Scottish Budget 2024 to 2025: equality and fairer Scotland statement

Assesses where the Scottish Government is proposing to spend public money and how it aims to reduce inequality. It is a supporting document to the Scottish Budget and should be read alongside associated Budget publications.

Summary by Characteristic

What this analysis aims to do

This section provides a summary of some the equality and Fairer Scotland issues identified by portfolios and some of the ways that the budget tackles those issues.

Further details, and evidence/sources are available in Annex B.

Annex C supplements this analysis through the use of case studies, looking at how equality and Fairer Scotland evidence was used in the development and delivery of the budget.


Each of the nine Scottish Government budget portfolio areas was asked to draw out two key issues, risks or inequalities for nine characteristics, and to identify the budget lines, particularly those that were part of the ‘Programme for Government’, which tackled these inequalities. There is a potentially huge range of budget activity – the actions selected are considered by portfolios to be of substance and importance, and are set out in Annex B. Clearly, however, these are not the only aspects of the budget that play a role.

Annex B therefore sets out many risks / inequalities, supported by separate pieces of analysis, describing how existing budgets and PfG commitments contribute to tackling those risks.

Based on the information in Annex B, this summary identifies a brief selection of specific budget lines, and highlighted activities.

These one page summaries should be taken as providing a “flavour” of the issues and budget impacts.

Cross-cutting measures

These measures were identified as addressing a broad range of inequalities. They are collected here to avoid repetition in individual tables.

  • ‘Best Start Foods’ - removing income thresholds, including continued eligibility for young parents and some young people. By removing income thresholds, an additional 20,000 people will be eligible for support including pregnant women and parents with children under three. £18 million is available in 2024-25 to help support around 51,000 people. (socioeconomic, age, pregnancy and maternity, sex).
  • Funding available to local authorities to spend on ‘Discretionary Housing Payments’ (2024-25 - £90 million). Those most likely to be affected by the benefit cap are larger families and lone parents. £7.8 million is available in 2024-25 to mitigate the benefit cap (socioeconomic, age, pregnancy and maternity, sex).
  • Funding for employability to support delivery of a labour market that is inclusive and offers equality of opportunity for all to access and to progress in work, including through ‘No One Left Behind’ and ‘Fair Start Scotland’ (socioeconomic, age, disability, race, sex).
  • Our ‘Fair Work’ commitments will support delivery of cross-government and economy-wide interventions to promote fair work, including through our ‘Fair Work First’ approach; supporting capacity in trade unions to promote and enhance leadership on fair work and equalities in workplaces, and continuing support for ‘real Living Wage’ accreditation (age, disability, pregnancy and maternity, race, sex).
  • Our funding for justice partners, including Police Scotland and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, has an important role in protecting vulnerable people, addressing discrimination and hate crime and bringing those responsible for it to justice. (gender reassignment, race, religion and belief, sex, sexual orientation, disability).

Socioeconomic inequality

Socioeconomic inequality means …

Over a million people live in relative poverty after housing costs (one in five in the population and nearly one in four children), and affordability of food and other essentials is a key issue. Children living in poverty are more likely to experience care, and have poorer health, development and educational attainment.

Socioeconomic inequality means some people engage less with culture, are less likely to participate in education, employment or training, are under-represented at universities, and are more likely to experience barriers to labour market participation, particularly in higher earning roles. They are at higher risk of poorer mental wellbeing outcomes such as depression, anxiety, suicide, and self-harm and live shorter lives on average. Other health outcomes such as alcohol-related deaths, problematic drug use, or risk of child obesity are all patterned by socioeconomic disadvantage.

Socioeconomically disadvantaged groups experience inequalities in justice, for instance being overrepresented among prison arrivals or victims of crime, including violent crime. The rate of dwelling fires and fire related casualties are higher in the most deprived areas. People living in these areas are more likely to perceive problems such as vandalism, nuisance animals and rowdy behaviours as common in their neighbourhoods. They have less access to private modes of transport and are more reliant on public transport, especially buses. They have been most affected by the pandemic and the cost of living crisis, have less access to savings and affordable borrowing, and can less afford options such as low emission travel.

