Scotland's Futures Forum Review of Session 5 of the Scottish Parliament

Scotland’s Futures Forum is the Scottish Parliament’s futures think-tank. Our work is designed to inform MSPs and others and enable them to consider the effects of decisions taken today on Scotland’s long-term future.

In the fifth session of the Scottish Parliament, from May 2016 to March 2021, we fulfilled our remit to promote research and to stimulate debate on the long-term challenges and opportunities that Scotland faces.

We worked with partners both inside and outside the Parliament to create spaces for long-term thinking. We brought technologists together with artists, academics with authors, and parliamentarians with leading thinkers from Scotland and beyond.

This review covers the major pieces of our work from this session. For full information on what we do, visit the Scotland's Futures Forum website.


Our major programme this session was the Scotland 2030 Programme, an exploration of life and society in the future.

With seminars, research reports, creative reflections and 10 ideas for 2030, the Scotland 2030 Programme brought diverse groups of people together to consider expert perspectives and cultural reflections on our shared future.

The programme report "Scotland 2030: A Positive View of Our Future" outlined what we found to be the major issues for our future lives, from birth to death. These included some important questions for us all to consider for the next 10 years.

Both the report and the seminars and research that fed into it are resources for everyone in exploring the future.

Creative views of the future

Creative ideas about the future (clockwise from top left): Karine Polwart reads her news stories from 2030; a still from the Our Future Scotland film; artwork in the making inspired by the Our Future Scotland project, and a still from "The Future and Me: Living in Tomorrow's World".

The future can be hard to imagine. Stories, ideas and art can help us envisage the kind of future we want and discuss our aspirations with others.

Throughout the programme, we sought to bring creativity to our discussions with writers, artists, film makers and young people. The singer and songwriter Karine Polwart wrote and read three imagined news stories from 2030. The film "Our Future Scotland" explored 2030 with a range of leading Scots, and inspired artwork by our intern from the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities, Fiona J MacLellan. And with BBC Scotland Learning, secondary pupils from throughout Scotland shared their predictions for 2030 in "The Future and Me: Living in Tomorrow's World".

Education in the future

As part of the Scotland 2030 Programme, we continued our collaboration with the Goodison Group in Scotland, a leading think-tank that focuses on education and lifelong learning.

With the GGiS, we explored what education might look like in 2030 and beyond, building a scenario to provoke debate and consider the implications for leadership and action,

With social enterprise Braw Talent, we supported pupils from St Paul's RC High School in Glasgow and its feeder primaries to film their vision of school in 2030:


Mar phàirt de dhealas Pàrlamaid na h-Alba a bhith a’ cumail taic ris a’ Ghàidhlig, chùm sinn co-labhairt mun Ghàidhlig san àm ri teachd ann an 2019.

Aig an tachartas bha taisbeanaidhean bho eòlaichean agus bùithtean-obrach gus lèirsinn a chruthachadh airson 2030, a’ gabhail a-steach Alba far am bi spòrs againn anns a’ Ghàidhlig, a’ gabhail a-steach comataidh stand-up agus dràma telebhisean.

B’ e ar lèirsinn airson 2030 nach biodh a’ Ghàidhlig ga cleachdadh airson bruidhinn mu dheidhinn na Gàidhlig a-mhàin! Gus taic a chumail ris an lèirsinn sin, dh’fhoillsich sinn geàrr-chunntas den aithisg aig a' phrògram fharsaing againn Alba 2030, agus de na deich beachdan againn airson 2030, sa Ghàidhlig.


As part of the Scottish Parliament’s commitment to support the Gaelic language, we held a conference on the future for the Gaelic language in 2019.

The event featured expert presentations and workshop groups to develop visions for 2030, which included a Scotland where we can have fun in Gaelic, watching Gaelic stand-ups and Gaelic-language television dramas.

One vision for 2030 was for Gaelic not just to be used to talk about Gaelic. To support that, we published a summary of our wide-ranging Scotland 2030 Programme report, along with our 10 ideas for 2030, in Gaelic.


In the past five years, the Futures Forum has worked with partners both within and outwith the Scottish Parliament to bring expert speakers to a parliamentary and public audience.

In 2017, we worked with Scottish Enterprise to explore how automation will affect the Scottish economy, and with Nesta to explore how digital innovation will affect our democracy.

In 2018, we worked with Social Bite to showcase its work to end homelessness in Scotland, and with Community Justice Scotland to explore the New York approach to smart justice.

Also in 2018, we worked with the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Parliament's Finance and Constitution Committee to consider the sustainability of Scotland's public finances and the approach to post-Brexit common frameworks across the UK.

In 2019, we worked with the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) hosted a series of seminars with leaders in sport and physical activity, including Gregor Townsend, Shelley Kerr and Judy Murray. We also partnered with Reform Scotland to hear from journalist Helen Lewis on feminism and the writer Tom Chivers on artificial intelligence.

In 2020, we worked with the David Hume Institute to hear from the director of the Finnish Education Agency, Olli-Pekka Heinonen, and were lead partner with the Parliament's Festival of Politics.

Finally, in 2021, we worked with the Parliament's Committee Engagement Unit to showcase the work of the Citizens' Assembly of Scotland.

Where possible, we record our events and share presentations, research reports and other material on the Futures Forum website.


As a body wholly owned by the Scottish Parliament, the Futures Forum also works directly to support the Parliament’s functions and offices.

We worked with the Festival of Politics to programme the 2020 festival and on individual events in previous years, and we took the opportunity to democratic innovation to a parliamentary audience with the newly established Committee Engagement Unit.

Having been a key part of the team establishing the Scottish Parliament’s Academic Engagement programme, the Futures Forum supported its work through the session, helping to organise regular joint seminars with partners in academia and supporting visits, presentations and internships from academics and students, including via the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities, the Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society, and OPTIMA.

We have also presented our work to a wide range of international partners, including parliamentary delegations from Finland, New Zealand, Mongolia, California and Ontario.


The work of the Futures Forum is guided by a Board of Directors drawn from within and outwith Parliament.

The following directors have served over this session of Parliament. We thank them all.

  • Rt Hon Ken Macintosh MSP, Presiding Officer (Chair)
  • Claudia Beamish MSP
  • Maurice Corry MSP
  • Sir Andrew Cubie CBE
  • Professor Sir Ian Diamond
  • Anne Douglas
  • Clare Haughey MSP
  • Richard Holloway
  • Alex Johnstone MSP
  • Louise Macdonald OBE
  • Stuart McMillan MSP
  • Sarah Munro
  • Mike Russell MSP
  • Maree Todd MSP
  • Adam Tomkins MSP
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Scotland's Futures Forum


Photos all (C) Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body