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Growing support for call for Minister for Older People

Katherine Crawford speaking to TV

7 May 2024

Age Scotland has written to the new First Minister, John Swinney, urging him to reinstate a Minister for Older People after receiving backing from more than 20 leading charities and academics.

Scotland’s national charity for older people has led the campaign to bring back a named minister for the growing population of over 50s after the role was abruptly downgraded in 2023.

At the time, the relegation of older people’s issues to an expanded portfolio of Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees, was widely criticised by many older people’s groups and individuals who felt let down by the move and saw it as evidence that the challenges facing older people were not taken seriously by the Scottish Government.

Age Scotland’s Big Survey, conducted in 2023, found that more than half of over 50s felt that life was getting worse, with only 12% feeling that it was getting better. Just 13% of over 50s felt valued by society. A mere 3% felt that their voices were heard by decision makers, only 8% were satisfied that issues affecting older people were given due consideration by politicians and decision makers.

Katherine Crawford, chief executive officer Age Scotland, said:

“There are currently more than 1.8 million over 50s living in Scotland. Older people make up a substantial portion of the country’s population and the number is growing. But, astonishingly, there is no named minister for older people in the current Scottish Government.

“Now there is an opportunity to rectify that. We have written to Mr Swinney to strongly urge him to reinstate a named minister for older people. Not only will this deliver a clear signal to older people that the Scottish Government acknowledges the tremendous value they bring to the country, but it shows that the many and varied issues affecting older people are being taken seriously by those in power.”

“In fact it was a worrying move for people of all ages – Scotland’s population is ageing, and doing so faster than the rest of the UK. Having no named minister raises concerns for those who plan to spend their later life in Scotland, considering the ongoing challenges including pensioner poverty, low income, poor health, loneliness, discrimination, and social exclusion that affect so many.

“This is Mr Swinney’s chance to demonstrate a genuine commitment to improving the lives of almost two million over 50s. Reinstating a named minister for older people promotes equality and gives encouragement to older people that their lives are truly valued and supported.

“We all want to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow older. Having a minister for older people would be a significant step in the right direction.”
The letter in full and list of signatories:

Dear John Swinney 

Please bring back a named minister for older people 

We are writing as a coalition of charities and organisations who support older people with a simple ask. 

As you campaign to become the leader of the SNP and First Minister of Scotland, and are considering forming a government, we ask that you please bring back a minister with named responsibility for older people. This older people’s ministerial role existed previously from 2018 until the formation of the outgoing First Minister’s government in March 2023. 

Over the course of the last year our organisations have heard from huge numbers of older people who feel let down by that decision to downgrade the responsibility and position of older people within the expanded Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees’ portfolio.  

Scotland’s population is ageing, and it is doing so faster than the rest of the UK. There is much to celebrate about our older population and the tremendous value they offer the country, but far too many face significant and long-lasting challenges in their lives such as poverty and low income, poor health, loneliness, discrimination, and social exclusion. We are sure that you will be only too familiar with these challenging issues.  

Only 13% of people over the age of 50 in Scotland feel valued by society and 12% feel life is getting better for older people. Over half of over 50s (56%) feel that life is getting worse for older people in Scotland.  

Just 3% of over 50s feel it is easy to have their voice heard, and 8% are satisfied that politicians and decision makers have due consideration of older people. 

Having named ministerial responsibility and more of a focus on older people not only demonstrates a serious commitment to improving the lives of the over 50s in Scotland, progresses equality, and supports the cross-cutting activities of government in doing so, but signals to a growing and substantial group of people that they are valued and a core consideration of your administration.  

We believe that you should reinstate a named ministerial title for older people and would be grateful for the opportunity to discuss these matters with you and provide further insight. 

Yours sincerely 
Age Scotland 
Befriending Networks 
British Geriatrics Society 
Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland 
Faith in Older People 
Generations Working Together 
Independent Age 
Hourglass Scotland
Kirrie Connections 
LGBTQ+ Scottish Older People’s Network 
Life Care Edinburgh 
Meeting Centres Scotland 
Outside the Box 
Parkinsons UK Scotland 
Professor Alan Gow, WattAGE, Heriot Watt University 
ROSPA –Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents 
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh 
Scottish Care
Scottish Ethnic Minority Older People Forum 
Scottish Older People’s Assembly 
Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Older People, Age and Ageing 
Scottish Pensioners Forum  

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