Equally Safe Joint Strategic Board minutes: November 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 16 November 2023.

Attendees and apologies

Siobhian Brown MSP, Minister for Victims and Community Safety, Scottish Government

Councillor Maureen Chalmers, Community Safety and Wellbeing Spokesperson, COSLA

Mariam Ahmed, Third Sector Specialist, AMINA

Karen Allen, Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers

Sandy Brindley, Third Sector Specialist, Rape Crisis Scotland

Amanda Coulthard,  Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers, SOLACE (joined virtually)

Lucy Denvir , Public Health (joined virtually)

Bill Fitzpatrick, Community Justice Scotland, Justice

Sophie Gwyther, VAWP Network (joined virtually)

Ann Hayne, Health, NHS

Catriona Kilpatrick , Third Sector Specialist, Engender

Joanna MacDonald, Social Care, SG

Martin MacLean, Police Scotland (joined virtually)

Alistair MacLeod, COPFS, Justice

Molly McGoran, Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament

Anna Mitchell, Systems Change, Safe and Together

Holly Owens, Scottish Youth Parliament

Marsha Scott, Third Sector Specialist, Scottish Women’s Aid

Linda Thomson, Third Sector Specialist, Women’s Support Project


Kelly MacIntosh, Association of Directors of Education Scotland

Laura Tomson, Zero Tolerance

Official Support

Katy Betchley, Review of VAWG Funding Team Leader, Scottish Government

Vicky Carmichael, Justice Violence against Women and Girls Policy Manager, Scottish Government

Jeff Gibbons, Justice Violence against Women and Girls Unit Head, Scottish Government

Eleanor Horne, Equality Violence against Women and Girls Policy Officer, Scottish Government

Louise Johnston, Equality Violence against Women and Girls Policy Officer, Scottish Government

Nel Whiting, Equality Violence against Women and Girls Team Leader, Scottish Government

Katie Brown, Equally Safe Policy Manager, COSLA

Items and actions

Welcome and Apologies

COSLA Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, Cllr Maureen Chalmers, welcomed all board members and noted new members: Alistair MacLeod, COPFS; Linda Thomson, Women’s Support Project; and Molly McGoran and Holly Owens from Scottish Youth Parliament. Apologies were also noted.

It was mentioned that invitations to join the JSB have been sent to Children in Scotland and Together Scotland, however, as of yet there has been no response.

Minutes of September Meeting

A numbering issue with the previous minutes was identified, with that correction, the previous meeting minutes were agreed.

Equally Safe Refresh

The Minister thanked the JSB for their comments, contributions and feedback on the previous draft of the Equally Safe strategy refresh and noted that comments have  been integrated into a revised version which was shared with the JSB ahead of the meeting.

The Minister highlighted that the draft strategy had also been shared internally with relevant policy colleagues in Scottish Government (SG) and Cllr Chalmers confirmed that a similar process took place within COSLA.

The Minister introduced Nel Whiting (SG) to provide an overview on the changes to the draft strategy since the JSB reviewed it and the publication launch of the strategy.

Nel Whiting outlined that the drafting team, made up of SG, COSLA, PHS and Improvement Service, had worked to streamline the strategy document, using language that is accessible and meaningful to policy makers and practitioners across all sectors. Additionally, they sought to make clear the links with other policy and sectors.

The main areas of feedback were: the need for a clear gender focus on prevention; the importance of making girls more visible in the strategy; recognising that children can harm children;  ensuring that the public health approach is gendered and understandable to people; strengthening the sections on intersectionality, particularly in relation to BME women. Wording was provided by colleagues in the specialist children’s and VAWG sectors to enable this. Additionally, changes were made to ensure that the strategy made clear that the digital world overlapped with “real” life and the impact that can have. The strategy was amended to include the voices of survivors through quotes to emphasise how VAWG was everyone’s business in a real world way. Finally, feedback was taken on regarding the terminology used and changes were made, for example, to ensure the strategy was consistent about honour based abuse.

The Minister moved on to invite the JSB to provide their thoughts on the latest draft of the strategy.

Sandy Brindley (RCS) noted her lack of clarity of what a public health approach means in terms of VAWG and the strategy. She expressed concerns on the potentially negative implications in rape cases of moving to an approach based on identifying risk and protective factors as well as, the potential to reinforce unhelpful narratives around sexual violence.

Marsha Scott (SWA) agreed with Sandy on the lack of clarity on a public health and concerns on implications of this approach.

Lucy Denvir (Public Health) highlighted that the public health approach was widely understood to be an effective approach to considering systemic approaches to large scale problems.  She flagged that Public Health Scotland was working with the Violence Against Women Partnership Network to develop training on the approach.  She suggested that this would be of interest to the third sector also.

Sophie Gwyther (VAWP Network) highlighted that utilising a public health approach  was welcome to help tackle VAWG and that the focus on prevention would enhance the approach we take. She suggested that more explanation was possibly needed to clarify what a public health approach to VAWG is.

Anna Mitchell (Safe and Together) raised that the strategy would benefit from having the public health approach explanation more upfront.

