The Equality Act 2010 (the 2010 Act) protects people from discrimination because of religion or belief. The legislation covers areas including education, employment, the provision of goods and services to the public and the exercise of public functions.
The 2010 Act also introduced a public sector equality duty which came into force on 5 April 2011. The duty requires public authorities, including the Scottish Ministers, to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations. The duty covers nine protected characteristics, including religion or belief.
In addition to the public sector equality duty, Scottish Ministers have the power to supplement the public sector equality duty by placing specific duties on certain Scottish public authorities, and have done so by means of the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012.
It is recommended that all public authorities follow good practice in gathering and using relevant evidence and information. Religion/belief statistics are important for monitoring discrimination and inequality. Good quality religion and belief data will help with understanding the issues faced by people of different religions or beliefs, allowing for intersectional analysis with other socio-demographic characteristics, including those protected by the 2010 Act. The information may also be used to inform policy formulation and service delivery.
In order to promote more consistency, the Scottish Government developed harmonised questions for use in surveys in Scotland. The guidance, originally published in 2012, was reviewed in 2021. This document sets out the revised guidance.
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