Scotland’s Futures Forum is the Scottish Parliament’s futures think-tank. It works on a non-party basis to promote research and to stimulate debate on the long-term challenges and opportunities that Scotland faces. We aim to inform MSPs and those who work with them, enabling them to consider the effects of decisions taken today on Scotland’s long-term future.
Looking beyond the five-year electoral cycle and away from party politics, the Futures Forum seeks to bring fresh perspectives, ideas and creativity on how we might prepare now for the future. We host discussions and seminars and present ideas to engage Scotland’s parliamentarians and challenge their thinking.
Current Board of Directors
Alison Johnstone MSP, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament (Chair)
Alison was elected to the role of Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament in May 2021. In this role, Alison chairs the Parliamentary Bureau and the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body. as well as the Futures Forum board of directors.
Alison has represented Lothian region in the Scottish Parliament since 2011 and prior to that was a City of Edinburgh Councillor from 2007 to 2012. Following her election to Presiding Officer Alison resigned her Scottish Green Party membership.
As an MSP and Councillor Alison campaigned on issues of environmental justice, health and wellbeing, sport, equality human rights and animal welfare.
Maggie Chapman MSP
Maggie is the Scottish Green Party MSP for North East Scotland and the Green spokesperson for Justice, Equalities and Human Rights, Economy, International Development and Social Security. She is Deputy Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee, a member of the Economy and Fair Work Committee, and a member of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body.
Born and brought up in Zimbabwe, Maggie moved to Scotland for university. Prior to her election as an MSP in 2021, she worked for feminist women’s organisations and a disability charity, and had been a lecturer in human geography for over a decade. She was Rector of the University of Aberdeen for six years, and a City Councillor in Edinburgh from 2007-2015.
Diarmaid Lawlor, Associate Director, Scottish Futures Trust
Diarmaid is an Associate Director (Place) at the Scottish Futures Trust. He’s an urbanist with a multidisciplinary background and over 20 years’ experience working across sectors in the UK and Europe. He helps clients make well-informed decisions about place-based policy and investment challenges, using design thinking to unlock problems.
Diarmaid is a designer, educator, communicator and collaborator who writes and speaks on creative approaches to making better places. He is a principled pragmatist and believes that place matters.
Diarmaid has a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the Edinburgh College of Art and a Masters in Urban Design from the University of Westminster.
Louise Macdonald OBE FRSE, National Director Scotland, Institute of Directors
Louise took up the post of National Director of the Institute of Directors in Scotland in June 2021. She believes that cross sector collaboration is key to creating the thriving, just and equal society we are all striving to build. Her commitment has been shaped by experiences and relationships made in community settings and national programmes in the public and third sectors across Scotland over the past 25 years.
Louise was formerly Chief Executive of Young Scot. She is Independent Co-Chair of the First Minister’s Advisory Council on Women and Girls, a Trustee of the 5Rights Foundation and immediate past President of the European Youth Card Association.
She was awarded an OBE in 2016 in recognition of her work to support young people and in summer 2021 was announced as the first ever Ambassador for the Scottish Seabird Centre.
Stuart McMillan MSP
Stuart was born in Barrow in Furness. He was raised in Port Glasgow and attended Port Glasgow High School. After attending Central College of Commerce, he studied at the University of Abertay where he graduated with a BA (Hons) in European Business Management with Languages and subsequently an MBA (European).
After graduating, he worked for IBM before working for SNP central office at Westminster. Before his election in 2007, he was office manager to the late Bruce McFee MSP.
Stuart served as MSP for the West Scotland region from 2007 to 2016 before being elected Greenock and Inverclyde constituency MSP in 2016. He won re-election in 2021.
Sarah Munro, Director of the Baltic Mill Centre for Contemporary Art
Sarah has over 20 years of experience of cultural leadership following a distinguished career in Glasgow as both Artistic Director of Tramway and Head of Arts for the city, where she led the bid to bring Turner Prize 2015 to Scotland for the first time. In August 2015 she was appointed as Director of BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.
Sarah is Chair of Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN); Chair of Contemporary Visual Arts Network (CVAN) North East region and a member of Gateshead Cultural Forum and NGCV network.
