Equality Budget Advisory Group minutes: April 2021

Minutes of the Equality Budget Advisory Group (EBAG) meeting held on 29 April 2021.

Attendees and apologies

  • Angela O'Hagan (Chair)
  • Chris Birt, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
  • Emma Congreve, Fraser of Allander
  • Sara Cowan, Scottish Women’s Budget Group
  • Liz Hawkins, Equality & Social Justice Analysis, SG
  • Mirren Kelly, COSLA
  • Tom Lamplugh, Office of the Chief Social Policy Adviser, SG
  • Richard Robinson, Audit Scotland
  • Emma Scott, Disability Equality Scotland
  • Simon Steele, Public Spending SG
  • Kenny Stewart, EHRC
  • Sean Stronach, Equality & Human Rights Division, SG
  • Ben Walsh, Public Spending, SG

For Item 2: discussion of planning and transport

  • Graham Robinson, National Planning Framework, SG
  • Cara Davidson, Environment and Natural Resources, SG
  • Fiona Simpson, Assistant Chief Planner, SG
  • Heather Cowan, National Transport Strategy, SG
  • Fiona Brown, Strategic Transport Projects Review, SG
  • Paul Sloan, Transport Social Research, SG
  • Sharron Jeffrey, Stakeholder Engagement Manager, SG
  • Eachann Gillies, Transport Scotland


  • Tim Ellis, Performance & Outcomes, SG
  • James Fowlie, COSLA
  • Ali Hosie, Scottish Human Rights Commission
  • Lisa McDonald, Economic Policy & Capability, SG
  • Dougie McLaren, Public Spending, SG
  • Fiona Page, Public Spending, SG
  • Gillian Achurch, Equality & Social Justice Analysis, SG (Secretariat)

Items and actions

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and provided some updates for members:  

Ben Walsh will be standing down from EBAG with his place being taken by Simon Steele from the Public Spending team in future. The Chair thanked Ben and welcomed Simon to the meeting.

The Chair noted that she, Mirren, Ali and Sara had a positive meeting with  Ms Forbes and Ms Somerville. She noted that the Ministers were enthusiastic and spoke of their commitment to progressing work around promoting an understanding of equality and human rights in budget processes. The EBAG members talked about the need to build knowledge and culture change and the processes that needed to change. Ministers accepted these views. There was some challenge around what scrutiny responsibilities should sit with Parliament and also what the expectation of other public bodies should be in planning and understanding their own spend. But they were positive in term of meeting again (election dependent) and considering EBAG’s  recommendations once finalised.

The Chair noted that the recommendations were almost finished and will be sent to incoming Ministers after the election.

The Chair noted that she and Ali had participated in an Open Government Budget event where they talked about human rights budgeting, gender budgeting and fiscal transparency. She noted that this was the first time she had heard about the Fiscal Transparency work which was very welcome. She also attended a Show and Tell event for the budget data visualisation programme. Both events were very exciting and started to address many of the issues that EBAG has been talking about for a long time (citizens budget, transparency, scrutiny, budget portals etc.). There are obviously lots of links across to EBAG so the Chair has asked someone from the fiscal transparency work to come to EBAG to discuss alignment around the recommendations from EBAG, the recommendations from the Social Renewal Advisory board and the COVID Economic Recovery Group. This, along with a discussion of the revised Mainstreaming Equality and Human Rights Strategy, will be the focus of the June meeting and will include Scottish Government human rights colleagues.

Following the Show and Tell, the Chair also had a general conversation with Jennie Barugh, Director of Performance and Outcomes from the Exchequer about the role of equality budgeting within the budget processes.

Item 2:  focus on planning and transport

Graham gave a presentation on the National Planning Framework 4 (slides were provided prior to the meeting).

Angela thanked Graham for the presentation and noted how excited she was about some of the developments being noted and specifically around the deliberate efforts and commitment to engage with a wide range of people. She asked for any points of clarity.

