‘Equality, opportunity, community: New leadership - A fresh start’ published in April 2023 makes clear that the First Minister has committed his Government to ‘embedding equality, inclusion and human rights into everything we do’. This ‘Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement’ does just that: it is not simply an analysis of the Budget and the impact of the decisions contained in it, it considers the process of making those decisions, and how we make sure the needs of all people are actively considered.
The ‘Scottish Budget 2024-25’ comes in one of the most difficult periods for public finances since devolution, following an ‘Autumn Statement’ by the UK Government which prioritised tax cuts to the detriment of public service investment. The Scottish Budget 2024-25, however, is the budget of a responsible government - taking tough decisions to protect the public from the worst effects of UK Government austerity.
This Budget has required each Cabinet Secretary to make choices about how to spend the funding available to them – and where not to spend it. In doing this, we have all been mindful that our decisions can have a disproportionate impact on poorer communities and those most marginalised, and we have sought to deploy budgets in a way which improves and advances equality. The evidence we have gathered to develop this Statement not only shows the Equality and Fairer Scotland impacts of our spending but actively informed our decisions.
We remain committed to ensuring that equality and human rights underpin our budget processes and are working to continually improve how we do this. This year the Scottish Government responded to recommendations made by the Equality and Human Rights Budget Advisory Group and we have committed to working in partnership with them to deliver an action plan over the forthcoming year. As a result of their input, and an internal review, we have made a number of improvements to the process for delivering the ‘Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement (EFSBS)’ this year.
For the first time, Ministers came together to discuss collectively the equality and socioeconomic impacts of budget decisions at an EFSBS specific workshop. This collective discussion was an important step change in how we embed equality and human rights in budget decision making emphasising the importance we place on that.
Another key improvement this year is the alignment of the ‘Programme for Government’ and budget equality assurance process.
A further addition this year is the ‘Case Study’ approach. We have used a sample of eight budget lines as case studies and these are outlined in this Statement. They come from different parts of Government, and include different types of budget. For each of the eight case studies, we have looked in detail at how human rights and equality considerations have played a part in decision making. To do this, we have answered six key questions, which were developed in collaboration with the Equality and Human Rights Advisory Group.
In the autumn, we also commissioned the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to undertake an intersectional gender budget pilot on our behalf. This work has recently started and will include capacity building and exploring practical opportunities to pilot new approaches on gender budgeting.
Over the coming year we will go further. We will continue working with the Equality and Human Rights Budget Advisory Group on our action plan, and will learn from international practice, as we work with the OECD and our stakeholders.
As we enter some of the toughest times for public services in recent history, we will make evidence-based decisions that consider the impacts on all people in Scotland. The challenges are huge, so it is vital that we work together to protect those who are most vulnerable.
Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance
Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice
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