Equally Safe 2018: Scotland's strategy to eradicate violence against women

A joint Scottish Government and COSLA strategy to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls in Scotland. This publication was updated in 2023.

4. How we will get there

'Until we end violence against women, we cannot have true gender equality, either here in Scotland, or elsewhere around the world.' – Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland

Achieving the change

We are clear about the need to address the full spectrum of violence and abuse against women and girls, and the systemic inequality that underpins it. We have identified our aim and priorities and set out the framework for achieving these. If we are to make the transformational change we envisage in this critical area, we need to develop an ambitious and aligned programme of action, with a robust performance framework including appropriate outcomes and indicators. This section explains how we intend to take this forward.

We already know that there is a great deal of activity already underway within the Scottish Government, local authorities, Police Scotland, statutory services, specialist third sector organisations and communities. We expect each and every one of them to work tirelessly to ensure that work is joined up and fully aligned with the vision, objectives and priorities of Equally Safe. Collaborative working with focus and pace will help us making progress towards achieving our vision, which is closely aligned with the Scottish Government's broader vision of a country where full equality is achieved.

Leading the way

Helping drive the step change needed is the Violence Against Women and Girls Joint Strategic Board, a high level group of senior leaders from across Scotland able to push for change and ensure momentum is sustained within their individual organisations, sectors and their wider networks. Chaired jointly by the Scottish Government and COSLA, the Board oversees the implementation of Equally Safe, monitors progress and identifies emerging issues at the strategic level. In addition to jointly chairing the Board, the Scottish Government has a key role in coordinating implementation of Equally Safe, and in ensuring that governance and accountability arrangements operate effectively.

A phased approach

Our agenda is broad, reflecting the importance of different forms of prevention and effective early intervention, as well as recognition of the fact that different individuals have different characteristics and needs. It is realistic that we adopt a phased approach to the development and delivery of our outcomes and objectives, creating a programme of action that can evolve and be added to in order to deliver meaningful change over the long term. These phases include:

  • the progressing of initial action commitments which will support the delivery of Equally Safe's ambitions;
  • the establishment and development of the Violence against Women and Girls Joint Strategic Board to provide senior leadership and identify emerging issues;
  • the establishment of collaborative partnerships to take forward ambitions under three thematic workstreams – Primary Prevention, Capability and Capacity and Justice – that maintain focus on the priority areas identified within Equally Safe;
  • through a further workstream – Accountability – the development of an outcomes framework for Equally Safe that aligns with the National Performance Framework and contains key performance indicators that help us to assess progress and focus our targeted approach over the long term;
  • the establishment of a Stakeholder Reference Group on Children and Young People, to inform work going forward in relation to girls and boys both experiencing violence and abuse directly and witnessing it, and to strengthen collaborative working between key partners in different sectors; and
  • the development of meaningful, effective and sustained participation of women, children and young people across all aspects of Equally Safe.


1. Primary prevention

This workstream is being coordinated by Engender, the feminist organisation. Under it, we will explore the existing evidence on what works with regards to preventing violence against women and girls; identify additional ways of addressing the systematic inequality, attitudes and assumptions that give rise to violence and abuse, and scope the costs and benefits associated with this; and consider primary prevention in the widest context – society, community and the individual.

2. Capability and Capacity

This workstream is being coordinated by CoSLA. Under it, we will work 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.

3. Justice

This workstream is being coordinated by the Scottish Government Justice Directorate. Under it, we will develop a coordinated approach within both the civil and criminal justice systems, that includes consideration of the law relating to sexual offences and domestic abuse, the support available for victims and their experiences when going through the system; the availability of statistics to build evidence bases, particularly in relation to civil cases; training for professionals within 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.

4. Accountability

This workstream is being coordinated by Scottish Women's Aid in partnership with the Improvement Service. Under it, we will develop a Performance Framework with appropriate outcomes and indicators to enable us to measure our performance and progress, as well as supporting strategic investment planning to ensure that women and girls throughout Scotland benefit from consistently high-quality services.

Members of the different Workstream groups are 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. Working groups will be expected to report on their progress regularly to the Board, and will support the development of a Scottish Government implementation plan for Equally Safe featuring activity from all four workstreams.