Mirren asked whether there were any barriers to delivering on equality through the  engagement work. Graham responded that previous work by ‘What Works Scotland’ showed issues across a range of characteristics and they were aware of these. They also looked at guidance around effective community engagement. Fiona added that the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has also done quite a lot of work on the make-up of the planning profession and this gives an interesting dimension on the diversity of the profession and the way that this plays out in planning documents.

Angela noted that she is interested in what resources and approaches were being identified to help build knowledge in the local community in order to allow more informed involvement and effective participation in planning.

Heather and Fiona B gave a presentation on the National Transport Strategy 2 (NTS2) and the Strategic Transport Projects Review 2 (STPR2). Slides had been made available prior to the presentation. 

The Chair thanked Heather and Fiona for the presentation. She specifically welcomed the positive messages that had come out of the presentation in the commitment of Transport colleagues to considering inequality in tandem with the development of their strategies. She then opened up for a broader discussion.

Emma noted that it was great to see so much recognition of the need for impact assessments to appraise the outcomes. She questioned whether the outcomes themselves developed from a good understanding  of the barriers that people with different protected characteristics face in accessing transport options.

Heather noted that they are continuing to develop their understanding around barriers and are picking up specific issues. For example, they are undertaking work with the Poverty Alliance to get a better understanding of socio-economic disadvantage and similarly through ongoing work looking at the gender gap they are getting a better understanding of the relationships that women have with the transport system (trip chaining, employment in different sectors, the fact that transport systems tended to have been linked to men’s rather than women’s needs). She noted that they aren’t all the way there but that they understand what EBAG are asking and are working towards that. Heather also referred to the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) framework which is in place to examine impact on outcomes which will be disaggregated to look at equality outcomes wherever possible.

Fiona B added that to an extent some of this thinking is already embedded within the Transport Strategy because of the key outcomes around affordability and accessibility.  

Kenny noted that he was particularly heartened to see the focus in both presentations on evidence around equality. He questioned whether they could provide specific examples of how thinking or decisions have changed based on the evidence.

Heather noted that work on Spaces for People was an example. This was a response to COVID lockdowns where they observed that temporary measures put in place on streets were not working well.  Engagement with disabled people’s groups brought a real shift to focus on understanding how the environment needs to support different modes, safer walking etc. She noted that they have come on a journey.

Fiona B added that in setting phase 1 priorities for the STPR2 (COVID response) they used the evidence on impacts of COVID and narrowed down the NTS strategy to a set of objectives to respond to those specific problems which linked to the short term investment decisions. 

Emma S introduced herself as coming from a national disability organisation which worked to help engagement and participation with disabled people including on transport. She noted that the policies around 20 minute neighbourhoods and Space for People were very important. She went on to note that we need to listen to people with lived experience as a first point of planning. She noted that things are changing and felt that over the last year they had seen a real improvement in EqIA engagement across a range of different Directorates.

Emma C asked whether engagement with disabled people had included engagement with people who are learning disabled. Heather responded that they are covered in the Accessible Travel Framework and in engagement efforts. Emma affirmed the importance of including learning disabled people within analysis and particularly in terms of accessible communication.

Chris asked to what extent both the NPF4 and the NTS are tied into the economic development space including organisations such as Enterprise agencies as well as Local Authorities. He noted that while priority of accessibility and affordability is obviously welcome, we know that COVID has had differential impacts across the country and that transport’s purpose is to get people from one place to another. So – transport to what? Angela added to this point, noting that give labour market reconfiguration that may be opportunities in the STPR for links into skills development, training, and the allocation of resource around that.

Fiona B responded saying that the Scottish Government advisory group includes the economic development interests and the regional working groups also include a range of economic development interests. She also noted that due to the known impact of COVID on the labour market for young people they were undertaking additional modelling looking at travel demand from jobs etc. She noted that there is huge uncertainty around where jobs are likely to be in the future so they are basing modelling on different scenarios around issues such as where jobs are, likely transport options, numbers working from home, and reaching targets on reducing car mileage etc.

