Fiscal sustainability: Demographic change and ageing population



At its meeting on 28 September 2011 the Committee agreed to conduct a series of round table discussions within the overarching theme of fiscal sustainability. One of these sessions was on demographic change (Official Report: Finance Committee, 11 January 2012 (460KB pdf).

A summary of evidence arising from the sessions has been published (Summary of evidence (340KB pdf) as has a background briefing from the Committee's adviser, Professor David Bell (Background briefing (430KB pdf)

As well as the round table discussion, the importance of this issue has been highlighted in other evidence considered by the Committee. For example, the Office for Budget Responsibility in its fiscal sustainability paper of 2011 stated ‘demographic change is a key source of long-term pressure on the public finances’. Similarly, a report by the International Monetary Fund (2009) (320KB pdf) on the financial crisis stated ‘In spite of the large fiscal cost of the crisis, the major threat to long-term fiscal solvency is still represented, at least in advanced countries, by unfavourable demographic trends.’

The Committee has agreed to take forward an inquiry on this issue with the remit:

‘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.'

The Committee has agreed the following timetable and witnesses for its oral evidence sessions

Wednesday 19 September: Oral evidence session 1

‘Scene setting’ session involving—

  • Audit Scotland
  • Alan Sinclair
  • Improvement Service
  • ESRC Centre for Population Change

Wednesday 19 September: Oral evidence session 2

Health and social care session involving—

  • National Osteoporosis Society
  • British Diatetic Association
  • Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology
  • NHS Education for Scotland
  • Royal Society of Edinburgh
  • Action of Hearing Loss Scotland and RNIB Scotland

Official Report for 19 September 2012

Wednesday 21 November: Oral evidence session 3Joint health and social care and housing session involving—

  • Association of Directors of Social Work
  • Age Scotland
  • Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
  • Society of Local Authority Chief Executives
  • Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland
  • Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland
  • Carers Scotland

Official Report for 21 November 2012

Wednesday 28 November: Oral evidence session 4

Joint health and social care and housing session involving—

  • City of Edinburgh Council
  • West Dunbartonshire Council
  • NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
  • NHS Ayrshire and Arran
  • Bield, Hanover (Scotland) and Trust

Official Report for 28 November 2012

Wednesday 12 December: Oral evidence session 5

Pensions and labour force session involving—

  • Pensions Institute
  • STUC
  • Audit Scotland
  • Lothian Pension Fund
  • Professor David Bell, University of Stirling

Official Report for 12 December 2012

Wednesday 9 January: Oral evidence session 6

‘Wrap’ up session with Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth

Official Report for 9 January 2013


To assist the Committee, and to focus attention on particular core issues, it has issued a call for written evidence seeking responses to some, or all, of the questions below. It has contacted a number of organisations direct inviting written responses. The deadline for responses has now closed.


1. What is your view of the effects of demographic change and an ageing population on the sustainability of funding for (a) health and social care and (b) housing services and (c) public pensions and the labour force? What public services will individuals increasingly call on and in what way?

2. Further, what planning is being done, or should be done, to address this?

3. What weight should be given during the annual budget process to demographic trends and projections?

4. What data is collected (and what should be collected) with respect to (a) health and social care and (b) housing services and (c) public pensions and the labour force, and what use is made of this (or should be made) to forecast what funding will be needed?

Health and social care

5. To what extent are preventative policies such as the Change Fund key to addressing demographic pressures on the provision of health and social care?

6. To what extent are the pressures on health and social care a consequence of an ageing population as opposed to other health challenges such as obesity?


7. What is likely to be the main pressures on both the public and private housing stock arising from the demographic change and what action should government and other public bodies be taking now to address this?

8. What adaptations will be required to the existing housing stock to provide long-term care and to what extent should the design of new builds take into account the possibility that the home may be used for care purposes in the future?  

Pensions and labour force

9. What is the likely impact on the public finances within Scotland of demographic change on public sector pension schemes and what action is required by the Scottish Government and other public bodies to address this?

10. What should be the balance within public policy of support for older people who wish to remain in employment versus creating opportunities for youth employment?  

Before making a submission, please read the Parliament’s policy on treatment of written evidence by subject and mandatory committees. Written submissions should normally be limited to around 4 sides of A4. Longer submissions should be accompanied by a short summary of the main points. Submissions should be set out in numbered paragraphs. Where the submission refers to existing published material, it is preferable to provide hyperlinks or full citations (rather than extensive extracts). The Committee welcomes written evidence in English, Gaelic or any other language.

If possible, written submissions should be submitted electronically (preferably in Microsoft Word) by e-mail to A confirmatory hard copy is not required. Any hard copy submissions should be sent to: Fergus Cochrane, Finance Committee, The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, EH99 1SP.

Read the submissions received

Supplementary written evidence from COSLA (477KB pdf)


The Committee has now published its report.

2nd Report 2013: Demographic change and an ageing population


A debate on the Committee's report was held in the Chamber on 5 March 2013.

Offical Report 5 March 2013 (751KB pdf)


For further details, please contact: Fergus Cochrane, 0131 348 5205,