Equality and Human Rights Budget Advisory Group minutes: August 2023

Minutes of the group meeting held on 24 August 2023.

Attendees and apologies


  • Angela O'Hagan (AOH)


  • Robert Skey (RS), Deputy Director for Performance and Delivery
  • Lotti Lancaster (LL), Performance Delivery and Resilience Team Leader
  • Fergus Boden (FB), Strategic Outcomes and Policy Delivery
  • Human Rights Bill Team: Joe McKeown (JMc) and Ailsa Higgins (AHi)


  • Ali Hosie (AH)
  • Stephanie Griffin (SG)
  • Carmen Martinez (CM)
  • Joanna Anderson (JA)
  • Alison Cumming (AC)
  • Alison Byrne (AB)
  • Nick Bland (NB)
  • Rob Priestley (RP)
  • Joanne Briggs (JB)
  • David Holmes (DH)
  • Tom Lamplugh (TL)
  • Ben Walsh (BW)
  • Simon Wakefield (SW)


  • Jillian Matthew (JM)
  • Julia McCombie (JMcC)


  • Chris Birt
  • Emma Congreve
  • Jamie MacDougall


  • Joe Chalmers (JC)/Naomi Clark (NC)

Items and actions


AOH welcomed the group, gave the key updates and introduced the new EHRC member, Stephanie Griffin (SG).

Discussion with Policy Prospectus Team

Robert Skey (RS), introduced himself and colleagues Lotti Lancaster (LL), and Fergus Boden (FB). RS explained to the Group that there is not a specific Policy Prospectus Team but instead multi-disciplinary teams, including the Programme for Government (PfG) team, that are working together on this.

RS gave the Group background of the Policy Prospectus, published in April 2023, with the change to FM and Cabinet being a driver in this approach. He explained some of the document’s intentions which included allowing for holistic planning and supporting moving on from Covid recovery. The prospectus identifies three missions:

  • equality
  • community
  • opportunity

The aim of the Policy Prospectus was to ensure Scottish Government commitments align better to policy making and budget allocations. This was done by: having on-going conversations with senior leaders on how to assess the overall suite of delivery – this included skills, capability and capacity, aligning the prospectus with other corporate documents, such as the PfG, and bringing the budget process forward. A key consideration in the development of the prospectus was ensuring that budgets are affordable for each financial year until the end of this parliamentary session.

FB provided an update on the PfG and explained this year’s direction of travel for the document. He also summarised how Scottish Government hoped to achieve this in the upcoming years. FB advised the rationale behind this year’s PfG has been to set out how the commitments from the Policy Prospectus will be achieved, and the clear alignment to the missions.

AOH noted that it is encouraging to hear the aspirations of improving alignment with regards to both processes and documents. EHRBAG have raised these points for a long time. AOH asked how the impacts of area areas of spend are being assessed and how the impact of realisation of rights can be seen in spending decisions.

Ongoing Open Government work has allowed for a change in the systems approach to both the PFG and the prospectus respectfully. The new approach aims to avoid siloed working and improve the rhythm and routine within the process. AOH expressed the importance that impact assessments must play within these changes.

RS was aware that capacity building tools are needed across government and has started early engagement with the Mainstreaming and Strategy Unit. As well as this a new corporate system is being developed that will support the transparency and intelligence of management information.


AOH made an observation from the previous PfG and the lack of focus on gender equality or other areas within the Social Justice or Wellbeing Economy Portfolios. FB gave an update on this year’s process and the additional time that has been allocated to develop this years PfG allowing for an opportunity to go through the process with further scrutiny on protected characteristics.


NB added that the Mainstreaming Unit have worked alongside the PfG team this year trialling an equality assurance stage within the PfG returns from portfolios. This is an opportunity to scrutinise each portfolio to find out what each portfolio is doing with an equalities and human rights lens.

AOH thanked RS and colleagues for their updates.

Reflections on Responses to Recommendations

Despite the length of time taken to produce the response, AOH acknowledged the effort from Officials to progress them.

Action: Secretariat to arrange meeting with Officials and EHRBAG members to discuss responses to the recommendations.

AOH noted it was positive to see that almost all recommendations had been accepted. It also surfaced a lot of ongoing work across Scottish Government that EHRBAG could benefit from being aware of.

