Population Taskforce minutes: October 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the taskforce on 5 October 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Emma Roddick, Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees (Chair) (ER)
  • Robert Lochhead, Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade (RL)

  • Jenni Minto, Minister for Public Health and Women’s Health (JM)

  • Fiona Hyslop, Minister for Transport (FH)

  • Paul McLennan, Minister for Housing (PM)

  • Tom Arthur, Minister for Community Wealth & Public Finance (TA)

  • Scott Wightman, Director for External Affairs (SW)

  • Claire McPherson, Deputy Director for Population and Migration (CMcP)

  • Ellen Leaver, Deputy Director, Local Government and Analytical Services Division (EL)

  • Breda Cullen, Principal Research Officer, Strategic Insights Unit (BC)

  • Kathryn Ray, Principal Research Officer, Strategic Insights Unit (KR)

  • Carron Flockhart, Future Skills Strategy Unit Head (CF)

  • Jonathan Inglis, Transport Strategy Officer, Transport Scotland (JI)

  • Eleanor Munro, Private Secretary to the Minister for Local Government Empowerment & Planning (EM)

  • Jo Matthews, Private Secretary to the Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees (JM)

  • Chipo Makiyi, Private Secretary - Minister for Children and Young People (CM)

  • Emily Foster, Private Secretary/Deputy Private Secretary for Minister for Housing (EF)

  • Louise Dowles, Private Secretary for Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care (LD)

  • Mike Andrews, Population Team Leader (secretariat) (MA)

  • Lauren Smith, Population Policy Officer (secretariat) (LS)

  • Maria Crespo, Population Policy Officer (secretariat) (MC)


  • Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice

  • 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

  • Jenny Gilruth, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills

  • Maree Todd, Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport

  • Patrick Harvie, Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel & Tenants’ Rights

  • Joe Fitzpatrick, Minister for Local Government Empowerment & Planning

Items and actions

Welcome and introductory remarks

ER welcomed attendees and thanked them for their attendance, noting that she was chairing on behalf of the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice. She noted the minutes of the previous meeting held in June 2023. Members approved the minutes. She also reflected on the first tranche of Census 2022 statistics released in mid-September 2023, noting headlines around an ageing population, a reduced number of under-16s, population growth being driven by migration, and population decline occurring in some parts of the West and South West of Scotland.

Addressing Depopulation Action Plan (ADAP) update 

ER updated Taskforce on the development of the ADAP, noting the wide range of feedback received about areas being scoped for inclusion in the final Action Plan. ER noted that Taskforce members will be invited to comment on a draft in due course, and that a steer had been given to officials on the direction of drafting, to ensure it best meets the needs of affected communities in the Highlands and Islands and elsewhere.

Members noted the importance of addressing depopulation through delivery of measures focused on economic growth, and the opportunity to look at depopulation from a positive perspective, focusing on the opportunities that successfully addressing this issue could bring.  The need to include housing, infrastructure and connectivity as an enabler of population attraction and retention was reiterated by members. Members agreed with wider calls on, where possible, Scottish Government policy documentation not using the word ‘remote’, following extensive stakeholder feedback on this.

Members approved next steps.

Action: Officials to share a draft ADAP to Taskforce for review prior to planned publication.

Strategic insights unit. labour market: patterns and drivers of inactivity

RL introduced a paper summarising scenario-based projections of future labour market participation in Scotland over the next 20 years. Mr Lochhead then passed to BC to present the data in detail. BC advised that Population Programme Board members had recommended some potential areas for policy testing, including around childcare and the Scottish Child Payment.

Members recommended looking into population change driven by people in their 50s and 60s that have to move to care for elderly relatives. It was highlighted that successful delivery of the National Care Service could support wider population ambitions by minimising the need for members of the public to feel forced into moving to support family members’ care needs.

Action: Officials to incorporate, into the policy testing phase, assumptions around the implications of social care measures, and how these will interact with wider demographic and spatial population distribution trends.

Rapid localised population growth

CMcP presented the paper outlining the findings of the research recently undertaken within the Population Team with regards to a phenomenon entitled ‘rapid localised population growth’. She noted how the understanding of the drivers of rapid growth can inform sought outcomes in areas of population decline. 

Taskforce members enquired, within the context of growing local populations, about the role of local authorities in the planning and delivery of services. CMcP advised a high level of engagement from COSLA and local authorities in this space, including COSLA representation on the Population Programme Board and regular engagement between SG and affected local authorities. Members reflected on COSLA’s national role, and its collective responsibility for all 32 local authorities and their distinct and varied needs.  Members also highlighted the links between population outcomes (both in growing and depopulating areas) and the National Planning Framework 4 as a key enabler for success. 

Members were content with next steps proposed. 

Any other business (AOB)

No items were raised under AOB. ER thanked members for their attendance and closed the meeting, advising that Private Office would advise dates and times for future meetings. 

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