Equality Budget Advisory Group: recommendations for equality and human rights budgeting - 2021-2026 parliamentary session

Recommendations for the 2021 to 2026 parliamentary session from the Equality Budget Advisory Group.

Appendix 1

Key areas for action – process, communications, organisation and culture, knowledge and understanding

Scottish Government takes the recommendations in this report and turns it into a prioritised and resourced action plan to ensure step change improvement in budgeting appraisal processes over the parliamentary term.

Process – wider budget process (actions 1 to 7)

1. New commitments and their intended outcomes are developed on the basis of advancing equality and human rights, as well as assessed for their consistency with the PfG, NPF and other targets.

a. All EQIAs should be published

2. Existing cumulative and ongoing spending commitments and funded programmes should be included in assessments of equality outcomes and progress in securing human rights and NPF outcomes.

3. Multi-year spending reviews should be aimed for in the future. Multi-year spending reviews were part of the original design of the Scottish Budget process and recommended by the Budget Process Review Group, including the production of a pre-budget framework developed in dialogue with partners.

a. In the first instance, multi-annual budgets should be set for local authorities and public bodies providing front-line services.

4. Equality analysis applies to the whole budget process, and should be evident at each stage. Equality and human rights budgeting require that a pre-budget statement, in-year reports and a mid-year review reflect equality analysis and actions to respect, protect, and fulfil human rights standards, and actions to advance equality in line with international standards.[1]

5. Work with public authorities funded through the Scottish Budget and who have obligations under the Public Sector Equality Duty and human rights legislation to develop processes for reporting on the impact of past spend and budget allocations on equality outcomes and advancing human rights.

6. Analysis of impact of changes in spending commitments to public and third sector organisations in relation to equality outcomes and realisation of rights must be consistently conducted and published.

a. This should assess whether funding has been more appropriately applied elsewhere, or has resulted in a suspension or withdrawal of services or programmes previously considered worthy of funding.

b. Evaluation of outcomes should become an integral part of the budget process and inform the different stages of pre-formulation, budget preparation, and evaluation. These evaluation reports should be published.

7. Improve transparency and public participation in the budget process through the consistent publication of a Citizens’ Budget and accessible information on the budget process. 

Process – integrating equalities and human rights analysis into policymaking and budgetary cycles (actions 8 to 14)

8. Invest in building knowledge and capacity on understanding equality evidence and human rights international standards in order to improve equality and human rights assessment and evaluation of outcomes. Set a timetable for training with oversight by the Mainstreaming Strategy Steering Group and Executive Team, with relevant updates on training on budget analysis to EBAG.

9. Evaluation of outcomes as published in the annual wellbeing report should become an integral part of the budget process and inform the different stages of pre-formulation, budget preparation, and evaluation of spend. These evaluation reports, of outcomes and spend, should be published on the Scottish Government website and should include consideration of key structural inequality by protected characteristics (and their intersections) as well as impacts on the realisation of human rights.

10. Public participation in formulating budget commitments and to ensure the integration of lived experience of policy decisions is essential. It is also contained within existing Open Government and Budget Process Review Group commitments to improve transparency and participation in the Scottish Budget process, as well as a necessary to meet international standards. The fiscal transparency project of the Scottish Exchequer is also exploring the formulation of a Citizens’ Budget which aligns with the recommendations from EBAG.

11. Cabinet Secretaries are encouraged to direct officials to continue to develop, improve and embed the policy process that informs the budget and the associated publications including the Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement (EFSBS).

12. Promote internal engagement with the EFSBS process and external use of the EFSBS as part of a suite of analytical activities and products that focus on how public resources and decisions are being used to drive equality and human rights.

a. In addition, introduce a pre-budget statement as part of the advance formulation and scrutiny process, as recommended in the Budget Review Group Report, and to fill gaps in international standards as identified in the SHRC Independent Budget Initiative. This statement should include a Pre-Budget Equality and Human Rights Assessment / Annual Portfolio Performance Update and be published immediately before summer recess. This analysis would be produced internally and assess the key inequalities of outcome relating to the main policy objectives in each portfolio, and what evidence there is on how these inequalities could be addressed. This analysis allows Ministers and senior officials to actively consider key issues and make budget and Programme for Government decisions informed by the evidence;

13. Build on initial approaches to frame action on equalities within a risk assessment framework as trialled in the 2021-2022 Draft Budget/EFSBS to support the process of identifying and responding to inequalities and advancing equality and the realisation of rights as the basis for allocating funds. 