The role of Scottish Government budget (selected examples)

A wide range of budget measures tackle either poverty or associated inequalities, including some of the cross-cutting measures listed previously. Other major areas of spend cited in returns include:

  • £1 billion to tackling the poverty-related attainment gap and support educational recovery, including up to £200 million in 2024-25 to support tackling the poverty-related attainment gap.
  • ‘Scottish Child Payment’: improving the lives of over 300,000 children in low-income families across Scotland, and lifting an estimated 50,000 children out of relative poverty this year.
  • Continue work to build a system of school age childcare.
  • ‘Education Maintenance Allowance’, providing a £30 per week payment to 16-to-19 year olds from low income households to overcome financial barriers to stay in school or college.
  • Public health measures such as ‘Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund’ for Adults to prevent social isolation, and suicide prevention budget.
  • ‘CashBack for Communities’ programme.
  • Funding to grassroots and community-based projects supporting people affected by problem substance use.
  • ‘Heat in Buildings’ Programme.
  • Social security investment: We will invest over £6 billion in Scottish Government benefits and payments in 2024-25, supporting over 1.2 million people.
  • Through our ‘Fair Work First’ policy we are leveraging employers’ commitment to fair work by applying Fair Work principles to public sector grants, other funding and contracts where it is relevant and proportionate to do so. Employers are being asked to commit to, among other things, payment of at least the ‘real Living Wage’ and appropriate channels for effective workers’ voice.


Age inequality means …

  • Higher rates of child poverty in racialised minority households, in lone parent households, and in families with a mother under 25.
  • Higher homelessness rates for young people.
  • Young people are more likely to be unemployed, vulnerable to long term employment ‘scarring’, to earn less than the Real Living Wage and be financially vulnerable and in unmanageable debt.
  • Worry about experiencing sexual assault is highest amongst 16-to-24 year olds.
  • Older people and families with young children are consistently identified as groups with higher energy needs, and vulnerable to the cold.
  • Different transport patterns with people aged under 21 relying more on buses for transport.
  • Different patterns in cultural attendance – a higher proportion of younger age groups attended cultural events or visited places of culture than in older age groups.
  • Digital participation is generally lower among the older population.
  • Rural areas tend to have an older population.
  • The pandemic has had negative impacts on young people, for example on self-reported mental wellbeing and labour market experiences, whilst the employment rate for older people (aged 50-64) in July 2022-June 2023 was lower than the estimated employment rate for 25-34 and 35-49 year olds.

The role of Scottish Government budget (selected examples)

A wide range of budget measures tackle age inequality, including some of the cross-cutting measures listed previously. Other major areas of spend cited in returns include:

  • Under 22s concessionary travel scheme.
  • 1140 hours of high quality funded early learning and childcare.
  • Financial support for care-experienced and disabled students, and childcare support for student parents.
  • ‘Job Start Payment’ – to help young people with the costs of starting a new job.
  • The ‘Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan and Fund’.
  • 300 community-based supports and services offering an alternative to CAMHS plus counselling services in all secondary schools (£16 million a year).
  • ‘Heat in Buildings’ Programme.


Disability inequality means …

Increased overlap between households in deepest poverty and households containing a disabled person. There is lower cultural attendance and participation among those reporting that they are disabled. Disabled young people have lower school attendance and attainment. They are less likely to be participating in education, employment or training (aged 16-19) and have lower completion rates on college courses. Disabled people are less likely to be in employment, earn less on average, less likely to have access to fair work, and more likely to work in lower paid occupations. The proportion of disabled sole traders is relatively low in Scotland. Disabled people have a higher incidence of civil legal problems and are more likely to be victims of crime, and to experience discrimination and harassment.

Many long term disabled people have higher than average needs for health and social care services. People with learning disabilities have some of the poorest health of any group. Young people with additional support needs and young disabled people were among those most negatively affected by the pandemic. Disabled people or people with a chronic health condition are more likely to be in fuel poverty. Disabled people are more likely to have been affected by the cost of living crisis.

Employment barriers for disabled people include health needs, caring responsibilities, unaffordable childcare, transport, inaccessible job adverts and application processes, workplace discrimination, lack of flexible working and adequate support, and effects of employment on benefits. Disabled people may face barriers in accessing services particularly in rural areas and through digital exclusion. Disabled people are more likely to rely on using the bus to travel and are less likely to drive.

