Publication - Consultation analysis

Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 implementation: consultation analysis

This report presents the main messages arising from the consultation on the implementation of the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 (the Act).

68 page PDF

831.2 kB

68 page PDF

831.2 kB

Contents
Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 implementation: consultation analysis
Section 1

68 page PDF

831.2 kB

Section 1

Timescales for Reporting

Context

Different public authorities will have different timetables for making appointments. For many authorities, appointment rounds are infrequent and will arise less than once a year. Making progress will take time. The approach in the draft regulations is that public authorities and appointing persons will be required to report on the carrying out of their functions under Sections 3-6 of the Act at intervals of no more than two years, with the first reports being published not later than the end of April 2021. This timetable aligns reporting with the timescales already established for reporting progress under the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 (as amended).

The draft regulations require Scottish Ministers to report to Parliament on a two year timetable, with the first report due by the end of December 2021. The intention is that Scottish Ministers must use the information published by public authorities and appointing persons in their reports on the carrying out of their functions under the Act. The deadline set for these reports is no later than the end of April 2021. This will provide Scottish Ministers with around eight months to produce their report to Parliament.

Table 4: Question 1

Do you think that public authorities and appointing persons should be required to report on the carrying out of their functions under the Act at intervals of no more than two years, with the first reports being published not later than the end of April 2021?

  Yes No Don't know Not Answered Total
Individuals 67% 12% 11% 10% 272
Organisations 68% 13% 3% 16% 38
Third sector 31% 31% 8% 31% 13
Public sector 88% 4% 0% 8% 25
Total 67% 12% 10% 11% 310

Note: Percentages have been rounded therefore percentage totals may not equal 100%.

Around two-thirds of respondents were supportive of the proposal that public authorities and appointing persons should be required to report on the carrying out of their functions under the Act at intervals of no more than two years, with the first reports being published not later than the end of April 2021.

There were relatively equal levels of support among individuals and organisations. Within the organisations sub-group, there were far higher levels of support for the proposal among the public sector.

The main themes that arose from the feedback from these respondents were that:

  • Public accountability and transparency were important factors for respondents. They agreed that effective monitoring and reporting arrangements should be put in place:
    • To encourage regular review.
    • To encourage compliance with the legislation.
    • To ensure regular reporting on progress, achievements, and success.
    • To identify, share, and embed good practice.
    • For organisations to identify and take additional action were required.
  • These respondents felt that the timescales proposed for reporting were reasonable and appropriate, and that it was sensible to align reporting with other reporting cycles. It was felt that the provision of timescales for reporting would also keep the issue of improving the representation of women on the boards of Scottish public authorities front of mind. It might prompt action/change.

While the majority of respondents were supportive of the proposal, a key theme that emerged centred on aspects of the terminology used in the Act. More specifically, the main comment from these respondents was on the term "gender", and the definition of "woman" for the purposes of the Act. A quote which illustrates the point made by most respondents is as follows:

"â€Ĥa distinction needs to be clearly made between sex (i.e. biologically male and female) versus gender (i.e. a set of stereotypes commonly associated with males and females)".

Most respondents said that the term "gender" should be replaced by "sex" to ensure the focus was on the equal representation of females and males on public boards, and to ensure that the legislation was not "open to abuse". Some went on to add that this would:

  • Ensure compliance with the Equality Act (2010) – the main comment was that sex is a protected characterisitc not gender, and that the Act has extended the legal definition of woman far beyond the Equality Act (2010).
  • Provide more meaningful data for progress reporting.

This was also the main point raised by respondents who opposed the proposal (12%). Third sector orgaisations were also more likely to oppose the proposal than other sub-groups. Much of the feedback from this group of respondents did not relate to the question (i.e. timescales for reporting). That being said, some felt that reporting should be more regular (e.g. annual), with a few calling for the first report to be brought forward to 2020. This is reflected in the following respondent quote:

"It is however regrettable that the length of time between the Act's introduction and the expected publication of reports means that the draft regulations will allow for only one reporting round before the objective's December 2022 expiration date. After December 2022 the requirements to report on additional steps in s.6 of the 2018 Act will not apply irrespective of whether public bodies have met the objective.

Although the additional steps set out in the Act were intended to be delivered in the short term to accelerate progress towards the objective, the single reporting round anticipated by the draft regulation means that there will be no opportunity for public bodies to correct course on actions that are not working well or for public bodies to learn from one another. Additional steps will also be impossible to track after December 2022 unless organisations take it upon themselves to continue outlining their efforts should they fail to meet the objective or should they see regression after meeting the objective.

For this reason, we believe that the Scottish Government should reconsider the April 2021 date provided for and bring forward the suite of reports to allow for publication in 2020. This would allow a second report in 2022, which would enable the success of 'other steps' under s.6 to be critically examined and increase the likelihood of their being embedded into the processes and practices of the organisation".

Table 5: Question 2

Do you think that Scottish Ministers should report to the Scottish Parliament on the operation of the Act at intervals of not more than two years, with the first report being laid before Parliament not later than the end of December 2021?

  Yes No Don't know Not Answered Total
Individuals 65% 10% 13% 12% 272
Organisations 63% 8% 8% 21% 38
Third sector 38% 23% 8% 31% 13
Public sector 76% 0% 8% 16% 25
Total 65% 10% 12% 13% 310

Note: Percentages have been rounded therefore percentage totals may not equal 100%.

Almost two-thirds of respondents were supportive of the proposal that Scottish Ministers should report to the Scottish Parliament on the operation of the Act at intervals of not more than two years, with the first report being laid before Parliament not later than the end of December 2021. The highest level of support was among public sector organisations.

The main themes that arose from the feedback were that:

  • Respondents reported that regular reporting to the Scottish Parliament would promote openness accountability, transparency and scrutiny. It would:
    • Encourage public authorities to comply with the legislation.
    • Increase public understanding regarding what steps had been taken to improve the representation of women on the boards of Scottish public authorities, what difference had been made, how well public authorities fulfilled their duties, and any issues/challenges experienced.
  • Respondents considered the timescales proposed sensible, and would allow for comprehensive reporting by Scottish Ministers on progress following reporting by public authorities. The general view was that the timescales specified would provide sufficient time for Scottish Ministers to review and collate data from public authorities and produce informed reports to the Scottish Parliament.
  • The setting of timescales for reporting to the Scottish Parliament was said to be important and would help facilitiate regular consideration of, and discussion on, progress towards addressing the purpose of the Act (or otherwise). Some respondents felt that this would ensure gender equality on the boards of Scottish public authorities remained a policy priority.

A total of 10% of respondents opposed the proposal. Organisations, and more specifically, third sector organisations were most likely to oppose the proposal. The issue outlined earlier regarding the definition of "woman" for the purposes of the Act was raised strongly by these respondents (and by those in support of the proposed timescales for reporting to the Scottish Parliament). Wider feedback mentioned by a few of these respondents was that:

  • Reporting to the Scottish Parliament should be more regular (e.g. annual).
  • Appointments to the boards of public authorities should be based on merit not gender.

Contact

Email: Eileen.flanagan@gov.scot