Attendees and apologies
- Angela O'Hagan (AOH)
- Naomi Clark (NC)
- Joe Chalmers (JC)
- Stephanie Gray (SG)
- Aidan Flegg (AF)
- Emma Congreve (EC)
- James Campbell (JC)
- Joanna Anderson (JA)
- Sara Cowan (SC)
- Chris Birt (CB)
- Rob Priestley (RP)
- Jamie MacDougall (JM)
- Misa Martincova (MM)
- Tom Lamplugh (TL)
- Polly Le Grand (PLG)
- Simon Wakefield (SW)
- Richard Robinson (RR)
- Julia McCombie (JMcC)
- Jillian Matthew
- Simon Steele
- Ben Walsh
- David Holmes
- Joanne Briggs
Items and actions
AOH welcomed the group, outlined the agenda and reviewed the action tracker. AOH advised the group that the Policy Prospectus Team will be joining the August meeting.
AOH informed the group that Kenny Stewart has left EHRC and therefore will also be no longer a EHRBAG member. She thanked Kenny for his contributions to EHRBAG; noting his continued commitment at pushing for improved EQIA tools and compliance so that the Scottish Government can meet their duties under the Public Sector Equality Duty and requirements of Equality Impact Assessments.
Update on Medium Term Financial trategy
SG, Fiscal Sustainability Unit - Scottish Government, provided a broad overview of the Medium-Term Financial Strategy that was published on 25 May.
SG advised that the MTFS was originally recommended by the Budget Process Review Group in 2017, and the first iteration was published in 2018. The MTFS sets out the fiscal outlook for the next 5 years. Independent forecasts provided by the Scottish Fiscal Commission underpin the fiscal outlook, alongside Scottish Government data. Over time, the report has developed to show the predictions of funding and spending in Scotland.
SG explained that the MTFS is not a policy as it shows no commitment to specific policies, spending decisions or tax policies. Its purpose is to allow people to see the likely path of spending over a 5 year period and provide the context for these decisions at each annual budget
This year, the MTFS sets out the Government’s strategy to manage fiscal sustainability, underpinned by three pillars:
- ensuring public spending if focused on the three missions from the policy prospectus
- supporting sustainable and economic growth
- maintaining and developing a strategic approach to tax.
Questions were submitted in advance of the meeting. These were addressed by SG and JM, before a group discussion where members raised general concerns, suggestions and feedback for the MTFS and wider budget process.
1. How are equality and human rights considerations built into the processes of the main areas of work?
It was noted that, as there are no policy decisions within the MTFS, there is subsequently no analysis required. of options or policy decisions.
However, it was noted that this MTFS included analysis which outlines the distributional impact of existing tax and social security policies. A distributional analysis of income tax policy is also published at each annual budget. This is something that will continue to be developed as policy options for budget are developed.
Members raised points on:
- how equality and human rights have informed the MTFS process
- whether there would be changes in the process going forward
- how feedback from the MTFS would be reflected in the wider Programme for Government and budget alignment work
- how human rights obligations could be introduced into the new Tax Advisory Group.
TL noted that the MTFS states “The Scottish Government’s spending plans will unapologetically direct our resources to those in greatest need, and we will review opportunities for more effective targeting of existing provision and services.” Group members raised that this should align with the FM’s Policy Prospectus and Equality and Fairer Scottish Budget Statement.
JM gave an overview of some of the challenges and barriers in the budget process that the team are trying to work through given the difficult fiscal context, such as Westminster time constraints, lack of funding and the need to undertake prioritisation. JM advised the group that despite these challenges, he anticipates and looks forward to working closely with the group over the upcoming months and welcomes their ongoing participation, noting in particular the forthcoming meeting with the Group on the EFSBS.
Update on childrens rights
AF introduced his role in Scottish Government within the Human Rights Bill Team and ongoing work within the Children’s Rights Unit focusing specifically on the Children’s Rights Scheme. AF advised the consultation for the Human Rights Bill had now launched and encouraged members to engage with it.
AF explained that proposals for the Children’s Rights Scheme will mean Scottish Ministers need to report yearly on how they have considered Childrens Rights in their budget process and that the key priority currently in Children’s Rights Budgeting is aligning with the wider agenda of Equality and Human Rights Budgeting.
There was also brief discussion about the Children’s Rights Scheme which is being set up for consultation.
Action: AF to come back and discuss Children’s Rights Scheme once the consultation has been launched.
CB and other group members commented on whether the Children’s Rights Scheme would be beneficial to deliver given the wider Scottish Government has publicly stated they are unlikely to meet statutory child poverty targets of 2030 – publication from the Poverty and Inequality Commission.
Any other business
JM provided updates noting that there has been agreement with Cabinet Secretaries to start the budget process during Summer this year, in order to better align with the Policy Prospectus and the Programme for Government scheduled for September. The driver for this is to start commission exercises early in recognition of the challenges of the budget process.
AOH advised that Scottish Exchequer colleagues will be meeting with the group at the end of June to discuss the Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement. AOH extended this invite to JM.
The next meeting for the Equality and Human Rights Budget Advisory Group is scheduled for 20 July. This session will look at pre-budget scrutiny and will have a representative from the Scottish Fiscal Commission who will speak to the group. The Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees, Ms Roddick will also be in attendance.
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