The role of Scottish Government budget (selected examples )

A wide range of budget measures tackle disability inequality, including some of the cross-cutting measures listed previously. Other major areas of spend cited in returns include:

  • ‘Child Disability Payment’ and ‘Adult Disability Payment’ replacing ‘Disability Living Allowance’ for children and ‘Personal Independence Payment’. ‘Pension Age Disability Payment’ will replace ‘Attendance Allowance’.
  • Support to local authorities for individual needs of children and young people with additional support needs.
  • Support for care-experienced and disabled students, and childcare support for student parents.
  • Funding National Collections and National Performing Companies, who provide tailored events/tours.
  • Bursary and grants budget to support disabled students.
  • SDS enhanced contribution rates for disabled people up to the age of 29 who are undertaking a Modern Apprenticeship (MA).
  • Employability and Fair Work commitments, including the ‘No One Left Behind Approach’ and implementing the ‘Fair Work Action Plan’.
  • £600,000 ‘Digital Pioneers’ initiative.

Gender Reassignment

Gender reassignment inequality means …

There is some evidence of a link between gender reassignment and socioeconomic disadvantage. Transgender people suffer poorer outcomes on homelessness, health and employment measures.

Transphobic bullying remains a problem in schools, although there is limited available evidence in relation to discrimination against trans individuals in education.

Many trans people face discrimination, bullying and harassment in employment, including during recruitment processes.

High proportions of transgender young people had deliberately harmed themselves or attempted to take their own life.

Waiting times to access gender identity healthcare are long.

High proportions of transgender people avoid being open about gender identity on public transport for fear of negative reaction. In 2022-23 55 charges were reported with an aggravation of prejudice relating to transgender identity.

The role of Scottish Government budget (selected examples)

A range of budget measures tackle gender reassignment inequality, including some of the cross-cutting measures listed previously. Other major areas of spend cited in returns include:

  • Funding of ‘respectme’, Scotland’s anti-bullying service.
  • ‘Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for Adults’ has a particular focus on supporting a range of at risk groups including LGBTQI+ communities.
  • Funding will continue in 2024-25 for the hate crime charter which offers training for public transport operators and raises awareness of issues that affect vulnerable groups.
  • Funding for children and young people’s community mental health and wellbeing supports and services.

Pregnancy and Maternity

Pregnancy and maternity inequality means …

There are high levels of money worries for those who are pregnant or on maternity leave and high levels of poverty for new families in first year of a new child’s life. Motherhood has a significant impact on the number of hours that some mothers can work, which affects their pay and income, and mothers can face discrimination at work. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the unequal responsibility for housework and childcare. Pregnancy and maternity could be factors that discourage women from seeking a career.

11.8 per cent of pregnant women reported they were current smokers at their first antenatal appointment in 2021/22. Mental health issues affect 10-20 per cent of women during pregnancy and the first year after having a baby. Women from socioeconomically deprived backgrounds, and immigrant, asylum seeking and refugee women are at increased risk of perinatal mental ill health. Single mothers have a higher fuel poverty rate than single working age adults without children.

Single parents are mostly women and are more likely to be in rented, social housing. Social renters tend to be less satisfied with their housing.

The role of Scottish Government budget (selected examples)

A range of budget measures tackle pregnancy and maternity inequality, including some of the cross-cutting measures listed previously. Other major areas of spend cited in returns include:

  • ‘Parental Employability Support’.
  • Perinatal and infant mental health programmes.
  • Linked to ‘Cash-First Plan’, improved emergency pathways to cash, infant formula or breastfeeding support, and wider holistic support in a crisis.


Racial inequality means …

Racialised minority households are more likely to have deeper levels of poverty and a greater proportion of their income is spent on essentials that are subject to inflation. The employment rate for people from racialised minorities is consistently lower than for white people, they are more likely to earn low incomes and be in relative poverty. In 2021, the ethnicity employment rate gap was estimated at 11.7 percentage points, and in 2019 Scotland’s ethnicity pay gap was 10.3 per cent. People with multiple protected characteristics can face heightened barriers to employment.

