Equally safe: delivery plan

The Equally Safe delivery plan will help to ensure that the ambitions of the Equally Safe Strategy makes a tangible difference.

Where We Are


Equally Safe, Scotland’s Strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls, was published in 2014 and updated in 2016 [1] . It sets out a vision of a strong and flourishing Scotland where all individuals are equally safe and protected, and where women and girls live free from all forms of violence and abuse – and the attitudes that help perpetuate them.

The aim of the strategy is to foster collaborative working between key partners in the public, private and third sectors to achieve this vision. Our strategic approach is drawn from the United Nations definition of gender based violence, which recognises that it is a function of gender inequality, that it is an abuse of male power and privilege, and that women and girls experience violence and abuse because they are women and girls – and because they continue to occupy a subordinate position within society in relation to men.

Within that wider societal context, there are particular risk factors that increase vulnerability, and the full continuum of violence against women and girls – domestic abuse, rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, commercial sexual exploitation (including victims of human trafficking), and so called ‘honour based’ violence continue to be prevalent across society.

That is why Equally Safe places increased priority upon primary prevention – stopping this violence from happening in the first place. Taking this approach demands that Scottish society as a whole embraces equality and mutual respect, that we together reject all forms of violence against women and girls, and that women and girls thrive as equal citizens – socially, culturally, economically and politically. This is a long term ambition – so here and now, we have to ensure that interventions are early and effective, helping to prevent violence from reoccurring and maximising the safety and wellbeing of women, children and young people. And we need to ensure that men desist from all forms of violence against women and girls, and that perpetrators of such violence receive a robust and effective response.


We have a range of evidence sources that provides a picture of violence against women and girls in Scotland, and of the attitudes that underpin it. This overwhelmingly demonstrates that women disproportionately experience this violence.

The evidence helps to inform our interventions and understanding of the current position and progress towards our goals:

  • In 2016-17 there were 58,810 incidents of domestic abuse recorded by the police in Scotland, an increase of 1% from 2015-16. Levels of domestic abuse recorded by the police have remained relatively stable since 2011-12 at around 58,000 to 60,000 incidents a year (and up by 20% since 48,884 in 2006-07). Where the gender was known 79% of incidents involved a female victim and male perpetrator. [2]
  • Rape & attempted rape accounted for 17% of sexual crimes. In 2016-17 there were 1,878 recorded incidents of rape a 4% increase from 1,809 in 2015-16. There has been a upward trend in these crimes since 2010-11 with Rape & attempted rape increasing by 66% overall between 2010-11 and 2016-17. [3] Where identifiable, 94% of crimes of ‘Rape and attempted rape’ and 87% of crimes of ‘Sexual assault’ had a female victim in 2016-17. Over three-quarters of victims of ‘Other sexual crimes [4] ’ were female (79% in 2016-17). The vast majority of perpetrators (where identifiable) were male – 95% in 2016-17.
  • There has been a significant increase in the proportion of ‘Other sexual crimes’ that were cyber enabled (i.e. the internet was used as a means to commit the crime) – increasing from 38% in 2013-14 to 51% in 2016-17.
  • For both cyber enabled crimes and non-cyber enabled crimes of ‘Communicating indecently’, ‘Cause to view sexual activity or images’, more than 80% of victims were female and around 95% of perpetrators were male in 2016-17. Almost three-quarters of the victims of cyber enabled crimes of this type in 2016-17 were under 16. Perpetrators also tended to be much younger where these crimes were cyber enabled, with a quarter under 16 and more than half under 20.
  • For all homicides recorded in the last ten years, just over half (52%) of the female victims aged between 16 and 70 years were killed by their partner or ex-partner, 28% were killed by an acquaintance and 8% were killed by a stranger. For male victims aged 16 to 70 years, only 6% were killed by their partner or ex-partner. [5]
  • 941 non-harassment orders were granted in 2015/2016.
  • By 1 October 2017, the second anniversary of the operation of the Police Scotland Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse, 2,144 requests had been made and 927 people had been told about a partner’s abusive past.
  • In 2016 the UK National Referral Mechanism received 150 referrals of potential victims of human trafficking in Scotland, an increase of 3.4% since 2015. The 150 referrals were equally divided between males and females, and 47 (31.4%) of these potential victims were minors. Victims trafficked for sexual exploitation included 33 adults and 6 minors, and 92% of the victims trafficked for sexual exploitation were female [6] .
  • The 2014 social attitudes survey on public attitudes towards violence against women findings indicated that people are less likely to recognise verbal abuse and controlling behaviour (as opposed to physical abuse) as being wrong and harmful, and there are contexts under which people view abusive behaviours as less serious. People tended to think that sex without consent was less seriously wrong or harmful if perpetrated by the victim’s spouse than by someone she has just met. More than a third of people believed common myths about rape, and people were much less likely to be negative about commercial sexual exploitation than about the other forms of violence against women. Stereotypical views on gender roles persisted, and those who held more stereotypical views on gender roles were consistently less likely to view a wide range of abusive behaviours as wrong or harmful [7] .
  • In a sub-module of the same survey, attitudes of young people showed they were less likely than adults to think the various kinds of violence against women that they were asked about were very seriously wrong, or to think that they would cause a great deal of harm. In some cases, the extent to which young people appeared to hold more permissive views than adults about violence against women was striking, and stereotypical gender views played a role in this [8] .
  • Continuing to develop this evidence base is essential if we are to understand the difference we are making as well as gain greater insight into the issues and challenges that we need to address. We will therefore explore further what research and data capture may be helpful to build on our understanding of violence against women and girls, and look to embed this within our analytical planning.

