Population Taskforce minutes: January 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the Population Taskforce, held on 23 January 2020.

Attendees and apologies


  • Fiona Hyslop (FH), Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs (Chair)
  • Aileen Campbell (AC), Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government
  • Jeane Freeman (JF), Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport
  • Ben Macpherson (BM), Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development
  • Mairi Gougeon (MG), Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment
  • Richard Lochhead (RL), Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science 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
  • Scott Wightman (SW), Director of External Affairs
  • Dominic Munro (DM), Director of Fair Work, Employability and Skills
  • Richard Foggo (RF), Director of Population Health
  • Kenneth Fowler (KF), Head of Communications
  • Rachel Sunderland (RS), Deputy Director, Population and Migration
  • Liam Kearney (LK), Population Programme Team Leader (secretariat)
  • Lewis Holden (LH), Deputy Population Programme Manager (secretariat)
  • Tom Holm (TH), Population Policy Officer (secretariat)


  • Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills


Items and actions

1.  Welcome and introductory remarks

FH welcomed everyone to the meeting.

2.  Minutes from the last meeting (MPTF20(01)02) and action log (MPTF20(01)03)

The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed.  LK provided an update on the action log, noting that all actions from the previous meeting had been completed.

3.  Recent policy developments

FH invited members to provide verbal updates on developments within their portfolios likely to have an impact on Scotland’s population.  The main discussion points were:

  • Higher education – decision to be taken on fee status of students from the EU/EEA with a possible announcement in Spring.
  • Planning – the Housing to 2040 consultation was underway, with a route map to achieving the plan’s priorities to be published by the summer.  Members discussed the potential for the Infrastructure Commission and its report to offer opportunities to support localised initiatives. It was agreed that officials should gather information on what is already working locally in different areas to address population challenges. Responsibility for towns policy was shifting to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity.
  • Health services – positive developments are underway ensuring nurses are able to train locally in the regions in which they are needed and consideration is turning to whether doctors can study in the same way.  Members discussed the need to understand the implications of the population shifts the Task Force is seeking to achieve for the health and social care services.  FH suggested this area as a potential future agenda item. 

Action: Officials to gather information on successful local initiatives to address population challenges.

Action: Officials to work with the Analytical Group and health policy colleagues to examine potential implications of population change for health and social care services.

4.  National Performance Framework Population Indicator (MPTF20(01)04)

The group discussed the proposed National Performace Framework (NPF) population indicator, and the development of  a more detailed population dashboard monitoring a basket of measures, including age structure, active dependency ratio, migration and population change within council areas.  The main discussion points were:

  • The proposed indicator was to measure population change by council area.  There was discussion around whether a more granular level of indicator was needed to ensure localised population change and distribution was captured.
  • It was agreed that it was important to adopt an indicator which matched the overall aim of the population programme and reflected the high-level nature of the Scottish Government’s reporting via the NPF.
  • It was agreed that officials would produce a set of options for the NPF indicator – population change by council, settlement, ward, or datazone – setting out the advantages and disadvantages of each option, to be shared with the Task Force for decision via correspondence.

Action: Officials to work with NRS to produce options for the NPF indicator, for decision via correspondence. 

5. Summary paper on report from Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population on migration from the rest of the UK (MPTF20(01)05)

The group noted the paper, which provided a summary of the draft third report by the Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population, focused on migration to Scotland from the rest of the UK. 

Members agreed that officials should work with COSLA to bring local authorities together to share good practice on local initiatives to address population challenges.

Action: Officials to work with COSLA to arrange meeting with local authorities.

6. Policy proposals seeking to encourage migration from the rest of the UK - Talent Attraction Policy Proposal (MPTF20(01)06)

IM presented the paper, setting out the potential elements of a talent attraction and retention service and various options for delivery.  The main discussion points were:

  • Members agreed that there was a need to develop a clearer focus on retention as well as attraction.  For example, more work could be done to encourage rUK and international students to stay in Scotland post-graduation.
  • Members noted that work to identify local skills needs should draw on bottom-up information from local employers and should be data-led and not anecdotal, recognising it is not only high-skilled workers that are required in many areas.
  • Members discussed the importance of focusing not just on who is needed, but also on where in Scotland those people are needed, as well as considering the wider messaging around quality of life for example in rural areas.
  • Members agreed that the Talent Attraction and Retention Plan (TARP) Working Group should proceed to undertake more detailed design work on the talent attraction and retention service, taking into account the feedback from the Task Force.

Action: TARP Working Group to develop more detailed proposals for service.

7. Communications and marketing (MPTF20(01)07)

KF presented the paper, mapping relevant marketing campaigns underway across the Scottish Government and setting out a proposed communications strategy for the population programme. The main discussion points were:

  • It was agreed that the context and history to Scotland’s population needed to be communicated so that the public understood the reasons behind policy choices.
  • Members recognised that different narratives were needed for different audiences.  KF advised that work was underway to understand what messaging would be most effective in convincing people to relocate to Scotland.
  • Members underlined that talent attraction messages can be more powerful coming from peers, noting the GP recruitment campaign in Orkney as an example.
  • It was agreed that officials would continue to develop the paper, taking into account the feedback raised by members, and share the revised version with the Task Force via correspondence. 

FH suggested that communications should be a standing agenda item going forward.

Action: Case study on Orkney GP recruitment campaign to be shared with the Task Force.

Action: Officials to develop revised paper and share via correspondence. 

8. Next Steps – Cabinet paper and medium term timeline (MPTF20(01)08)

The group noted the timeline provided on future work which will have an impact on population, recognising that further mapping work around engagement was needed to allow for portfolios to be mobilised

9. AOB

There was no other business raised.

Date of next meeting:

14:00-15:00, Wednesday 29th April 2020, Room TG20/21, Scottish Parliament   

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