Action commitments

In addition to the activity initiated by the workstreams, partners are also driving delivery by taking forward a number of immediate actions. These include:

What Lead Partners
Renewing guidance to support Violence Against Women Multi-Agency Partnerships Scottish Government CoSLA
Building the capacity of Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences ( MARACs) through the development of a suite of resources Scottish Government ASSIST SafeLives
Development of a Performance Framework for Multi Agency Tasking & Coordinating Conferences ( MATACs) to measure outcomes and rates of re-offending amongst perpetrators of domestic abuse Police Scotland
Developing the scope of Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements ( MAPPA) to provide responsible authorities with an ability to include people with criminal convictions who they assess as posing a significant risk of serious harm or violence to the public Scottish Government
Developing public health guidance to support the implementation of the strategy within the NHS Health Scotland
Introducing an Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Bill to Parliament Scottish Government
Consulting on a criminal offence of coercive control Scottish Government
Challenging all employers, particularly public sector employers, to support those who may be experiencing or at risk of violence or abusive behaviour – and furthermore how they can develop a culture which contributes to the prevention of violence against women and girls through their HR policies and staff training CoSLA Scottish Government
Implementing Scotland's National Action Plan to tackle Female Genital Mutilation Scottish Government
Ensuring that key national strategies reflect and statutory bodies are aware of, and committed to, their role in achieving our aim – in short, how they can contribute to the prevention and eradication of violence against women and girls Scottish Government
Commissioning research into forced marriage in Scotland Scottish Government

Everyone's responsibility

Whilst these commitments and workstreams will help drive change, it is up to all of us to consider what more we can be doing to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls. What we do to prevent the causes and consequences of violence against women and girls is crucially important, but so too is how we do it. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience across Scotland and beyond for us to tap into and build upon, much of which has been developed by our partners in the third sector from many years and decades of working directly with women and children who have experienced violence and abuse.

Broad participation

We want to ensure that those affected by violence and abuse against women and girls, including children and young people, have greater opportunity to help shape the development of policy and practice. There are a number of positive examples where participation has directly benefited our approach, including the National Domestic Abuse Delivery Plan for Children and Young People (2008), Safer Lives: Changed Lives (2009), and Voice against Violence. Participation should be meaningful, effective and sustainable, and it should ensure that participants understand their rights; they have a chance to be involved; engage on the basis that it is their choice to do so; that they are valued and supported; that everyone works together; and that there is regular communication.

Increased strategic priority

We will increase the priority given to violence and abuse against women and girls in local and national strategic planning. Community Planning Partnerships bring together public bodies and others to work together to improve outcomes for people, focusing on prevention at a local level. They agree their strategic priorities and resource and provide appropriate services in support of those priorities. Some Single Outcome Agreements and Community Planning Partnership activities already reflect a strong focus on violence against women and girls, and multi-agency partnership working at a local level is critical to tackling perpetrators, supporting those at risk and improving the response of services. We will continue to work with local partners to ensure that we can share across the whole system the benefits of localities focusing on violence against women as a strategic priority.

Making best use of resources

At a time when resources are reducing, it has never been more essential to make the best use of the people and finances that we have. It is important to note that that dedicated funding for tackling violence against women and girls has been at all-time high in Scotland for several years now. Between 2012 and 2016, the Scottish Government has allocated £46.3m to tackling it through the Equality Budget, and the Justice portfolio has committed an additional £20m over 2015 to 2018. Utilising the collective resources of the public and third sector through greater partnership working and building a focus on prevention and effective and early intervention will be key. Over the next period, we will consider the focus of current dedicated funding for tackling violence against women and girls, and how this funding can be further aligned to meet the ambitions of Equally Safe.

Measuring our progress

We will assess our progress in relation to our vision, aim and the outcomes and indicators that we are collaboratively. We want to demonstrate a steady reduction in all forms of violence against women and girls, moving towards our overall aim of ending it altogether. Identifying outcomes and indicators and measuring the progress made in achieving change will be important to delivering on the priorities identified. To achieve this, we are developing a performance measurement which will align as far as possible with the existing National Performance Framework which already sets the standard for the public sector. A crucial component of our work going forward is that we are able to measure our performance at a local level, and we will look to develop a suite of outcomes and indicators that enable us to understand the difference we are making at both a national and a local level. We acknowledge that there remain significant gaps in our data, and that not all relevant data will be captured through the Justice system. We require indicators to measure attitudes towards the different forms of violence against women and girls, and broader gender stereotypes. Helping to address this, the Scottish Government has published a Scottish Social Attitudes module report on public attitudes towards violence against women, which will act as a baseline to enable us to explore interventions in this area as well as monitor whether public attitudes are changing over the long term. As a multi-agency, multi-sector strategy Equally Safe requires all partners – at local, regional and national level – to put in place robust measures to capture and share data. Because the more complete our picture of the prevalence of the problem, the more effectively we can address it and ensure that every women and girl in Scotland lives Equally Safe.


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