Scotland & sustainability, policy & populations

2024 July 01

Blog by PREMIUM_EU researcher, Becky Arnold.

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the European Population Conference 2024 in Edinburgh, arranged (as it is every two years) by EAPS, the European Association of Population studies. First impression: it’s massive! With over 1000 submissions, 900+ attendees and more than 200 posters it’s not surprising EPC is the conference of demography. And all that’s to say nothing of the 500+ talks that were given across many, many concurrent sessions from the conference’s opening on the 12th of June in the absolutely stunning McEwan Hall (pictured) to its wrapping up on the 15th.

Science for solutions and sustainability

One of the things that made this conference particularly interesting was the active participation of the Scottish government, both in financing the event, and at the event itself. The most interesting session to me was “Scotland's Demography and Population Policies”. Here, not only researchers presented, but also civil servants from the Ministerial Population Taskforce, and government advisors from the Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population. It was great to get the perspectives of people actively working with policy makers on demographic challenges.

One point that the civil servant presenting Scotland’s “Supporting and enabling sustainable communities: action plan to address depopulation” stressed was that, as the title of that document specifies, they are treating depopulation as something to be addressed rather than outright fought. Constant growth is impractical and unsustainable, and should not always be the goal. Moreover, depopulation is not uniform; there are many areas that are growing. He made the point, which I agree with, it’s important to address each community’s challenges individually (some of which may be exacerbated, or even reduced, by depopulation). Simply treating depopulation as if it itself is the problem is counterproductive.


Going forward

These points have a lot of relevance for the PREMIUM_EU project as we examine policy options to help vulnerable regions. One size doesn’t fit all. Problems in one set of circumstances are opportunities in another, and communities don’t all want the same thing. Not everywhere can, should, or wishes to be Berlin or Paris or Edinburgh. Supporting vulnerable, (often rural) communities means nuanced, tailored policy options, such as those we hope to present. By the time the next EPC comes around in Bologna 2026 the project with have just finished wrapping up, and I’m hopeful we’ll have some exciting findings to present there.