding as to why that is
  • economic impact was agreed to be an important aspect of any potential indicator, but wellbeing needed to be considered too as quality of life is a key aspect of NPF
  • it was agreed that focussing on increasing the number of the economically active population was a priority, but recognising the impact this could have on other Government’s priorities, such as the global climate emergency

It was agreed that analytical colleagues would carry out some modelling work on different scenarios of what Scotland’s population could look like in the future to help determine what potential NPF indicator, or basket of indicators, could be. The meeting agreed to return to a discussion on a population indicator and to ensure that the modelling work informed the overall population aim. 

The members agreed the population aim as set out in the paper.


  • officials to work with NRS to develop a number of scenarios around economically active population and present a suite of indicators at next meeting

Scotland’s population – a communications approach (MPTF19(02)05)

Members discussed the paper, particularly focussing on the draft narrative.  The main discussion points were:

  • it was agreed it was important that any communications around Scotland’s population needed to set the scene for the public, including clearly setting out Scotland’s population history and current situation to provide the public with context. The emphasis should be positive with a strong focus on quality of life
  • different campaigns would be required depending on who was being targeted. From campaigns to employers, to attracting people from the rest of the UK and overseas to move to Scotland, to those already living here and getting them to stay or redistribute
  • there was potential to learn from the approach adopted by other countries in their messaging and approach

It was agreed that the Head of Communications should be invited to the next meeting to discuss specific messaging.


  • Head of Scottish Government Communications to be invited to next Task Force meeting.

Programme for Government priorities and commitments (MPTF19(02)06)

The members discussed the paper which set out a number of Programme for Government (PfG) commitments across each portfolio which will help meet the population programme aim. The main discussion points were:

  • members discussed the scope for the taskforce to take an incremental or a radical approach to influencing population. It was agreed that a Cabinet level discussion would be required and consideration should be given to the timing and context for such a discussion
  • members suggested papers for future meetings for discussion including on the Islands Plan, skills and capital investment in health, however, it was agreed the secretariat needed to consider how these papers were developed and tabled to ensure that a focus on population and driving change


  • secretariat to consider handling for future meetings and present options to task force chair


There was no other business raised.

Date of next meeting –  early 2020 (exact date TBC).        

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