Equally Safe Joint Strategic Board minutes: September 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 26 September 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Siobhian Brown, Minister for Victims and Community Safety, Scottish Government (SG)
  • Maureen Chalmers, Community Safety and Wellbeing Spokesperson, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Rachel Adamson, Third Sector Specialist, Zero Tolerance
  • Mariam Ahmed, Third Sector Specialist, AMINA
  • Sandy Brindley, Third Sector Specialist, Rape Crisis Scotland (joined virtually)
  • Lucy Denvir, NHS Fife (joined virtually)
  • Sophie Gwyther, Chair of the Violence against Women and Girls Partnership (VAWP) Network
  • Catriona Kilpatrick, Engender
  • Joanna MacDonald, Office of the Chief Social Worker
  • Martin MacLean, Police Scotland
  • Anna Mitchell, Safe and Together
  • Moira Price, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
  • Kelly McIntosh, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)


  • Amanda Coulthard, SOLACE
  • Marsha Scott/Becky Jones, Scottish Women’s Aid
  • Karen Allan, Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers (ALACHO)
  • Karyn McCluskey, Community Justice Scotland
  • Eddie Doherty, NHS Lanarkshire

Offical Support

  • Eileen Flanagan, Gender Equality, Violence Against Women and Girls and the First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls Unit Head, Scottish Government
  • Nel Whiting, Equality Violence Against Women and Girls Team Leader, Scottish Government
  • Jeff Gibbons, Justice Violence Against Women and Girls Unit Head, Scottish Government
  • Jane Gallacher, Equality Violence against Women and Girls Policy Manager, Scottish Government
  • David Thomson, Equality Violence against Women and Girls Policy Manager, Scottish Government
  • Johanna Davidson, Equality Violence Against Women and Girls Policy Officer, Scottish Government
  • Niall Wood, Equality Violence Against Women and Girls Policy Officer, Scottish Government
  • Katie Brown, Equally Safe Policy Manager, COSLA

Items and actions

Introductions and welcome (including apologies)

Minister for Victims and Community Safety, Siobhian Brown MSP, and COSLA Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, Cllr Maureen Chalmers, welcomed all Board members in attendance and noted new member Rachel Adamson. Apologies were also noted.

It was mentioned that invitations to join the JSB have been sent Children in Scotland, Scottish Youth Parliament, Encompass Network and Together Scotland. As yet, no responses have been received.

Minutes of June meeting and previous actions reviewed

The previous meeting minutes were agreed.

Sandy Brindley asked for data on Sexual Offences to be provided ahead of the next JSB and for a future agenda item for this to be discussed.

The remaining actions arising from the previous meeting were agreed as completed.

Equally Safe Refresh Update

Cllr Chalmers introduced Nel Whiting to provide a presentation to the Board. The presentation outlined what policy officials from Scottish Government and COSLA have heard so far from various engagement sessions with stakeholders throughout this year. Key themes have included effective use of data, further embedding primary prevention, engaging with men and boys, effective leadership, training and a focus on women’s intersectional identities.

Mariam Ahmed (AMINA) brought the Board’s attention to the recent UK Parliamentary hearing on honour-based violence (HBV), which rejected the statutory definition of HBV; on-going dialogue on no recourse to public funds; and that AMINA plan to launch findings in to extended family abuse within the black and minority ethic community during this year’s 16 Days.

Joanna MacDonald mentioned her on-going engagements with the Home Office on asylum, and the link to VAWG. She said that the refresh should take account of updated child protection legislation but also Bairns Hoose, which embeds a trauma- informed approach to policy development.

Rachel Adamson noted the Programme for Government commitment to community planning partnerships and highlighted that processes should ensure they are involved in the conversation around the refresh. As with public health, a focus on structural changes needs to be made (not organisational).

Sophie Gwyther highlighted the importance of keeping the actions within the Delivery Plan to an ambitious but manageable number with the JSB agreeing on the Plan’s priorities as a group. There was agreement that a specific session on the Delivery Plan as a Board would be helpful.

A drafting group has been established and the draft strategy will be shared with the JSB for feedback in the next few weeks. At the same time it will be shared with Scottish Government and COSLA policy colleagues for their interests

Equally Safe Governance

The Minister handed over to David Thomson to update the JSB on work undertaken to review the Equally Safe governance structure.