Action Taken

In the context of the Strategy, there has been a range of activity to support delivery.

Strengthened leadership and partnership working

  • A Violence against Women and Girls Joint Strategic Board, chaired at Ministerial and senior councillor level was established comprising senior leaders from public and third sectors – this has met 5 times over the past two years.
  • 4 workstreams themed around Primary Prevention, Capability and Capacity, Justice and Accountability were established and have contributed to proposals contained within this draft Delivery Plan.
  • In February 2016, Scotland’s first National Action Plan to tackle female genital mutilation was published. A Multi-Agency Group, with membership from the statutory, third sector and community based organisations, has developed multi-agency guidance which sets out how agencies, individually and together, can protect girls and young women from FGM, and how to respond appropriately to survivors.
  • In March 2016, an updated version of Equally Safe was published with the input of children and young people’s organisations, who helped to strengthen our approach to these issues. This helped to establish stronger links across a range of government policy areas, and more widely, renewed collaborative working between partners.
  • To build on this, a Children and Young People stakeholder reference group was established in 2016, to input to this Delivery Plan and inform our approach to implementation.
  • With the support and input of the Improvement Service and CoSLA, guidance [9] for Violence against Women Partnerships was published in August 2016. The Equalities Secretary and the COSLA spokesperson for Community Wellbeing wrote to all partnerships, the 32 local authorities and major public bodies to encourage them to utilise the guidance and engage with their local partnerships.

Increased funding

  • In March 2015, the First Minister announced that an additional £20m from Justice budgets would be allocated towards tackling violence against women. This money has already made a significant difference with direct support and assistance going to victims, as well as improvements being made to the system to prioritise court cases which involve domestic abuse so victims are not waiting for long periods for their trials to call.
  • In June 2017, a further £11.8m was announced by the Equalities Secretary to support efforts to tackle violence against women and provide support for victims, bringing the total investment from the Equality Budget to almost £30 million over 2017 to 2020.
  • In February 2017, the Scottish Government announced 3 year rolling funding for equality and violence against women organisations, to give vital reassurance and continuity to these organisations. Funding under the Equality Budget has been confirmed for 2017-18, and indicative amounts for 2018-20 have been provided.

New legislation

  • In October, 2015 the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 [10] was passed, which consolidates and strengthens criminal law against human trafficking and exploitation. The 2015 Act requires the development of a Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy, which was laid before the Scottish Parliament on 30 May 2017 and will be reviewed every three years [11] . A public awareness raising campaign was launched by the Justice Secretary in August 2017 to highlight that human trafficking and exploitation can happen anywhere.
  • In July 2017, the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Act came into effect which created a specific offence of sharing private intimate images without consent. The Act includes a new statutory domestic abuse aggravator to ensure courts take domestic abuse into account when sentencing an offender and statutory jury directions for certain sexual offence cases. This was supported by a number of awareness raising campaigns, including Rape Crisis Scotland’s ‘I Just Froze’ to help those who might serve on juries to understand the deeply personal response by someone to being raped; and the Scottish Government’s campaign on the consequences of non-consensual sharing of intimate images.
  • In March 2017, the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill was introduced to Parliament. This will create a specific offence of domestic abuse that will cover not just physical abuse but also other forms of psychological abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour that cannot easily be prosecuted using the existing criminal law. Parliament voted to support the general principles of the Bill at the Stage 1 debate on 28 September 2017.
  • In June 2017, the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill was introduced to ensure that women are properly represented on our public boards.

Improved Services

  • The Scottish Government has continued to invest significant levels of funding in front line services supporting victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence. Funding has included support for women’s aid groups, rape crisis centres and other services across Scotland.
  • CoSLA and Scottish Women’s Aid published guidance [12] for local authorities on the commissioning of domestic abuse services by local authorities.
  • In June 2017, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice announced that the length of the period of support provided to victims of trafficking would be doubled.
  • The Scottish Government has established a Taskforce for the Improvement of Services for children and adults who have experienced rape and sexual assault, to strengthen the governance arrangements for services and improve the provision of appropriate services and facilities for victims who require a forensic examination. In October 2017, the Taskforce published a five year work plan [13] which sets out a clear and ambitious vision for Scotland to ensure consistent, person centred, trauma informed healthcare and forensic medical services for anyone who has experienced rape or sexual assault. In July 2017, Healthcare Improvement Scotland ( HIS) consulted on new National Standards [14] to develop a consistency in approach to healthcare and forensic medical services for anyone who has experienced rape, sexual assault or child sexual abuse. The Standards will be published by end 2017.

