Page last updated at 13:46 GMT, Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Scottish Parliament

Professor Charlie Jeffery warned the Finance Committee current "fiscal tightness" could lead to a return to the situation where older people would be categorised as a "fiscal calamity", during a session on demographic change and its effect on fiscal sustainability in Scotland, on Wednesday 11 January 2012.

The head of social and political science at the University of Edinburgh told MSPs there had, in the last decade, rightly been a move away from viewing older people as a "terrible problem" and acknowledging they are "active citizens making a contribution to society."

In Scotland as a whole, the number of people aged 75 and over is set to increase by 75%.

By 2031, the most common age group will be 50-65 year olds.

SNP MSP Mark McDonald postulated whether the Scottish government should do more in the area of migration if the working age population was not going to increase.

Professor Jeffery said it was one aspect but he wasn't sure "the economic dynamism of younger immigrants was the only answer to the question."

George MacKenzie from the National Records of Scotland conceded "Scotland's population buouyancy has been sustained by in-migration over the last few years."

James McCormick from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation stressed the importance of "light touch, low cost preventative interventions" in the community to avoid hospitalisation, as emergency care for over 70's was four times more expensive than the entire bill for free care for the elderly in Scotland.

Professor of Economics at the University of Strathclyde, Robert E Wright also contributed to the discussion and said while he would not see demographic change as a crisis it would be "naive not to think it's a problem."

He explored the challenges facing the 85+ age group where there was a six year life expectancy, with four of those years considered "non-healthy", requiring "significant input from the state" and Professor Wright admitted he could not see how to reduce costs within this age group.

Professor of Epidemiology of Ageing at Newcastle University Carol Jagger and Professor David Bell from Stirling University also gave evidence.

The committee later examined Scotland Peforms which measures and reports on the progress of the Scottish government.

Chief Statistician and Senior Statistician at the Scottish government, Roger Halliday and Dette Cowden gave evidence.

Finance Committee membership

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