A Committee for the Future

The Scottish Parliament should introduce a ‘committee for the future’ to meet tough new challenges and capitalise on the opportunities of the 21st century, according to Labour MEP Catherine Stihler.

Ms Stihler, one of Scotland’s longest-serving parliamentarians, has written to Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh and party business managers with the idea following a visit to Iceland.

The proposed committee could explore the impact of issues including automation, artificial intelligence, climate change, energy use, research, and medical advancements.

Ms Stihler recently led a European Parliament delegation to Iceland as part of a joint parliamentary committee, where she was told how the Prime Minister set up a ‘future’s committee’ for long-term thinking this spring. One example she was told about was the impact of lab-grown meat, which means freshly-caught fish will become a luxury item in the future.

A similar committee set-up also exists in Finland.

As vice-chair of the European Parliament’s consumer protection committee, Ms Stihler has already been examining the impact of artificial intelligence. AI has the potential to achieve outstanding goals for humanity, from offering better and more personalised health diagnostics to increased road safety via driver assistance. But while many new jobs will be created, many will disappear and many more will be forever changed.

Catherine Stihler said:

“Iceland has recognised the vital importance of long-term thinking, and we need to replicate that in Scotland and the UK or we risk being left behind.
“I have written to the Presiding Officer and party business managers suggesting that Holyrood introduces a committee for the future to address the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. This permanent cross-party committee could address issues such as automation, artificial intelligence, climate change and technological research.
“The next decade and beyond will see extraordinary changes, with machines transforming our lives like never before.
“There are great opportunities for the advancement of humankind, and many high-skilled jobs will be created around the world. But we need to prepare the next generation of workers to ensure that Scotland does not miss out, and reskill people to meet the threat of job losses from the rise of machines.
“Long-term sustainability must be at the forefront of our thinking, and the time for thinking about these challenges is today.”

The full letter to Ken Macintosh and party business managers

To: Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh

CC: Graeme Dey (Scottish National Party)
Maurice Golden MSP (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party)
Rhoda Grant MSP (Scottish Labour Party)
Patrick Harvie MSP (Scottish Greens)
Willie Rennie MSP (Scottish Liberal Democrats)

Dear Ken,

As a member of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with Switzerland, Iceland and Norway and the European Economic Area (EEA) Joint Parliamentary Committee, I recently led a delegation to Iceland.
While much of the debate we had was about the detrimental impact of Brexit, MEPs were also informed of the Icelandic Parliament’s new ‘future’s committee’, which was set up by the country’s Prime Minister in spring.
This examines long-term sustainability in the country, and one example we were told about was the impact of lab-produced meat on Iceland’s fishing industry. This has similar implications for Scotland.
In the European Parliament, as vice-chair of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection committee, I have been examining the rise of Artificial Intelligence.
AI has the potential to achieve outstanding goals for humanity, from offering better and more personalised health diagnostics to increased road safety via driver assistance. But while many new jobs will be created, many will disappear and many more will be forever changed.
AI and lab-produced meat are just two major advancements in our changing world. We must also prepare for the impact of automation, climate change and medical research – among other issues.
I am therefore writing to you to suggest the Scottish Parliament introduces a dedicated and permanent ‘Committee for the Future’ to examine the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.
This would ensure that Scotland is both equipped for the challenges we face, including the impact on our workforce, as well as being in a position to take advantage of the opportunities on offer.
I look forward to hearing from you and would welcome your thoughts.

Yours sincerely,

Catherine Stihler
MEP for Scotland

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