We welcome the opportunity to provide views on the proposal for an Older People’s Commissioner or Scotland as another way to share our views on the need for the Scottish Government and Parliament to address the matter of Scotland’s ageing population and the issues for the current tranche of older people (The 2019 Scottish Government report ‘A Fairer Scotland for Older People’ defined older people as those aged 50 and above). We are not satisfied that the current status quo is satisfactory, particularly in terms of the inclusion of older people’s voices in policy and decision-making fora, the piecemeal approach to policy and over-reliance on a deficit model of ageing to shape decisions.
A specific feature of our approach is to highlight the need to address ageing as an ongoing aspect of Scottish society requiring not only mitigation of current pressures but anticipation and action to secure a better future for all our ageing population, both those who are already older and those who shall become older with time – a need that was a core prompt for the book ‘All of Our Futures’ written by the authors of this submission, Craig Dalzell and Bill Johnston, and published by Common Weal. Therefore, our support for a Commissioner is qualified by the overriding concern to ensure benefits to current and future citizens in a civic context where the role is subject to democratic accountability and parliamentary scrutiny.
Consequently, we are partially supportive of the proposal for a commissioner qualified by our preference for a Minister for Older People (a post previously held from 2018 -2023 by Christina McKelvie MSP) to provide clear democratic accountability and strong governmental leadership. As age is a protected characteristic in the 2010 Equalities Act it should have a powerful voice in government, particularly so given Scotland’s ageing demographic. However, as FM Humza Yousaf removed the ministerial post from the Cabinet and relocated responsibility for older people to Emma Roddick’s equalities portfolio it is necessary to consider the proposal for a Commissioner.
A situation whereby a Minister and a Commissioner could both exist should be considered, with a clear recognition that we need long-term strategies for an ageing demographic that encompass older people’s rights and issues.