Catriona Kilpatrick (Engender) highlighted that she had comments to send through via email on the most recent draft including suggested wording on primary prevention and structural inequality and intersectionality.

Anna Mitchell raised that there should be more focus on the responses to perpetrators and holding men accountable, and not just a focus on victim/survivors.

Anna Mitchell requested a mention of the gendered nature of parenting and differing expectations on father and mothers, which leads to society holding women responsible for the impact of VAWG on children, rather than the male perpetrator/father. Marsha Scott further added that this is a systematic issue caused by systems who have different standards for fathering and mothering.  This is deeply problematic for women and children experiencing domestic abuse and leads to systems/institutions compounding the abuse of the perpetrator. Marsha offered to provide wording about this for inclusion with the strategy document.

Mariam Ahmed (AMINA) mentioned that the draft strategy was lacking the acknowledgment that minority ethnic women can experience multiple forms of abuse as well as experiencing barriers due to their race and sex. Suggested that there needs to be the acknowledgement that the abuse BME women experience often involves multiple perpetrators. Mariam offered to provide a case study to emphasise barriers and systems that give perpetrators more power within certain communities.

Katie Brown (COSLA) led colleagues through a set of questions to delve further into feedback on the draft strategy.

Marsha Scott noted that there was a clear statement throughout the strategy that VAWG is everyone’s problem. Other JSB members agreed that the section which outlined the strategies and legislation connected to Equally Safe was very helpful to highlight the links and impact of VAWG across society. The section could also be used as a tool to take to other organisations to highlight the link VAWG and encourage them to acknowledge their responsibilities in tackling VAWG.

Marsha Scott further commented that this section should be connected into the subsequent Delivery Plan to ensure these strategies/legislation are being held accountable in terms of their role within tackling VAWG.

Linda Thomson (Women’s Support Project) highlighted that the draft was now stronger on the impacts of CSE (commercial sexual exploitation) and the section on impact on men and boys was a good addition.

Ann Hayne (NHS) noted that, whilst she cannot speak for the sector, in her view the strategy does represent health well. It was further noted that the Delivery Plan will be crucial to what is asked of the sectors and the strategy is robust enough to open up doors for those discussions.

Amanda Coulthard (SOLACE) also explained that whilst local authorities would always have competing pressures and financial issues would always be a concern, that the strategy did a good job of explaining why local authorities needed to engage with the VAWG agenda.

Sophie Gwyther acknowledged that it is clear how it can be translated locally into the work and remit held by Violence Against Women Partnerships.

Anna Mitchell raised that the strategy may need to help sectors understand their role in holding perpetrators accountable for example what is the role of housing in holding perpetrators accountable.

Martin MacLean (Police Scotland) gave an overview of feedback, noting it was clear strong connections had been made within strategy, however, highlighted that strategy could be stronger by explaining sectors role in VAWG and additionally, further focus could be put on perpetrators.

Discussion led to whether it would be helpful to have a Court Service representative attend or be involved in the Equally Safe strategy through the Joint Strategic Board.

Sandy Brindley noted again her concern about the public health approach.

Nel Whiting outlined the next steps in terms of the draft strategy. The drafting team will now consider all the feedback given, and once integrated, will be go through a  further sign off process in both Scottish Government and COSLA structures.

After the strategy has been published, there will be a deep dive workshop set up with the JSB in January to discuss the approach to building the delivery plan and priorities for delivery.

Domestic Homicide Review

Vicky Carmichael (SG) gave a presentation on the development of a Domestic Homicide Review Model, which was a commitment within the previous Equally Safe Delivery Plan. This included outlining national homicide in Scotland statistics, outlining the Domestic Homicide Review Taskforce and establishing the evidence base for Scotland’s model. Martin MacLean contributed to the presentation, explaining the process for Domestic Homicide Reviews currently within Police Scotland. The presentation concluded with a timeline and summarising the next steps of the work.  

Criminal Justice Statistics

Jeff Gibbons (SG) updated that there would be a meeting with Justice Analytical Statistics (JAS) in January. This meeting would be a broad discussion on data collected and analysis around qualitative and quantitative evidence. Jeff will report back to the board with findings.

Further discussion was had on the approaches to VAWG within the judicial system. Alistair MacLeod (COPFS) requested whether there were any scenarios that could be taken to judicial system for training.

Summary of Actions

Cllr Chalmers summarised the meeting actions in full, as noted below.

AOB and close

Cllr Chalmers thanked all attendees for their input and attendance, before closing the meeting.


  • Policy Officials to follow up again with the two remaining organisations to confirm membership
  • Correction required by SG Officials to the repeated numbering in September minutes
  • Correction required by SG Officials to the repeated numbering in September Minutes. Following this, Officials to upload the September meeting minutes to website
  • Officials to implement feedback on draft strategy including written contributions from JSB members (Catriona Kilpatrick and Mariam Ahmed)
  • Following publication of the refreshed Equally Safe strategy, further discussion should take place to consider the relationship between the JSB  Court Service (Scottish Court Tribunal Service or/and Judicial Institute both offered as ideas) going forward
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