From the planning side, Fiona S noted that NPF4 had shifted from the NPF3 aims of sustainable economic growth to an NPF4 focus on inclusive growth which requires exploration around the role of land use in homes, work and travel. She noted that NPF4 could be seen as a spatial interpretation of the economic strategy and that there was good alignment between land use planning and the transport strategy.   

Chris responded further to ask how we use this to drive growth rather than respond to it, and Angela noted that changes in travel are likely to lead to an increased employment and skills requirement.  

Sara asked whether there were any specific data gaps in the evidence and specifically any gaps for sex-disaggregated data.

Paul responded that they tend to rely on large data surveys for much of their evidence (Scottish Household Survey). But in the pandemic they needed more granular data and at speed. He also noted data gaps in terms of some characteristics such as gender reassignment, sexual orientation, and pregnancy and maternity. To fill these gaps they have been relying on lived experience work to bring in that depth and experiential data. He noted that moving forward the organisation is trying to pick up on some of the data issues through advancing processes like data linkage but he reiterated that even with better numbers the depth of understanding is still important.

Graham reiterated Paul’s point around the lack of granular data and the valuable addition found with experiential work. He also added that COVID has had such a fundamental impact on society that we don’t know whether pre-pandemic trends are accurate for current times.

Angela asked whether there was any evidence from Time Use surveys that could add to transport knowledge. Liz responded that some data is available around commuting but again it is difficult to get the level of granularity needed.

Richard noted that he didn’t envy anyone trying to make long term plans during the current pandemic. He asked to what extent things like supporting rural transport or 20 minute neighbourhoods have a financial implication and to what extent these costs have been mapped back to the budget. How do these broad priorities match back to the Medium Term Financial Strategy?

Fiona B noted that the SPTR is producing the evidence base to make the strategic business case to inform budget decisions.

Graham noted that the NPF4 is not itself a spending document – more a spatial expression of other policies. He noted that they can look at how the monies of the  public and private sector can be harnessed in the round and try to influence wider spend.

Sara asked about what thoughts or approaches are being considered in order to activate engagement for local place plans.

Graham noted that although there is primary legislation in place for local place plans, they are currently developing the detail for secondary legislation. The original aim was to allow civic Scotland to bring forward plans into the statutory planning system. There is no requirement for all places to do this. He noted that they would be looking to Community Councils and development trusts to bring these forward. Support is being provided through a ‘How To’ guide which will distil best practice to explain to communities how to develop a local place plan. At the moment, the local place plans will be building on what is already there – some Local Authorities are putting in support in areas where they see value in this work. It is hoped that communities will pick up on broader issues like prioritising active travel and local job opportunities, but we are not stipulating this.  

Heather noted that they have been developing a people’s panel to inform development of the NTS, and in addition to the M&E reports they are looking at 3-yearly reports which will bring in more lived experience, especially from marginalised groups.

Tom asked to what extent NTS and STPR will be accompanied by evaluation. 

Paul S responded that it is correct that the M&E will provide high-level trend data but that it will not be enough to fully understand impacts. He noted that they will be publishing an evaluation strategy shortly which will pick up on major infrastructure projects but also active travel programmes. He noted that there is a dedicated budget for evaluation, but that it is expensive and they will need to prioritise as they move forward.

Fiona B added that there isn’t an evaluation on STPR as such because it is a strategic business case for delivering on the NTS and will be evaluated as part of the broader NTS. But, she noted that she would think again about whether there would be additional value in the evaluation of the STPR as a process. 

The Chair thanked presenters again for their time this morning and for providing presentations before the meeting. She noted that we had heard about a lot of exciting developments and thought there was a lot of good practice that could be shared across the SG and with wider public bodies.

Sean further endorsed the message that there is a lot of good practice here. Trevor Owen, who is the new lead for Mainstreaming Equality and Human Rights Strategy, will be coming to the next meeting to talk about the approach moving forward.

Meeting closed.

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