AOH raised some concerns relating to clarity of some recommendations being partially accepted or accepted without actions. AC provided further clarity on this point, stating that where a recommendation was partially accepted the Scottish Government would be a different approach to delivering the recommendation, but ultimately the same aim would be achieved. There was no intended difference between a recommendation being “accepted” or “accepted with actions” – this was a drafting issue only. AB echoed AC’s comments further noting that the group needs to be better connected to the ongoing work of the Directorate for Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights, and the Mainstreaming Unit can help with that.

Action: Secretariat/Mainstreaming Unit to look at how EHRBAG can be connected to wider work

AH reflected on the language used within the responses specifically around what is understood by human rights impacts in a decision-making process and the importance of capability, in these areas. AOH echoed AH’s comments adding that there were other technical terms within the responses that could have been better worded and emphasised the importance of defining and then using the right terms for better consistency across government

RP noted that recent changes to broaden the remit of the HR Executive Board to consider wider issues was part of the response to better join up. It was also reflected that the Human Rights Bill will bring a stronger legislative lever and standards through the minimum core obligations.

CM asked:

  • how the recommendations would be acted upon given the governments capacity?
  • how the government would measure the success of mandatory training
  • whether the Scottish Government saw the ongoing research on the Citizen’s Budget would feed into the commitment to ensure an increased transparency in the budget process.

In relation to capacity, AB provided an update on the ongoing work of the Mainstreaming Unit in relation to impact assessments as well as the newly created senior leadership group which engages with senior civil servants to develop competent policy on equality and human rights by building transformation and leadership.

RP noted that the Mainstreaming team has developed training resources that are readily available for staff members, however this is not mandatory training. The logic behind this is that mandatory training would be done once every three years, whereas readily available training would be sought after at the time where a staff member would need it, further noting that whilst you can measure who has complete the mandatory training, you cannot record whether it has been a successful exercise. RP also referenced the ongoing development of the Mainstreaming Strategy that will further set out the Scottish Governments plans to change the culture around impact assessments and increase capacity and capability.

AC responded with reference to future spending reviews that will provide opportunities to develop our approach to engagement and participation, noting that there was a need to identify a point within the spending review and budget cycle, where this can have the greatest impact. AC recognized that there is significant scope to incorporate more participatory approaches into future spending review and budget processes, but a necessary pre condition for this is developing more accessible material on the Scottish Budget. This work is focused for now on developing our approach to a Citizens Budget. BW gave further context about the Citizens Budget work that has gone on so far, specifically around the gap analysis work and international comparators to better understand successes around the world.

Action: BW to provide update on the Open Budget Commission work in October

RP thanked the Group for their reflections on the Scottish Government response and confirmed that any minor changes in relation to increasing the clarity and consistency of the document will be addressed before publication. Substantive points will be considered further within the development of the proposed action plan that will be co-created with the group.

Action: EHRBAG members to send any comments on the Scottish Government responses to the Secretariat team by 30 August

Any other business

AOH thanked BW for his contributions to the group as he moves role and will no longer be attending EHRBAG meetings as a member.

The next meeting for the Equality and Human Rights Budget Advisory Group is scheduled for 21 September.

Update on the Human Rights Bill – Consultation and Scheme

JMc and AHi presented their slides which covered:

  • accessible and alternative consultation materials
  • ongoing Engagement with Boards
  • implementation
  • the Human Rights Scheme

AOH noted how the Human Rights Scheme needs to maximise available resources within the Scottish Government and other government agencies. Further to this, the duties covered in the scheme should be the responsibility of the Scottish Government and Scottish ministers to better demonstrate human rights-based approaches in service design.

AHi gave further context in relation to the duties, stating that it will be the responsibility of Ministers to publish guidance for duty bearers and public authorities to say how we are meeting the minimum core obligations.

RP highlighted that the Public Sector Equality Duty review will be aligned with the Human Rights Duties set out in the scheme. JMc emphasised this point, stating that the remit of the Human Rights Boards, who advise across the Bill, has changed to also discuss the Public Sector Equality Duty review and the Mainstreaming Strategy

AOH thanked the Human Rights Bill team for their contributions and closed the meeting.



Telephone: 0300 244 4000

Equality and Budget Advisory Group
Scottish Government
Mainstreaming and Strategy Unit
Area 3H North
Victoria Quay

Equality and Human Rights Budget Advisory Group

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