Collaborative Working

We are clear that it is for everyone in society to play their part in preventing and ending violence against women and girls. This Delivery Plan has been developed in partnership with a range of organisations, and will be delivered in a collaborative way that recognises the different roles and expertise of organisations from the public, private and third sectors.

At a local level, Violence against Women Partnerships ( VAWPs) are recognised as the multi-agency mechanism with responsibility for delivering Equally Safe within their localities. These Partnerships are responsible for bringing together all the key public sector and third sector organisations working to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls within each local authority area, and ensuring that an effective and strategic approach is taken to progressing the priorities set out in Equally Safe. The afor-mentioned guidance published by the Scottish Government and COSLA in 2016 highlights the expectation that all local authority areas should have a high functioning VAW Partnership and sets out a number of minimum standards that they are expected to work towards meeting.

Joint Strategic Board

The Equally Safe Joint Strategic Board was established following the publication of the Strategy in 2014. It is jointly chaired by the Scottish Government and CoSLA, and aims to meet at least twice a year. The remit of the Board has been to oversee delivery of the strategy, monitor progress and identify and (where necessary) intervene in emerging issues; receive progress reports from each of the 4 workstreams and oversee the delivery of their objectives; as the workstreams progress, to identify current and emerging issues, and direct the workstreams to focus their attention on particular issues that arise; promote Equally Safe priorities and any associated outcomes relating to the strategy and the four workstreams within the organisation and/or sector they represent. The Board met on 5 occasions between 2015 and 2017 to discuss strategic priorities, progress on developing the Delivery Plan, and implementing Equally Safe.


Equally Safe made a commitment to establish 3 thematic workstreams and a further workstream focused on accountability. The members of the different workstream groups were drawn from a wide range of partners with a wealth of experience and informed by the experience of women, girls, children and young people who have been subject to violence or abuse.

  • The Primary prevention workstream was led by Engender, the feminist organisation. It explored the existing evidence on what works with regards to preventing violence against women and girls; sought to identify additional ways of addressing the systematic inequalities, attitudes and assumptions that give rise to violence and abuse, and considered primary prevention in the widest context – society, community and the individual. It also focused – through a series of thematic discussions bringing in gender experts – on developing thinking around how best to advance women’s equality as a key component of primary prevention. Discussions covered a range of subjects including political and professional leadership, gender stereotyping and norms, occupational segregation, the gender pay gap and disparities between paid and unpaid labour, and the process of assessing spending and economic decisions through a gendered lens.
  • The Capability and Capacity workstream was coordinated by COSLA. It focused on how to ensure that statutory services including health, education, social work and housing are increasingly competent in identifying and responding effectively to violence; and consider and work to improve the capacity and capability that exists across all services. It also sought to strengthen the local government response to violence against women.
  • The Justice workstream was led by the Scottish Government Justice Directorate, through the establishment of a Justice Expert Group. It focused on developing a victim-centred approach to the justice system through a coordinated approach within both the civil and criminal justice systems – including consideration of the law relating to sexual offences and domestic abuse, looking at new models for taking evidence from vulnerable witnesses such as the Barnahus model and taking forward learning from the Evidence and Procedure Review. The Group also explored the availability for support available for victims and their experiences when going through the system – particularly in relation to civil law and contact cases; the availability of statistics to build evidence bases; training for professionals within and outwith the justice system; multi-agency working and opportunity for learning and spreading good practice; and the impact of justice interventions in changing both perpetrator behaviour and wider public attitudes. The Group also endorsed a National Advocacy Scoping Exercise and initiated work to consider the improvement of services for victims of sexual assault where a forensic medical extermination is required.
  • The Accountability workstream was led by Scottish Women’s Aid in partnership with the Improvement Service. It focused on developing a Performance Framework with appropriate outcomes and indicators to enable measurement of progress and improved strategic investment planning to ensure that women and girls throughout Scotland benefit from consistently high-quality services. The workstream also considered how to best embed participation in Equally Safe.

Each workstream met on a number of occasions to progress the development of contributions to this Delivery Plan. Workstreams came together jointly in March and November 2017 to consider drafts and offer comments on progress.

Delivery Plan

The development of a delivery plan to complement the Equally Safe Strategy was an early commitment by the Scottish Government. The purpose of having a Delivery Plan is to ensure that the ambitions of the Strategy are rooted in practical delivery that makes a tangible difference to the lives of women, girls, children and young people. Both the Strategy and the Delivery Plan continue to complement and contribute to a range of other Government initiatives, including the Action Plan for a Fairer Scotland, the Justice Strategy and the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy. It also sits alongside our work to tackle discrimination, promote equality, and give children and young people the best start in life.

To ensure that this Delivery Plan is as strong as possible, the Scottish Government consulted on a draft between March and June 2017. Analysis of responses [15] to the consultation were published in November 2017.

All of the above demonstrates that there has been a significant amount of work taken forward since the original publication of Equally Safe in 2014. We know that this will make a real difference to women and children in Scotland, but we also know that much more remains to be done if we are to truly realise our ambitions.


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