Feedback gathered from Scottish Government colleagues who have worked on equality budgeting suggests that communications improvements are needed in two key areas: communication from Ministers and senior officials around the importance of equality budgeting, and communication between finance, policy and analyst colleagues on equality budgeting work, as well as budgeting decisions more widely.
It is imperative that lead budget officials (or those otherwise responsible) clearly communicate the equality and human rights implications of portfolio budget options to Ministers, to ensure that spend decisions are made with an evidenced understanding of this impact and that PSED obligations are met. It is also imperative that central budget officials clearly communicate the equality and human rights implications of the cumulative budget decisions to the Cabinet.
In addition, SHRC analysis suggests that improvement is required around how budget work is communicated to those outside Government. Lengthy and complicated budget documents are not conducive to good public engagement or public and parliamentary scrutiny.
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. They should endorse the EBAG recommendations, commission Scottish Government to develop an action plan, and set key milestones from September 2021.
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.
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.
These recommendations reflect the recommendations from the Social Renewal Advisory Board, the Open Government Commitments, and the fiscal transparency project of the Scottish Exchequer, all of which underscore a concerted programme of work for the parliamentary term 2021-2026.