Equally Safe delivery plan: year two update report

An overview of progress made since the publication of the Equally Safe delivery plan in November 2017 and our priorities for the year ahead.

Highlights and Moving Forward: Priority Two

Women and girls thrive as equal citizens: socially, culturally, economically and politically.


  • Women and girls are safe, respected and equal in our communities
  • Women and men have equal access to power and resources.

We recognise that gender inequality is a root cause of violence against women and girls, and despite advances, there remains a persistent inequality between men and women. Many of the actions being delivered under this priority are intended to place women on a more equal footing with men, with access to the same power and resources. A range of activity has been undertaken in the past year across Scotland to help us achieve our objectives under this priority. Much of this activity has also provided a foundation to build upon over the coming year. Actions have included:


Progressing the Gender Representation on Public Board Act through Parliament.

The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that women are represented in all senior and decision making roles, including in the boardroom and in politics.

We are proud that this Government leads by example by having one of the very few gender-balanced cabinets anywhere in the world – with all ministers, male or female appointed by merit. It is clear that companies must go further than reporting, and commit to taking meaningful action.

Last year, our Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 set a statutory objective for equal representation of women on public sector non-executive boards by 2022. This year, we reached a milestone with women accounting for half of all board members appointed to public bodies across Scotland. This is a significant step and this year we will continue our work to make sure there is equal representation on every individual board.

Equalities minister Christina McKelvie said more action would be taken to work towards all public boards having 50% women appointed.

She told the BBC: “It’s a great day - not only have we put big cracks in the glass ceiling but we want to shatter it and continue this work.

“Just a year in, we have reached a really positive point, half of all the public appointment positions on public boards in Scotland are now filled by women.”

“We were already on the road a bit with voluntary measures. But the legislation just gave it that additional driver for other public boards to take that step forward and push a bit further.”

Continuation of the Workplace Equality Fund

The Scottish Government’s Workplace Equality Fund addresses long standing barriers in the labour market so that everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential and improve Scotland’s economic performance as a result. We recognise the importance of increasing employment rates and tackling workplace inequalities for specific groups who are disadvantaged in the labour market.

The Workplace Equality Fund in 2018/19 funded 22 projects with an overall budget of £750,000. The projects involved working with organisations and employers across Scotland and from a wide range of sectors. Projects included:

  • supporting women returners into business services
  • building flexible and agile workplaces for companies in the construction, STEM, finance, technology, and furnishing sectors
  • improving mental health in the workplace
  • delivering training in leadership and boardroom governance to women in the technology sector.

The new expanded (£800,000) Workplace Equality Fund for 2019/2020 is continuing to focus on supporting older workers, women, disabled people, and those from a minority ethnic background. The fund now also supports women transitioning though the menopause, victims of domestic abuse and workers who are experiencing social isolation and loneliness (such as unpaid carers).

It is also encouraging businesses with innovative projects to embed fair work dimensions in the workplace. A total of 22 projects, involving a range of employers, are receiving funding totalling £800,000.

Proportion of MSPs who are women[4]

2014 2018
35% 36%

Reducing Barriers to Elected Office

In November 2018, COSLA President Cllr Alison Evison hosted the ‘Achieving Gender Equality in Local Politics’ conference. This conference brought together women in politics and public life who are in a position to help remove barriers to participation and some of their supporters. It provided a platform for networking and idea sharing, encouraging participants to set their own goals for how they personally can contribute to achieving positive change.

Following the conference COSLA launched both a story sharing campaign and a safe online space, ‘Women in Local Government’, which aims to provide peer support both for women considering entering Local Government and those already active within it. These actions were taken as a result of needs expressed at the conference and progressed by the newly formed Barriers to Elected Office Special Interest Group. This Group is a nominated, cross-party group formed to ensure that efforts to promote equality and diversity in local democracy receive COSLA’s full attention and are actively driven forward. The group considers and acts upon evidence and opinion from elected members and key partners on barriers to women and other under-represented groups to taking up and sustaining elected office.

The Barrier to Elected Office Special Interest Group have developed an action plan focused on:

  • Promoting local politics as an opportunity to influence how our communities are run
  • Improving terms and conditions for Councillors
  • Improving cultures within councils
  • Developing support networks

The group seeks to provide leadership on these issues through identifying and influencing changes in policy and practice to increase participation. A recent example of its work was the proposal of parental leave guidance for Councillors, which was approved by Council leaders for circulation to all Scottish Councils for voluntary adoption.

Work across government to address the First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls.

The First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (NACWG)’s main purpose and focus is to provide independent strategic advice to the First Minister on recommendations to help further gender equality in Scotland.

COSLA’s Leaders approved the signing of NACWG’s public pledge and committed the support of Local Government to enhancing the reach of the Council and to gathering key feedback on specific issues relating to gender equality, with each individual local authority making its own choice to participate in the Spotlight Wee Circles process.

The NACWG strategy is to explore annual topics which are the focus of their end of year report. Their focus in 2018 was Attitudes and Culture Change and the 2018 Report and Recommendations on this topic were submitted to First Minister in December 2018 and published on 25 January 2019.

