Population Taskforce minutes: March 2024

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 20 March 2024.

Attendees and apologies

  • Emma Roddick, Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees (Chair) (ER)
  • Jim Fairlie, Minister for Transport and Agriculture (JF)
  • Maree Todd, Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport (MT)
  • Natalie Don, Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise (ND)
  • Paul McLennan, Minister for Housing (PM)
  • Scott Wightman, Director for External Affairs (SW)
  • Christopher Roberts, ELC FMQ/Briefing Manager, Directorate for Children and Families (CR)
  • Ryan Scott, Head of Statistical Engagement and Promotion, NRS (RS)
  • Esther Roughsedge, Head of Statistical Services, NRS (ERs)
  • Fiona Brown, Interim Director of Transport Strategy and Analysis (FB)
  • Anna Densham, Deputy Director for Land Reform, Rural and Islands Policy (AD)
  • Kate Anderson, Rural Economy Team Leader (KA)
  • Lisa Bullen, Planning Team Leader, Directorate for Local Government and Housing (LB)
  • Donald Inch, Policy Manager, Land Reform, Rural and Island Policy (DI)
  • Colin Carroll, Citizens’ Right Team Leader (CC)
  • Sean Murchie, Economic Adviser, Digital and Sectoral Economies (SM)
  • Eleanor Munro, Private Secretary to the Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees (EM)
  • Caitlin Valentine, Private Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture and Connectivity (CV)
  • Chipo Makiyi, Private Secretary to the Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise (CM)
  • Mike Andrews, Population Team Leader (secretariat)
  • Lauren Smith, Population and Migration Senior Policy Officer (secretariat)
  • Kay Brenchley, Population Policy Officer (secretariat)
  • Priyanka Pant, Population Programme Support Officer (secretariat)


  • Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands
  • Richard Lochhead, Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade
  • Joe Fitzpatrick, Minister for Local Government Empowerment and Planning
  • Jenni Minto, Minister for Public Health and Women’s Health
  • Jenny Gilruth, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills
  • Patrick Harvie, Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights

Items and actions

Welcome and introductory remarks

ER welcomed attendees and thanked them for their attendance. ER provided an update on the publication of the Addressing Depopulation Action Plan (ADAP) in February 2024, and future joint work with local authorities and community groups during the implementation phase. The members noted the updates and requested a future update to be brought forward about the communications approach to the Action Plan and to the Scottish Government’s wider work in rural Scotland.

Talent Attraction and Migration Service (Scotland’s Migration Service)

ER noted that TAMS (Talent Attraction and Migration Service) will be known as  Scotland’s Migration Service (SMS) to offer enhanced clarity regarding the scope and services provided, and provided an update on SMS launch plans and how the Service will support employers and investors to navigate UK immigration system. It was noted that the partial launch will take place on 27 March before a more comprehensive launch later in the year. 
Members noted the positive impact of migrant workers, especially within the health and social care sector, and opportunities for future engagement with the Scottish Refugee Council and the New Scots programme with regards to the positive work they are doing. The importance of including information on childcare within SMS was also highlighted, as this can be a crucial factor in decision making for people when deciding whether to move somewhere new.

Housing policy and population

PM presented a paper summarising work to support the planning and delivery of housing policy in support of population objectives, highlighting that Housing is a key enabler for retention of young people in communities and attracting local business, as well as the fundamental linkages between the Rural and Islands Housing Action Plan and the Addressing Depopulation Action Plan. Members also discussed key challenges in defining key worker status in relation to tied housing, which may differ in areas as per the local needs and priorities. This includes the quality of migrant worker accommodation, identified as a current issue within certain sectors, with an opportunity to ensure that everyone in Scotland, regardless of how long they are here for, is provided with safe and suitable accommodation.

Members also highlighted links between this paper and a connectivity paper that will be brought forward at a future Taskforce meeting. The paper was approved by the Taskforce.

National Records of Scotland statistics: updates and forthcoming releases

ERs presented an update on 2022 Census data and forthcoming population and migration statistical publications, with NRS intending to publish updated population projections for Scotland looking at projected population change over the next 25 years, followed next year by projections at a council and health board level.

Members requested that Census data on education be prioritised to get clearer information for key work around childcare. NRS agreed to consider that feedback in line with wider stakeholder engagement about publication timelines. Members noted the updates of the paper.

Rural Delivery Plan

AD presented an update summarising the purpose and vision of the Rural Delivery Plan and how development will be taken forward along with engagement with key stakeholders – both externally and with a range of teams across Scottish Government. A Rural Lens Toolkit user test pilot will focus on three areas – transport, health and social care, and skills planning. It was highlighted that the Population Programme Board has agreed to provide official-level oversight and strategic guidance in the development of the Plan and the Rural Lens Toolkit.

Members noted that updates on the development of Plan will be provided to future Taskforce meetings but that ministerial decisions will be taken at the Rural Delivery Plan Ministerial Working Group.

Any other business

No items were raised under any other business. The minutes of the last Taskforce meeting were approved by the members for publication. ER thanked members for their attendance, noted the next Taskforce meeting will be on 26 June and closed the meeting. 

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