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Promise Scotland CEO Fraser McKinley speaking in front of a large screen in a conference hall.

Fraser McKinlay speaking at The Promise Scotland's Stories for Change Conference. Image Copyright: Callum Bennetts, Maverick Photo Agency


Everyone at The Promise Scotland is sending love and solidarity to our friends and colleagues – in Scotland, the UK and around the world - on Care Day 2024. It is a day to celebrate lived experience of care and an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to ending the stigma that still too often surrounds care and care experienced people.

It is now almost two weeks on from the Stories of Change Conference, Scotland’s first national promise conference, which marked four years since the publication of the Independent Care Review. On this day of all days, we must remember that the Care Review itself, and subsequently the promise that was made, was the result of years of dedicated campaigning by and for the care experienced community.


A hand sticking a post-it with the word 'helpless' written on it onto a screen with other post-its stuck on. The screen invites people to reflect on how a certain experience might feel for a child or young person.

The Stories of Change Conference was an opportunity to reflect on what needs to happen to make a real difference in children's lives. Image Copyright: Callum Bennetts, Maverick Photo Agency


As the dust settles on the conference, and as I look ahead to a busy year, I find myself filled with a mixture of sometimes competing emotions. I am both optimistic about the future and realistic about how far Scotland still has to go. I am energised by the work ahead, and sometimes daunted by how big a job it is.

In that context, it was great to hear so many stories of change happening across the country. It was inspiring to be in the room with around 500 people who are working and campaigning for change, in different ways, day in and day out.

I also heard on the day, and afterwards, how far Scotland still has to go before change is being felt more consistently in the lives of families and care experienced people the length and breadth of the country. The recent Who Cares? Scotland report , published the same day, provides useful insights into some of the issues, the progress being made, and the distance still to travel.


Piece of card with the word 'HOME' written beside a house with a love heart in it.

Every child and young person in Scotland deserves to grow up loved, cared and respected. Image Copyright: Callum Bennetts, Maverick Photo Agency


Three reflections from the Stories of Change Conference

In my brief summing up at the close of the conference on the 5 th of February, I reflected on three things that I had heard throughout the day: the need for honesty; providing hope and expectation; and perseverance.

We need to be honest

We need to be searingly honest with ourselves, and with those in power, about how much still has to be done. On a recent visit to a local community enterprise that works with care experienced young people, I was given a stark reminder, if one were needed, about the ways in which the system still too often fails our children and young people. It is simply not good enough. We need to have those honest conversations in ways that generate action and change, not defensiveness and deflection.

We need to move forward with hope and expectation

In doing so, we need to move forward with hope and expectation . I know that hope isn’t enough - as someone once said to me early in my career, ‘Hope is not a strategy’! And of course we need effective planning, sufficient resources and clearer accountability. But it is also true that the changes already underway bring hope that more, bigger change is possible. And clear expectations of what needs to be done, and by when, will bring clearer accountability. The work being done to develop Plan 24-30 will help with that. In the end, the absence of hope brings hopelessness and, if that sets in, then change will not be delivered.

Scotland must be persistent

Finally, Scotland needs to be persistent, to stick with it. There will be times where it feels like the road ahead is simply overwhelming, too distant, too difficult. We need to have confidence that, in laying the foundations now, the meaningful, lasting change envisaged by the promise will be delivered. And I believe it will.

About the author

Fraser McKinlay - Chief Executive Officer
Photo credit: Sarah Maclean

Fraser McKinlay

Chief Executive Officer

Fraser McKinlay is the Chief Executive Officer of The Promise Scotland and sits on the Board of Directors.

He spent 16 years working for Audit Scotland, including ten years as Controller of Audit and Director of Performance Audit and Best Value (PABV). He has been running his own consulting business since April 2021.

As Controller of Audit (CoA), Fraser reported to the Accounts Commission on all matters relating to the audit of local authorities in Scotland. In his ten years as CoA, he produced over 60 Best Value audit reports across all local authorities, alongside many other statutory reports.

As Director of PABV, Fraser was responsible for performance audit across all sectors of public services in Scotland. This work focused on:

  • governance,
  • financial sustainability, and
  • value for money.

Before joining Audit Scotland, Fraser was a public services consultant with Eglinton in Edinburgh and KPMG in London. He specialised in leadership, change management, facilitation and process improvement.

Since starting his own business, he has worked with a range of clients in the public and third sectors, specialising in:

  • strategy,
  • leadership, and
  • change.

He is particularly interested in systems change, and how we use public money more effectively to deliver improved outcomes for citizens, families, and communities.

In October 2021, Scottish Ministers appointed him as a member of the Independent Oversight and Assurance Group for Mental Health Services in Tayside.

Fraser holds:

  • a Postgraduate Diploma (with Distinction) in Strategic Leadership from Warwick Business School, and
  • a degree in Industrial Relations from the University of Strathclyde.

He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.