He highlighted that the JSB will remain central to the ES strategy governance structure, providing on-going strategic assurance. The Board will continue to be overseen jointly by the Minister and COSLA’s Wellbeing Spokesperson.

Any changes to the overall governance arrangements will be built upon the principles of making the governance clearer and more delivery-focused. The establishment of a Ministerial group to ensure progress is made across government portfolios on the aims and priorities of the refreshed strategy was noted.

Sandy Brindley welcomed the establishment of the Ministerial group. She stated that the governance structure should include the Prevention and GBV Working Group, and the Gender Equality Taskforce in Education and Learning. The Minister welcomed the suggestion and stated the cross-cutting nature of work on vawg is why it is important to ensure wide-spread Ministerial involvement, such as the Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees, Ms Roddick, and the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Ms Gilruth, being looped in to the Ministerial group. Anna Mitchell asked about the Minister for Drugs and Alcohol Policy, Ms Whitham, and her involvement in this group, which the Minister agreed to.

Cllr Chalmers noted a required update to the COSLA structure and to correct the Officer post within the current diagram. Under the Verity House agreement, and as part of the governance structure, she suggested there could also be a joint Political Leadership meeting between COSLA Spokespeople and SG Ministers once or twice a year, commencing in the new year.  It was agreed that this could be considered as part of the approach to ensure that joint political leadership remains at the heart of Equally Safe and as the new Governance Structure embeds.

Rachel Adamson cited the importance of ensuring the governance is informed by survivors, and have it noted that VAWG is under-pinned by gender inequalities; the governance structure should inspire real determination for change and to demonstrate how this will all contribute to eradicating VAWG.

Women in Justice

Cllr Chalmers invited Jeff Gibbons to provide an update on the Women in Justice report, one month on from publication. The report highlights that women’s experiences of justice differ to men, and that policy must be formulated with a greater understanding of gender and intersectionality.

Sandy Brindley acknowledged the role gender plays in the justice system, which includes women as offenders too. She emphasised that any work going forward on Women in Justice should complement the work of the Equally Safe strategy.

Mariam Ahmed commented that the report demonstrated just how different women’s experiences of the justice system are, e.g. women have childcare commitments which can be impacted when it comes to meeting court times. She said there was a need to place pressure on those who have the power to change the system, to adopt a more gendered and intersectional approach.

Review of actions and AOB

Mariam Ahmed requested that the Funding Review is added to the agenda for a future meeting. The Minister stated that she and Cllr Chalmers had met to discuss their joint approach to the recommendations and that COSLA and Scottish Government would be issuing a joint statement in the next few weeks. The Minister confirmed that the JSB would be vital to considerations  in regard to taking the work forward and agreed that a discussion at a future meeting would be useful.

Katie Brown informed the JSB that the Domestic Homicide Review Governance arrangements outline that the Domestic Homicide Review Taskforce will ensure that the ES JSB will be kept informed of progress as part of reporting processes.  She proposed that SG officials involved in supporting this work could be invited to engage with the JSB to inform them of the work and ambition of the Review at the next meeting.

The Minister summarised the meeting actions (below) and thanked all attendees for their input and attendance. The next meeting is due to take place on 16 November and will be the last for this year.


  • SG officials to follow up with the organisations to confirm membership
  • SG fficials to upload the June meeting Minutes
  • SG justice analytical colleagues to be approached and request updated data on sexual offences. This will be shared as part of the meeting papers for the next JSB in November
  • SG and COSLA officials to share draft strategy with the JSB
  • SG and COSLA to set out provisional dates for a Delivery Plan specific session with the JSB
  • SG and COSLA officials to do more thinking around the governance structure of Equally Safe and will provide a fuller update in time. This should include updating the graphics which reflect COSLA’s structures too
  • SG and COSLA officials to work up a proposal for annual/bi-annual Joint Political Leadership meetings for consideration of the Joint Chairs prior to the end of the year
  • SG officials to work with the Minister and to ask the Minister for Drugs and Alcohol policy, Ms Whitham, to join the Ministerial group
  • The Independent Funding Review to be added to a future JSB agenda
  • The Domestic Homicide Review to be added to the agenda at the next meeting, led by SG Justice colleagues


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