She has an MA (Hons) in Politics and Philosophy from the University of Dundee and holds a PG Diploma from City University, London.
Esther is currently the Chair of Fife Cultural Trust and a Director of the Fife Housing Group. Previous roles include Interim Chair of NHS Lothian, Senior Governor, University of Aberdeen, Chair of NHS 24, non-executive director with the Scottish Government and the Scottish Ambulance Service and Chair of NHS Fife and the Scottish Further Education Funding Council.
At the invitation of Scottish ministers, she conducted an independent review of legal services regulation and submitted her report ‘Fit for the Future’ in 2018.
Esther was actively involved in the campaign to secure Scotland’s Parliament as Co-ordinator of the Scottish Constitutional Convention and as a member of the Consultative Steering Group that developed the standing orders for the Parliament.
Alex Rowley MSP
Alex was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2014 as an MSP for the region of Mid Scotland & Fife. His interest in politics had been heavily influenced by his parents and the Trade Union movement, and he was a shop steward in his late teens.
After studying at Newbattle Abbey College in Dalkeith and the University of Edinburgh, Alex worked for the National Local Government Forum Against Poverty and the TUC. He then worked as full-time agent and constituency manager for Gordon Brown MP, as well as serving as leader of Fife Council and General Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party.
Alex was born in Dunfermline and brought up in Kelty. He has three grown-up children and four grandchildren. Alex is a keen gardener and loves growing his own fruit and vegetables.
Brian Whittle MSP
Brian grew up in Ayrshire, and qualified as an industrial chemist before becoming a professional athlete.
Brian has represented Great Britain 45 times, including at the 1988 Olympics and 1990 Commonwealth Games. He’s probably most famous for running his leg of the 1986 European Athletics Championships with only one shoe – and still managing to achieve a personal best!
A South Scotland MSP, he has championed the role of community organisations and local sports clubs in promoting good physical and mental health. He is also an advocate for the use of technology and innovation to address many of the long-term challenges facing Scotland, such as climate change.
- Susan Duffy, Company Secretary. Susan is Head of Engagement and Communications at the Scottish Parliament and within the Futures Forum has responsibility as Company Secretary.
- Rob Littlejohn, Head of Business. Rob acts with delegated authority to organise and deliver events and projects in line with the strategic direction provided by the Board of Directors.
- Audrey Gray, Business Co-ordinator. Audrey provides administrative and event support.
The Futures Forum is formally constituted as a company limited by guarantee (SC288940) owned wholly by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB). This the body responsible for ensuring that the Scottish Parliament is provided with the property, services and staff it requires. The SPCB provides 100% of the Futures Forum’s funding.
Our work is overseen by a Board of Directors, which is chaired by the Parliament’s Presiding Officer. As company directors, Board members are responsible for the leadership and strategic direction of Scotland’s Futures Forum and its programme of work.
Directors come from two general categories: MSPs and non-MSPs. MSP directors are nominated by their party to provide a parliamentary input into the work of the Futures Forum. Non-MSP directors bring experience of different aspects of civic Scotland, including academia, the third sector, the arts and industry.
Directors are required to show a strong commitment to, and an understanding of, the value of strategic and long-term thinking within Scotland. They are expected to support the work of the Futures Forum, promote it within their networks, and occasionally host events.
The position of director is not remunerated and is held for an initial term of five years with extension mutually agreed by the individual director, the Presiding Officer as Chair of the Board, and the SPCB.
Nomination, appointment and reappointment of directors
Given that the Board of directors are most aware of the experience needed at any one time, the directors propose individuals for appointment, bearing in mind requirements for a Board that is broadly representative of Scotland’s population. It is then for the SPCB, as the company’s owner and sole member, formally to nominate each director and thereby confirm their appointment.
It is the responsibility of the Chair of the Board, acting with the advice of the Company Secretary, to review the performance of each director before inviting them to extend their term as a director. The review is conducted against the director specification, considering among other things attendance at and involvement in Futures Forum board meetings and wider activities. Assuming the invitation is accepted, the SPCB is asked formally to extend the appointment.
Each year, the Futures Forum submits an annual report of its activities to the SPCB as part of its governance arrangements. It is also legally required to prepare and submit financial statements (annual accounts) to Companies House and HM Revenue and Customs.