Scottish Ministers Reports to the Scottish Parliament
The regulations specify that Scottish Ministers must lay reports before the Scottish Parliament at intervals of not more than two years. The date of the first report should be no later than the end of December 2021. The draft regulations state that Scottish Ministers' reports should provide an overview of the operation of the Act by relevant public authorities and appointing persons. The draft regulations do not specify any further what the content of these reports should be, but do state that in producing their reports Scottish Ministers must use information published by public authorities and appointing persons in their reports on carrying out their functions under sections 3-6 of the Act.
"Laying" a report before the Scottish Parliament means that it is sent to the Presiding Officer who then makes it available to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament Information Centre. The Parliament does not make the report publicly available.
The draft regulations require Scottish Ministers to make their reports accessible to the public, and to do so as soon as practicable after the report is laid before Parliament.
Table 12: Question 7:
Do you think that Scottish Ministers, in preparing their report to Parliament, must use information published by public authorities and appointing persons in their reports on carrying out their functions under sections 3-6 of the Act?
|Yes||No||Don't know||Not Answered||Total|
Note: Percentages have been rounded therefore percentage totals may not equal 100%.
Sixty percent of respondents reported that Scottish Ministers, in preparing their report to Parliament, must use information published by public authorities and appointing persons in their reports on carrying out their functions under sections 3-6 of the Act. There was stronger support for this proposal among public sector organisations than all other respondents.
The main feedback from all respondents who supported the proposal was that this was an "appropriate" and "logical" approach to be adopted by Scottish Ministers. Using published information and data was viewed as essential from a scrutiny, transparency and openness perspective. It was considered sensible that the primary source of information and data used by Scottish Ministers, in preparing their report to Parliament, was that produced by public authorities and appointing persons.
Further, a few respondents felt that information or data other than that information published by public authorities and appointing persons in their reports could also be used by Scottish Ministers, as long as it came from reliable, trustworthy, and easily accessible sources. It was also commented that data sources used must be clearly stated within reports.
The provision of comprehensive, accurate, verified, evidence-based, and data driven reports to the Scottish Parliament on progress was considered important by many respondents. Some respondents went on to add that this approach should aid consistency of reporting, and support effective oversight by the Scottish Parliament (i.e. informed discussion of changes to legislation, policy and practice).
Wider feedback, but not provided by many respondents, was that the proposed approach would: a) encourage public authorities and appointing persons to review how well (or otherwise) they were fulfilling their duties; b) present a Scottish wide picture of the processes in place to move toward greater representation of women; c) provide an assessment of progress and performance; d) allow for trend analysis; and e) flag up any issues/problems.
A few quotes which highlight the above points are provided below.
"It is vital that parliament is able to hold government to account and that bad-practice or individual board non-compliance is able to be publically available".
"An overview would allow Ministers to see not only examples of what is working to achieve compliance but if there is a difference in approach and success between different public authorities (i.e. rural and urban women's engagement, women with additional protected characteristics)".
"We believe that all available information published by public authorities and appointing persons should be publicly available, to allow for progress and success to be measured and recognised and non-compliance penalties implemented if necessary".
"The report must be more than just a collection of data. If changes are to be meaningful then it is important that ministers demonstrate how the information is being used to implement policies to deliver desired aims".
Only 8% of respondents suggested that Scottish Ministers, in preparing their report to Parliament, must not use information published by public authorities and appointing persons in their reports on carrying out their functions under sections 3-6 of the Act. Aside from the issue of gender versus sex terminology used in the Act, no common themes emerged from the feedback to this question from these respondents.
The draft regulations do not specify the content of Scottish Ministers' reports to Parliament other than that they contain an overview of the operation of the Act. Do you have suggestions on the content of these reports? If so, please tell us.
The main feedback from respondents related to the importance of not conflating sex and gender.
The general view of respondents was that, in order for reports to be truly meaningful, data should be collected (and reported on) as per the protected characteristics outlined in the Equality Act (and definitions provided). For example, there was a strong feeling that a clear distinction should be made in the reporting of figures of women and trans-women. If data were to be collected about gender identity then it was felt that this should be a distinct reporting function and separate targets set.
A couple of quotes that highlight these points are outlined below.
"The report should be on sex not gender. Gender reassignment is a separate issue and should be reported separately".
"I would like to know how many biological females are in each role. Not biological males 'expressing' as females. Trans women and trans men need representation, but this should be encouraged separately to the uptake of women".
Some respondents took the opportunity to emphasise that Scottish Ministers' reports to Parliament should be concise, accurate, meaningful, and accessible. It was further suggested by some respondents that reports should allow for comparisons across public authorities, and for identification and dissemination of shared learning. It was further suggested that the use of standardised reports would allow for a degree of comparability and for progress/changes to be tracked over time. The quote below is illustrative of the points raised by respondents.
"Consideration given to approaches that have and have not achieved desired results to build a picture of what constitutes a successful approach".
Some respondents felt that the reports should be sufficiently detailed to demonstrate the extent to which the Act has been effective in improving the representation of women on the boards of public authorities. It was suggested that the reports should provide an examination of the operation of the Act. This includes its overarching purpose, demonstrating compliance with the Act, and providing an overview of the "collective impact" of public authority action across Scotland (e.g. making use of quantified outcomes).
Some comments highlighted that the reports to Parliament should provide an aggregated overview of progress in line with elements outlined earlier at Section 2 (i.e. gender representation objective, training, vacancies, actions to encourage applications from women, appointments). Some respondents went further and suggested that relevant data, where possible, should be disaggregated by other protected characteristics.
A wide range of other comments were made regarding the specific content of the reports. However, most were provided by individual respondents (see also Appendix B). Below, we have sought to report on common themes mentioned as possible inclusions within reporting, and suggested by multiple respondents:
- Proportion/name of public authorities which had a) met or b) not met the gender representation objective – this could be broken down by sector, size and geographical location.
- Narrative on progress towards meeting the gender representation objective. Changes occuring over the reporting period, gender representation gap and trend analysis.
- Recording the level of compliance, and future steps to support compliance with the Act.
- Narrative on the range of activities undertaken to support the recruitment of diverse women – broken down by stages in the recuitment process (e.g. application, interview, selection stages).
- Acknowledgement of key successess and failures across public authorities.
- Identification of emerging or good practice examples of actions that have demonstrated a positive impact in achieving the gender representation objective.
- Difficulties encountered in meeting the gender representation objective – proposals/areas for improvement, steps to ensure compliance, timescales.
- Training gaps.
- Number of times the tie-break was used and the outcome for said boards.