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Scottish Parliament think tank: climate change, technological innovation and changing population key challenges over next decade

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Scottish Parliament think tank: climate change, technological innovation and changing population key challenges over next decade

Climate change, technological innovations and a changing population will all shape what kind of country Scotland will become over the next 10 years, according to the Scottish Parliament’s think tank.

In a new report, Scotland’s Futures Forum looks at what the country’s response might be to the great changes of the next decade and beyond.

The Scotland 2030 Programme includes key messages surrounding growing up, working lives, growing older, and death and dying in 2030 and aims to help parliamentarians think about long term challenges outside of electoral cycles and party politics.

In the report, the forum says: “As we found throughout the Scotland 2030 Programme, the key message is one of change.

“The environment in which we live will change. The tools we can use will change. And people’s views, reactions and lives will all change.

“As we have heard, the pace of change has never been as fast as it is at the moment, and it will never be this slow again.

“Change, whether welcome or not, is never straightforward.

“To cope with this change – to enable as many people in Scotland to thrive through this change – it is vital that we are honest about what is happening and about the options that we have. That is the case both for individuals and societies.

“To tackle climate change, we may have to turn our back on success stories in our economy and force people to stop doing things that emit greenhouse gases.

“To deal with technological innovation, we may have to delay or reject the improvements in some areas to check that the innovation that brings them does not hurt people more.

“And to make the most of an ageing population, we may have to all face the reality of our own ageing and death much sooner than we want.”

The report highlights the fact that around half a million babies will be born in Scotland over the next decade and asks what can be done to help “deep-rooted” inequality, as well as how to challenge the “unthinking adoption” of technology in children’s lives.

It says fundamental change is required to end child poverty, either through ‘pre-distribution’ or radical redistribution via taxation and spending.

The think tank also highlights the changing demands of the work life as the retirement age increases and “the division between work and home life becomes more blurred”.

To meet Scotland’s ambitious targets of net-zero carbon emissions by 2045, radical change is required to people’s working lives and the report suggests there are clear pathways to a more sustainable future if Scotland switches investment towards sectors and industries that bring long-term benefits.

Scotland also needs to make more progress on creating gender equal workplaces, according to the forum’s findings.

Realities of life for women such as menstruation, pregnancy and menopause need to be taken more seriously by employers and increasing the uptake of paternity leave will also help redress imbalances in the distribution of unpaid work.

The report also found that ageing and death need to be addressed earlier in life and the taboo of discussing these issues needs to be addressed.

Caring responsibilities must also be discussed, as well as the contributions an older population bring to society.

On the issue of technology, “disruptors” such as Uber, Amazon and AirBnB will continue to have an impact on jobs and society, but the forum also points to the positives technology can play in aiding workforces.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, significant numbers of people have had to work from home,” the report says.

“This is a positive example of technology supporting jobs through change.

“It also offers opportunities to rural businesses and communities more widely if work is less dependent on physical proximity.

“With robust digital infrastructure, technology may provide rural businesses and the communities that depend on them a more positive future.”

Meanwhile, Scotland needs a school and lifelong education system that helps people adapt to changing circumstances, giving them the freedom to be creative, to take risks and, on occasion, to fail safely, the forum states.

It also recommends ten ‘ideas for 2030’ to be debated in the Scottish Parliament, including a Scottish island test site for autonomous vehicles, ‘digital havens’ with limited internet access – allowing visitors to switch off from their devices – and a ‘Museum of Failure’ to show the role of failure in the path to achievement and encourage people to embrace risk.

The report will also be debated at the parliament’s first online Festival of Politics.

The event, ‘Scotland 2030: What do we want, and how can we get there?’, will open the Festival on 19 November and will be chaired by Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh.

Macintosh, who is also chair of Scotland’s Futures Forum, said: “How we tackle the great issues of the next decade will shape Scotland for generations to come.

“Climate change, technological advancements and an ageing population all present profound challenges for the country, but also opportunity.

“This report highlights the importance of taking a positive view of the changes we’ll experience by 2030.

“As the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, people can and do respond positively when life throws up huge challenges. But it has also shown the importance of including people in the process when the decisions on how to respond are made.

“A key part of the Futures Forum’s work, a central theme throughout this programme from all our events, and one of the founding principles on which the parliament operates, is the importance of including everyone in discussions about our long-term future.

“How we move forward, harness new technologies, create more environmentally sustainable jobs and tackle child poverty are all topics ripe for debate as we look ahead.”

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