Public services must collaborate to address demographic change, says Finance Committee


Radical reform to ensure public services collaborate effectively is needed if Scotland is to cope with its ageing population, according to a report published today by the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee.

The report into demographic change and an ageing population aims to contribute to the on-going debate on how Scotland will reform and deliver its public services in an ageing society.

While the Committee recognises the work already being done by the Scottish Government and main public services in responding to the impact of demographic change and an ageing population, it believes deep-rooted cultural and structural change is required to make any real progress.

Finance Committee Convener Kenneth Gibson MSP said:

“Both our committee and its predecessor have consistently called for more effective collaborative working across public services. Resources must be pooled and good practice shared if we are to address demographic change and an ageing population.

“While myriad strategies and initiatives already exist, there is no clear evidence they are effective. We heard from witnesses that only improved partnership working can do that."

The report on demographic change will be debated in Parliament at the beginning of March.


The Finance Committee report highlighted further issues including:

  • More performance based and target based approaches as a means of measuring the effectiveness of government strategies and policy initiatives are required.
  • These measurements should provide an increasing evidence base for accelerating the cultural and structural change needed to address the challenges of demographic change and an ageing society.

Population projections and trends (p4-8)

  • The Committee invites the Scottish Government to provide details of the work which it is currently carrying out in forecasting the budgetary implications of demographic change. (para 24)

Health Inequalities (p7- 13)

  • The Committee notes that not only does Scotland have one of the lowest life expectancies in Western Europe but, according to the Scottish Government, that “the gap between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy has, for me, actually been widening.” The Committee asks, what, if any, comparative research the Scottish Government has commissioned to explain the reasons for this and whether it has any plans to commission any further research. (para 51).

Planning (p15--21)

  • The Committee invites the views of the Scottish Government on the projected funding gap identified above (page 15) including what plans it has in place to address future funding gaps arising from the impact of demographic change across the public services. (para 60)
  • The Committee welcomes the approach adopted by City of Edinburgh Council. However, it is concerned that other local authorities and NHS boards appear not to have undertaken similar long term planning. The Committee would therefore welcome the view of the Scottish Government on the need for public bodies to introduce long term financial planning on a similar basis to the City of Edinburgh Council and whether it has any plans to disseminate good practice in this area. (para 74)

Health and Social Care (p21-31)

  • The Committee invites the Scottish Government to explain why performance is worsening in relations to the National Indicator, “Reduce emergency admissions to hospital. “ (para 113)
  • The Committee invites the Scottish Government to respond to the findings of Audit Scotland that there is little meaningful evidence of shifts in resources to support preventative spending, very few examples of good joint planning and a slowness to develop strategic commissioning. (para 126)

Housing (p31-43)

  • The Committee notes that the Scottish Government’s Housing strategy estimates that the overall number of pensioner households requiring adaptations will rise from 66,300 in 2008 to over 106,000 in 2033 and asks whether this projected increase has been costed and what impact it has had on the Scottish Government’s spending plans. (para 178)

Pensions and labour force (p43-54)

  • The Committee asks the Scottish Government to set out how the impact of an ageing society will inform the design of the new Scottish pension schemes. (para 240)
  • The Committee asks whether the Scottish Government has undertaken any economic modelling to identify the potential impact on the Scottish budget arising from the impact of increasing life expectancy on the cost of pension provision including local government. (para 242)


The remit of the inquiry was – “To identify the impacts which demographic change and an ageing population will have primarily on the public finances in respect of the provision of health and social care, housing, and pensions and the labour force, and the planning being undertaken by the Scottish Government and key public bodies to mitigate such impacts.”

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