14. Retain EBAG with an expanded/re-worked name to reflect the drive for equality and human rights budgeting, confirm a set of Terms of Reference for EBAG, and continue the role of independent chair. External EBAG members should possess in-depth knowledge of equalities and public finance.

Communications – internal (actions 15 to 17)

15. Ministers should clearly articulate priority areas of action and focus in relation to advancing equality and the realisation of rights in the policy and budget documentation referred to above.

16. Members of the Executive Team, and senior Scottish Government officials, should deliver clear leadership, direction and communication on ensuring that equality and human rights objectives and analysis are clearly evidenced and articulated in policy development and all budget decisions.

17. Scottish Government officials should be supported to constructively challenge colleagues on budgeting decisions and the importance of assessing decisions for their equalities and human rights impacts should be widely acknowledged.

Communications – external (actions 18 to 22)

18. Ensure all published budget documents are as clear and concise as possible.

19. Commit to, and produce, a ‘Citizens’ Budget’ – a condensed, accessible version of the budget, in line with Open Government and Budget Process Review Group commitments and to meet gaps in international standards. 

20. Publish an easy read version of each of the key budget documents alongside the main document (including the EFSBS) in the Draft Budget 2022-23.

21. Create online and deliberative spaces to engage public participation in understanding the budget process and composition, to deliberate on policy and revenue decisions, and to seek feedback on budget documents from users. Such actions are consistent with recommendations from the Social Renewal Advisory Board, the current commitment to Open Government and work underway within the Exchequer on Open Budgeting. Ensuring such participatory activities are inclusive and integrate and equalities and human rights perspective in the deliberative processes will be essential.

22. Develop a new Scottish Government website/budget portal dedicated to publishing analysis, reporting, evaluation reports, and other tools related to equality and human rights budgeting.

Organisation and culture (actions 23 to 27)

23. Senior officials should prioritise and allocate adequate staff time to be trained on, and to undertake robust equality and human rights analysis of both policy and budgets.

24. Equality and human rights responsibilities should be clearly articulated within performance management systems for all staff.

25. Finance, policy and analyst staff work closely together to produce equalities and human rights analysis of spend, and processes are established to facilitate this joint working.

a. Suggest an internal survey to assess understanding of internal processes, information sources in 2021 as benchmark for improvement.

26. Cross-portfolio working must become the norm in tackling inequalities and promoting human rights in relation to formulating policy and spending commitments.

27. Ministers’ own awareness and commitment to routinely request analysis of how proposed budgets would impact on equalities and human rights, and how to take this analysis into account when making final decisions on budget allocations, should be increased at portfolio level and across Cabinet. Ministerial training should be considered.

Knowledge and understanding (actions 28 to 31)

28. Scottish Government increases cross-office competence by increasing the capacity for running training and providing advice on:

  • structural inequalities and dimensions of equalities analysis;

  • domestic and international legislation including Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) and international human rights standards;
  • effective equality impact assessments in the context of multiple impact assessment process; 
  • inclusive public participation on budget formulation and evaluation of outcomes

29. Scottish Government commits to continuous improvement of the equality evidence base such that officials have better access to, and knowledge of, relevant data and evidence and have an improved understanding of the structural nature of inequalities.

30. Officials are required to undertake mandatory equality impact training every three years.

31. Design and deliver a programme of shared learning and knowledge exchange in partnership with devolved governments from autumn 2021 onwards.

[1] For further information on each of these documents, see: https://www.internationalbudget.org/sites/default/files/2020-04/2019_Report_EN.pdf


Equality Budget Advisory Group

Back to top