Population Decline (Inverclyde)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 5 September 2019.

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Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

1. To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with Inverclyde Council to halt population decline in the area. (S5O-03489)

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Inverclyde is one of 14 local authorities that experienced depopulation last year. In February, my colleague Ben Macpherson met leaders of a number of local authorities, including Inverclyde Council, to discuss population decline. A further meeting with me has been agreed for 27 September.

We need to grow our population to ensure that we have sustainable, vibrant communities and to drive improvements in inclusive growth. The Government has therefore established a cross-portfolio ministerial population task force, which I chair, to identity work that is being taken forward across Government to address the challenge of population shifts and changes, identify new actions and intensify existing actions.

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

The cabinet secretary will be aware that population decline is one of the most important challenges—if not the most important challenge—that Inverclyde faces in the foreseeable future. Does the cabinet secretary agree that in addition to a consistent and improved marketing strategy to promote Inverclyde, the siting of public agencies can play a part in overturning population decline, and would she consider the siting of public agencies in my constituency?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Inverclyde is facing a significant population change. Its depopulation figure was the highest of all the 14 local authority areas—a reduction of 0.8 per cent. There is no single solution to the issue, but the new population task force that I am chairing will look across all policy areas to see where we can intensify particular work. Some of that work will be generational, but some of it can be dealt with sooner rather than later.

It is absolutely clear, given that all our future population growth in this country is projected to come from migration, that the United Kingdom Government’s proposal to end freedom of movement of people is deeply damaging.

Obviously, decisions on the location of public sector functions are taken on a case-by-case basis and we will consider all opportunities to optimise the benefits when doing so, but at the same time we need to ensure that we secure best value for public finance. The important thing is to ensure that depopulation issues are on the agenda, that we take them seriously and that we do so on a cross-Government basis.