Adults from racialised minorities are more likely to have experienced discrimination and harassment. Race aggravated crime is the most commonly reported hate crime. Public transport can provide a space in which perpetrators can target violence or threat of violence at certain groups of society. Seasonal Agricultural Workers in Scotland have experienced low wages, challenging housing, and some experiences of racism and xenophobia. White people report higher attendance of some art forms such as art and theatre.

Racialised minority groups in general have similar or lower mortality than the general population, but may have specific health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes among those of South Asian descent. Overall, the White ethnicity group has proportionately higher uptake of vaccines than racialised minority groups.

People from racialised minorities are more likely to be in households assessed as homeless/threatened with homelessness. Migrant workers in rural Scotland experience isolation and face barriers in accessing affordable accommodation and English language provision.

The role of Scottish Government budget (selected examples)

A range of budget measures tackle racial inequality, including some of the cross-cutting measures listed previously. Other major areas of spend cited in returns include:

  • Funding for the Scottish Attainment Challenge.
  • Alongside Higher Education Student Support free tuition support, the bursary and grants budget helps to support specific groups.
  • Employability and Fair Work commitments, including the ‘Fair Work Action Plan’ and ‘Anti Racist Employment Strategy’.
  • ‘Ending Homelessness Together’.
  • ‘CashBack for Communities’ scheme has supported people across 19 specific ethnic groups.
  • Funding the Anti-Racism Observatory for Scotland in recognition of the need for a strategic and coherent anti-racism approach to data, strategy and policy in Scotland.

Religion and Belief

Religion and Belief inequality means …

Muslim adults are more likely to be in relative poverty. There is variation in employment rates by religion. Since 2004, the employment rate of Muslims in Scotland has been consistently lower than the employment rate for the population at large (46.5 per cent versus 73.2 per cent in 2021).

Some attitudes and practices among religious groups may results in unequal access to healthcare. People experiencing stigma as a result of religious belief or practice may experience worse health outcomes.

Over the last five years, the number of religiously aggravated hate crimes reported has fluctuated between around 530 and 670 per year. There were 576 religiously aggravated charges reported in 2022-23, 8 per cent more than in 2021-22. Analysis of religion aggravated hate crimes in 2020-21, showed that in just under half of charges the perpetrator showed prejudice towards the Catholic community. There is some evidence of increased Islamophobic abuse on public transport.

The role of Scottish Government budget (selected examples)

A range of budget measures tackle religion and belief inequality, including some of the cross-cutting measures listed previously. Other major areas of spend cited in returns include:

  • ‘Funeral Support Payment’ (2024-25 - £12 million supporting around 6,000 people meet the costs of a funeral, alleviating burden of debt). Those applying for ‘Funeral Support Payment’ are more likely to identify as having a religion.
  • Funding will continue in 2024-25 for the ‘hate crime charter’ which offers training for public transport operators and raises awareness of issues that affect vulnerable groups.


Sex inequality means …

Women’s income has been hit harder by UK social security cuts since 2010. Women are disproportionately impacted by cost of living crisis, are more likely to be in poverty, have lower savings / wealth, and be less able to increase paid work than men, due to caring responsibilities. Women claim 89 per cent of ‘Scottish Child Payments’, and 69 per cent of ‘Carers Allowance’.

Women experience a range of barriers in the labour market, and this drives aspects of the gender pay gap. There are intersectional barriers in the labour market e.g. disabled women, racially minoritised women and women over 50. Women (and particularly racially minoritised women) are more likely to be in insecure work and are overrepresented in sectors that have historically low pay, low progression and low status but can provide more flexibility to allow women to undertake caring responsibilities. Women are less likely to be self-employed than men, and female-led companies are less likely to receive investment than male-led businesses. There is a significant gender pay gap for women in remote rural areas. For example, women are underrepresented in offshore, and senior leadership positions in fisheries. Approximately 77 per cent of the health and social care workforce is female, with significant segregation by gender, and there is a gender pay gap in the NHS.

Women are likely to experience indirect effects of cost pressures that are not always apparent in routine data, for example due to formal or informal caring responsibilities and resulting loss of income or delayed career progression.

