Supporting and enabling sustainable communities: action plan to address depopulation

This Action Plan newly establishes a strategic policy position for Scottish Government around addressing depopulation and maps a range of new and existing supportive activity being undertaken across Scottish Government and by local and regional delivery partners.

02 Executive summary

This Addressing Depopulation Action Plan, the development of which has been overseen by the Scottish Government’s Ministerial Population Taskforce, sets out the Scottish Government’s strategic approach to addressing the challenges of population attraction and retention within communities facing population decline.

In line with the ambitions of the Verity House Agreement between national and local government, published in June 2023, this Plan emphasises and endorses the importance of local leadership and seeks to exemplify the maxim “local by default, national by agreement”. We know that a place- based approach to applying national, regional, and local policies will be essential to sustainably and effectively address depopulation. This Action Plan therefore aims to provide the starting point, and the nationally agreed commitment, on how best to deliver on local needs and ambition. Throughout the document, actions are listed alongside each key policy area. Actions are also included in full at Annex A.

This Action Plan is structured around three key chapters. Firstly, we identify a spectrum of factors relevant to depopulation at the community level, setting out our existing evidence base with regards to depopulation in Scotland, why it is important to address it, and our approach to doing so. A more detailed account of the latest demographic projections for Scotland is set out in chapter three.

Secondly, we showcase the current and future role of regional and local actors in addressing depopulation. This includes local authorities, enterprise agencies, regional groups, the third sector, and community groups. It sets out the range of work already ongoing by our partners in support of this agenda, as well as any planned future interventions that will be delivered collaboratively to support communities, economies, and public services to flourish. This includes a range of targeted, place-based funded interventions which will be delivered in areas acutely affected by population decline, responding to challenges identified by local leadership.

The role that the Scottish Government will play at a national level in supporting communities’ local objectives is then set out in the final chapter. This is achieved through the delivery of a wide range of policies which directly and indirectly support the addressing of depopulation, for example housing, healthcare and connectivity. This section also reflects a range of learning from a range of case studies, policy pilots and research which were undertaken to inform the development of this Action Plan.

The Scottish Government is clear that this Action Plan represents the first phase of how we establish and deliver a programme of work to strategically address this challenge, having identified and mapped the initial actions that we and partners will take. Through the establishment of an Addressing Depopulation Delivery Group, which brings together the Scottish Government, our independent Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population, and a range of relevant regional and local actors, a second phase will aim to evaluate the delivery of the actions set out within this plan, and further establish future work to be overseen by the Ministerial Population Taskforce. This will enable the Scottish Government and partners to harness learning and outcomes which can be implemented more widely across Scotland, while still ensuring a place-based approach is at the core of how we deliver interventions to support our communities.



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