Population Taskforce minutes: June 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the Ministerial Population Taskforce on 7 June 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice (Chair) (SAS)
  • Jenny Gilruth, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (JG)
  • Maree Todd, Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport (MT)
  • Emma Roddick, Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees (ERo)
  • Jenni Minto, Minister for Public Health and Women’s Health (JM)
  • Paul McLennan, Minister for Housing (PM)
  • Patrick Harvie, Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel & Tenants’ Rights (PH)
  • Tom Arthur, Minister for Community Wealth & Public Finance (TA)
  • Scott Wightman, Director for External Affairs (SW)
  • Claire McPherson, Deputy Director for Population and Migration (CM)
  • Fiona Brown, Interim Director of Transport Strategy and Analysis (FB) 
  • Esther Roughsedge, Statistician, National Records Scotland (ER)
  • Anna Densham, Deputy Director for Land Reform, Rural and Islands Policy (AD)
  • Cameron Anson, Repopulation and Islands Communities Policy Manager (CA)
  • Sarah Ormerod, Cross-Government Communications Lead for Population (SO)
  • Kate Smith, Deputy Director of School Age Childcare (KS)
  • Donna Easterlow, Unit Head, Children and Families Analysis (DE)
  • Lorraine Lowrie, Senior Island Community Policy Advisor (LL)
  • Kathryn Ray, Principal Research Officer, Strategic Insights Unit (KR)
  • Robin Lee, Policy Adviser, Strategic Insights Unit (RL)
  • Carron Flockhart, Future Skills Strategy Unit Head (CF)
  • Claire Prentice, Head of Brand Scotland Marketing (CP)
  • Jonathan Inglis, Transport Strategy Officer, Transport Scotland (JI)
  • Sam Anson, Deputy Director for Workforce, Infrastructure & Digital (SA)
  • Clare Dolan, Private Secretary to the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice (CD)
  • Daniel Hansen, Deputy Private Secretary to the Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel & Tenants’ Rights (DH)
  • Alice Storrie, Assistant Private Secretary to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (AS)
  • Eleanor Munro, Private Secretary to the Minister for Local Government Empowerment & Planning (EM)
  • Francesca Iwanyckyj, Private Secretary to the Minister for Housing (FI)
  • Haydon Christou, Assistant Private Secretary to the Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees (HC)
  • Nathan Waldie, Assistant Private Secretary to the Minister for Community Wealth & Public Finance (NW)
  • Reece Bunning, Private Secretary to the Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport (RB)
  • Maria Crespo, Population Policy Officer (secretariat)
  • Lauren Smith, Population Policy Officer (secretariat)


  • Mairi McAllan, Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Just Transition
  • Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands
  • Neil Gray, Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work & Energy
  • Natalie Don, Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise

Items and actions

Welcome and introductory remarks

SAS welcomed attendees and thanked them for their attendance, noting that they have been invited to attend the Taskforce meeting because of clear links between their portfolio responsibilities and the remit of the Population Programme. SAS also noted that given a number of ministerial attendees were new to the Taskforce, the papers would be presented by senior officials on this occasion.

Population programme overview

ER presented Scotland’s current population statistics, highlighting the main trends around low fertility rates, an ageing population and an unbalanced spatial distribution across the country. CM then provided an overview of the Population Programme for the benefit of new members to the Taskforce, including key priorities and work currently being undertaken. 

Members noted the importance of looking at land supply in the context of the Addressing Depopulation Action Plan. JG queried how the assumptions behind the population projections could be used in order to plan for teaching roles, which are expected to significantly reduce in coming years. CM advised that work is ongoing linked to the Population Programme within the Strategic Insights Unit focused on education; a paper on this work will be presented at a future meeting of the Taskforce.

'Family Friendly' next steps

CM presented a paper setting out potential next steps for the ‘Family Friendly’ research. Members agreed to proceed with the recommended option, noting that it is important to understand other factors which influence why ideal family size has declined; looking beyond the question of affordability with more of an understanding of attitudes, and suggested that the research may also wish to investigate whether the average ideal family size is reducing in a uniform way across different demographics.

Members requested that officials consider the use of language for this work stream, highlighting that ‘family friendly’ may not be LGBTQI inclusive. TA highlighted the importance of this work stream to the broader wellbeing economy agenda, and offered support to this work stream in advance of the publication of the Community Wealth Building Consultation.

Action: Population officials to consider how to make the language around ‘Family Friendly’ more inclusive.

Addressing Depopulation Action Plan (ADAP)

CA presented an update on the proposed design approach and work packages of the ADAP. Members reflected on the need for nuance around the urban component of the plan and the role of place-based policies and community wealth in establishing sustainable, resilient communities, and to consider factors such as land supply, transport, childcare, second home ownership,  etc; bringing strategic coherence to the range of Scottish Government policies already in place.

Taskforce members made reference to different areas within the central belt that are impacted by industrial change, such as former mining villages. CA noted that officials are aligning with the James Hutton Institute’s strategic research programme looking at the impacts of loss of industry.
Members recommended that access to healthcare should be included within the ADAP, and also highlighted the links between the infrastructure and place-based elements with the National Planning Framework 4 and Regional Economic Partnerships. Members endorsed the proposed timescales and work packages.

Action: Officials to engage with Health, Planning and Economy colleagues in relation to further development of the ADAP.

Any other business (AOB)

No items were raised under AOB. SAS thanked members for their attendance and closed the meeting. 

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