The Scottish Parliament's think-tank

Futures Forum Summer Update

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With summer upon us, it is a good time to reflect on our work at the Futures Forum to bring people together in the Scottish Parliament and look to the long-term future.

With resources and upcoming events on economic transformation and artificial intelligence, as well as plans for a deeper dive into Tackling structural inequality, the Futures Forum has a full programme of events and activities to share.

We also reflect on our work to support the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee with our exploration of how to improve the relationship between central and local government – particularly timely given the given the announcement of a new deal between the Scottish Government and COSLA.

FoP logo 2023

And, for each of our priority areas, there will be a chance to join the debate at this year’s Festival of Politics at the Scottish Parliament.

We’re again delighted to be one of the lead partners for the festival, which takes place from Wednesday 9 to Friday 11 August.

From conversations with leading musicians to discussions on political debate and land use in the future, the festival programme has something for everyone.

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Economic transformation

Over the past few months, we have been working with our colleagues in the Scottish Parliament Information Centre to explore new ideas of economic transformation in Scotland.

With our country facing the challenges of a climate and ecological emergency, rising inequality and an ageing population, new ideas of how our economy could, and should, work are taking hold. 

Our seminar series looked at the ideas of a wellbeing economy, a just transition and business purpose. What do they involve and what could they mean for Scotland?

For each seminar, we have published a report of the presentation and Q&A:

JOIN THE DEBATE: “It’s the economy, stupid”, at the Festival of Politics

Friday 11 August 2023, 11.15am to 12.45pm

As Scotland emerges from the COVID pandemic, this seminar will explore new ideas of how our economy should work: inclusive growth, social enterprise and a circular economy, among them. These ideas all point to a different economic model, but what do they mean in practice??Are the right people and organisations involved? And can local communities be inspired and motivated to take part?

Chaired by the BBC Scotland’s Economics and Business editor Douglas Fraser, the panel will feature Dr Emma Congreve from the Fraser of Allander Institute, Jimmy Paul from the Wellbeing Economy Alliance and Douglas Westwater from Social Enterprise Scotland.

Tackling Structural Inequality

Scotland has clear political ambitions for the future. These include eradicating child poverty, closing the poverty related education attainment gap, becoming a net zero country and developing an entrepreneurial and inclusive economy.  

At the same time, Scotland’s problems remain entrenched: deep and increasing inequalities, worsening life expectancy, and public services struggling to meet demand in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In this context, with clear and agreed ambitions but massive challenges, how can Scotland realise its ambitions to be a fair and sustainable country in the next 20 years?  

Futures Forum project 

To support the debate on our shared future, Scotland’s Futures Forum will undertake a project on Scotland’s ambitions to become a fairer country over the next two decades.  

The work will explore the causes and consequences of the unequal outcomes experienced by people in Scotland, the potential futures for our communities, and the choices that parliamentarians and others have to build a fairer and healthier future for all. 

As we put together our programme for the coming months, we’re delighted to start the discussion with a panel debate at the Festival of Politics:

JOIN THE DEBATE: “Scotland’s poverty problem”, at the Festival of Politics

Friday 11 August 2023, 1.30pm to 3pm

All political parties are committed to tackling child poverty, so why has more progress not been made? Does stigma hold back the debate?

Chaired by the Futures Forum director Maggie Chapman MSP, the panel will feature Satwat Rehman from One Parent Families Scotland and the Just Transition Commission, Chris Birt from the Joseph Rowntree Commission, and Dr Morag Treanor from the University of Glasgow and the Poverty and Inequality Commission.

If you are interested in finding out more about our planned work on inequality, please email

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Artificial intelligence

The development and potential impacts of artificial intelligence is a hot topic, and we are happy to have continued contributing to the debate in Scotland.

In May, we released a Scottish Parliament podcast in association with the Scottish AI Alliance on the effect of AI on democracy.

Featuring expert contributions from Professor Ewa Luger, Professor of Human-Data Interaction at the University of Edinburgh, and Richard Leonard MSP, convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit Committee, the podcast looked at what we mean when we talk about artificial intelligence, the opportunities and the dangers, and how, as citizens and as a democracy, we should react.

In June, we hosted a forum debate with the Goodison Group in Scotland on the disruptive effect of AI on education. Bringing together a range of perspectives, the forum explored how AI could and should influence learning. It was supported by a series of blogs and reflections on the subject.

These resources continue our work on the subject of AI, which we have explored since our first discussion of the topic, with the writer Tom Chivers, in 2019. This includes a report on how parliaments throughout the world have responded, a seminar on accountability with experts from the University of Edinburgh, and a 7-question toolkit for scrutinising the use of AI.

JOIN THE DEBATE: “Where are the ethics in AI”, at the Festival of Politics

Friday 11 August 2023, 4pm to 5.30pm

Is AI a tool with capacity to do unimaginably great good or does it really herald unimaginable harm that will culminate in human extinction?

Chaired by the Futures Forum director Maggie Chapman MSP, the panel will feature Brian Hills from the Data Lab, Professor Georgios Leontidis from the University of Aberdeen, and Dr Atoosa Kasirzadeh from the Edinburgh Futures Institute at the University of Edinburgh.  

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Supporting Parliament’s Committees

In May, the Futures Forum continued its work to support parliamentary committees by hosting an event on the relationship between central and local government with the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee.

The conference brought together MSPs and a range of stakeholders from central and local government, academia, and the public, private and third sectors to explore what is required to improve the relationship between local and central government. 

The key messages outline both the challenges to improving the relationship and ways to overcome those challenges. With a new deal recently agreed between the Scottish Government and COSLA, these messages will help everyone exploring what the future might hold.

JOIN THE DEBATE: Share your thoughts on a tourist tax

Since our event, the Scottish Government has proposed a new law which would allow local authorities to introduce an additional charge when someone pays for overnight accommodation.

The Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee is looking at the details of the proposals, and want to know what people think about them.

Our mailing list…

At Scotland’s Futures Forum, we run a mailing list for those interested in our work.

We only keep your name and email address, and we use the mailing list to send messages about upcoming events and other work that may be of interest. We send a couple of emails a month at most. We ask only for your name and email address, and we never share your information with anyone else.

However, if you change your mind, there is an option to unsubscribe on every message.