About us

sporangium of the common mold rhizopus

The Scottish Science Advisory Council (SSAC) is Scotland’s highest level science advisory body providing independent advice and recommendations on science strategy, policy and priorities to the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland (CSA).  It is a broadly-based group, including both practitioners and users of scientific innovation.  The SSAC advises on a broad range of scientific issues and science-related policies that will contribute to growing the economy and raising quality of life in Scotland.

Terms of Reference

The terms of reference for the Scottish Science Advisory Council (SSAC) are to support the Scottish Government to make effective use of science advice, knowledge and techniques when formulating and implementing policies, further enhancing Scotland's status as a science and innovation nation, and supporting Scotland’s Economic Strategy’s two mutually supportive goals of increasing competitiveness and tackling inequality.  It should carry this out by:

  • Providing scientific advice to inform Scottish Government policy and priorities;
  • Providing advice on developments in science and technology and implications for science policy; and
  • Developing advice based on a medium to long term, horizon-scanning, strategic view to identify and harness future opportunities and mitigate future threats.


The council membership are respected senior figures drawn from right across the science, business and academic communities and as a result will be an effective conduit between the SSAC and the science communities that make up the science base in Scotland and further afield.

Appointments to the SSAC, which do not receive any remuneration, are made for a two year period with the possibility of extension. The appointments are made following a public advertisement and selection process.  All appointments are made on merit and in order to achieve a balance across the scientific community.

The SSAC is not a formal public advisory body and there are no legal requirements in connection with the manner appointments are made or the way its conducts its business.  However, the arrangements for appointments to the SSAC draw strongly on the original Nolan recommendations in connection with appointments to public bodies.

The Council membership is supported by the SSAC Secretariat.  The SSAC Secretariat is located within the Science in Government Team of the Scottish Government.  The primary function of the secretariat is to support SSAC by assembling and analysing information and recording conclusions.  It advises SSAC on the processes and procedures and brings to its attention emerging issues of concerns to inform its deliberations.

Ways of Working

The Council has been chaired by Professor Maggie Gill since December 2019.  The SSAC principally advises and reports to the Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland and to the Scottish Government.

The SSAC work programme is developed by its members in discussion with Scottish Government.  The Scottish Government can ask SSAC to consider particular issues; the Council is under no obligation to agree to these requests if it believes that other work would be of greater value.

The Council decides the approach to each area of work on a case-by-case basis.  It can also choose to deliver its advice to government by various routes including: publishing reports; through confidential written advice; and through discussions with ministers, officials and special advisers.