There are differences in levels of developmental concerns recorded and in high school level attainment between boys and girls. Girls also continue to be more likely to enter positive destinations than boys. Gender differences in subject choice are evident throughout school, in apprenticeships, and in further and higher education.

Data shows worse health outcomes for men, particularly young men. Young to middle-aged men are at particular risk of poorer health, and have declining engagement with health services. 70 per cent of all people dying from suicide have been male. There are higher smoking rates for men. Women are more likely to experience mental health concerns than men, with higher risk of eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While women are more likely to have ever attempted suicide than men, men are at much higher risk of dying by suicide. Women who have heart attacks receive poorer care than men.

The impact of violence against women and girls is significant, and is both a cause and a consequence of their inequality, with most victims of sexual crime and domestic abuse being women.

Men are more likely to be the victim of serious non-sexual violence.

More men aged 16 and over were employed in the Arts, culture and creative industries sector than women in 2022 and women occupy a larger proportion of part-time positions.

There is a suggestion that public transport is predominantly designed to serve commuters and these services benefit men more than women. Women and girls are forced to alter travel habits in order to feel safe on public transport, including younger women, those from racialised minorities and disabled women. Female transport workers also reported feeling unsafe.

The role of Scottish Government budget (selected examples)

A wide range of budget measures tackle sex inequality, including some of the cross-cutting measures listed previously. Other major areas of spend cited in returns include:

  • 1,140 hours of high quality funded early learning and childcare for all eligible children.
  • ‘Five Family Payments’ (FFPs): the majority of people who claim FFP are women. Women make up the majority of lone parents, and lone parents are at greater risk of poverty.
  • ‘Scottish Child Payment’: the vast majority of SCP recipients (85 per cent) are women.
  • ‘Best Start Grant’, ‘Early Learning Payment’ and ‘School Age Payment’.
  • ‘Carer Support Payment’ will replace ‘Carer’s Allowance’ in Scotland from the end of 2023 – range of enhancements to process, eligibility and level of support.
  • Through our Fair Work commitments in the ‘Fair Work Action Plan’ we are supporting workplace equality and promoting flexible working. Funding for the Techscaler network, which works in partnership with organisations that support those who face greater systemic barriers to start-up participation, including women.
  • ‘CashBack for Communities’ have focused on developing positive interactions between the sexes, for example to reduce violence against women and developing positive relationships. Some justice related project strands will relate more to young men.
  • ‘Delivering Equally Safe’ strategy, to address the violence and abuse that women and girls face, which is a cause and a consequence of inequality. ‘Equally Safe’, Scotland’s world leading Strategy to end Violence Against Women and Girls, focuses on preventing violence from occurring in the first place, and strengthening the justice response to victims and perpetrators.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation inequality means …

LGBQ+ pupils may be particularly likely to experience bullying at school. LGBQ young people experienced higher levels of online bullying and lower levels of mental wellbeing during the pandemic compared with heterosexual young people.

Despite studies showing equal or better pay for LGB people, they continue to experience discrimination, harassment and abuse in work and education. Hate crimes with an aggravation of prejudice relating to sexual orientation are the second most commonly reported hate crime. The number of charges reported has increased each year since 2014-15 with 1,884 reported in 2022-23.

Other sexual orientations which are not heterosexual were more likely to report poor mental health, and to experience discrimination in their access and interactions with health care services.

Sexual orientation was viewed by some as a barrier to career progression in the Scottish arts sector in 2016.

The role of Scottish Government budget (selected examples)

A range of budget measures tackle sexual orientation inequality, including some of the cross-cutting measures listed previously. Other major areas of spend cited in returns include:

  • Funding provided to organisations through the ‘Equality and Human Rights Fund’ who are working to promote LGBTQI+ equality in Scotland to continue into 2025.
  • Funding for ‘respectme’, Scotland’s anti-bullying service.
  • There are a range of social security benefits available to people who meet the eligibility criteria including those who share protected characteristics.
  • Funding will continue in 2024-25 for the ‘hate crime charter’ which offers training for operators and raises awareness of issues that affect vulnerable groups.



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