This report sets out 11 wide ranging and systemic recommendations that the NACWG considered would help to accelerate the goal of gender equality and included legislating for local and national candidate quotas; incorporating the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination into Scots Law and creating two “Daddy Months” of use it or lose it paid paternity leave.

The Scottish Government formally responded to the 2018 report on 26 June 2019 accepting all 11 recommendations in principle; 7 with immediate action to be taken and 4 with further consideration due to their complex nature.

On the recommendation to create a commission for gender equality in schools and increase childcare to 50 hours a week, the Scottish Government is committed to an ambitious expansion of high quality early learning and childcare to 1140 hours per year for all 3 and 4 years and those 2 year olds who will benefit most, from August 2020, almost doubling the current entitlement.

We are also investing an additional £210 million resource funding for local authorities to progress the expansion in 2019-20 and providing £175 million of capital funding to support the next phase of investment in new, refurbished or extended nurseries and family centres.

On the Recommendation to Create A What Works? Institute and Gender Beacon Collaborative the Scottish Government will work with prominent feminist expert organisations in Scotland, such as Zero Tolerance together with new voices and thinking from academia and the media, to explore what a practical, dynamic, evidence-led, gender focused institute would look like and operate. This group will develop an agreed framework for how the What Works? Gender Institute would be structured, agreeing what it will test, who it will work with and how it will measure change. This framework will include the coordinated action and interventions required to influence the structures, practice, attitudes and power differentials that underpin women’s inequality. The framework will be a blueprint for creating the What Works? Gender Institute, building on the resources already available as much as possible.

On the recommendation to create a resourced media body in Scotland to hold the media to account and provide guidance on gender equality the Scottish Government believes that women should be fairly and properly represented across all sectors including the media and we hope media organisations will consider this recommendation. The Scottish Government also recognises the importance of having a diverse and independent media with a free press that is independently regulated.

Gender Equal Media Scotland (GEMS), brings together academics, journalists, campaign groups and organisations working for women’s equality in Scottish media. GEMS is an independent group and has an existing framework and expertise suitable for the type of media body envisaged. GEMS’ work is currently unfunded and the group therefore has limited capacity. The Scottish Government will fund a post to support GEMS to increase their impact, engagement and visibility amongst industry and other stakeholders.

After the first year of funding, progress will be assessed to establish whether further development would be beneficial to increase the groups’ activities and reach.

Scotland’s Women Stand: 7th September 2019

Scotland’s Women Stand was a 9 month campaign that culminated in a major event hosted by the Scottish Parliament to support and empower women of Scotland to stand for elected political office at community, local government and national levels. Funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by the Parliament Project and YWCA Scotland – the Young Women’s Movement, this event brought together over 400 women from across Scotland to hear women already engaged in elected politics share their inspiring stories of activism, campaigning and election. This included a panel of elected women in conversation about their experiences of differing spheres of politics, alongside a range of stalls and workshops encouraging participants to discuss and explore their own relationships with politics. The Minister for Older People and Equalities gave a key note address, COSLA’s President Cllr Alison Evison was a leading panel participant in the chamber debate and COSLA also ran workshops for women interested in standing for election as local councillors.

Photo credit: Witch Creations X Parliament Project
Photo credit: Witch Creations X Parliament Project

Key Learning from the 2018/19 Equally Safe Quality Standards & Performance Framework Data Returns

Key Learning from the 2018/19 Equally Safe Quality Standards and Performance Framework Data Returns

The following examples of good practice identified through the Equally Safe Quality Standards and Performance Framework provide a snapshot of work taking place in local authority areas across Scotland to progress Priority Area 2:

  • Ensuring Policies Meet the Needs of Women and Children affected by VAWG – East Ayrshire
    East Ayrshire Council has adopted the Chartered Institute of Housing’s Make a Stand pledge supporting people experiencing domestic abuse. The Make a Stand pledge, developed by the Chartered Institute of Housing in partnership with Women’s Aid and the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance, encourages housing organisations to make a commitment to support people experiencing domestic abuse.
  • Developing Gender-Sensitive Policies – Falkirk
    Falkirk Council has adopted a gender-sensitive Equal Opportunities Policy and the principles of this are embedded in all other policies and processes. The Council has also introduced a Supporting Older Women in the Workplace Guidance. Following on from the implementation of free sanitary products in schools, the Council has also made these products available for employees in a number of Council premises.
  • Increasing Use of Equality Impact Assessments – Argyll & Bute
    Argyll & Bute VAW Partnership report that Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) are now routinely undertaken by the Council and Partners such as the Health Board and Police when developing all new major policies, processes and services.
  • Supporting Employees Affected by VAWG - South Ayrshire
    During 2018’s 16 Days of Action campaign, South Ayrshire Council held an Employers Working Lunch event called ‘Domestic Abuse: what can I do as an employer to support staff? A practical approach’. This was then followed up in May 2019 with a similar event with a Working Breakfast to further increase local businesses and organisations’ awareness, knowledge and confidence on domestic abuse.

Moving forward

We intend to build on our achievements and successes and will take forward a range of initiatives in the coming year.

These will include:

  • Reviewing the effectiveness of the public sector equality duty with a view to implementing any necessary changes
  • Establishing a short-life taskforce chaired by the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills which will bring together representatives from key parts of the education system and leaders in gender equality to explore how we can take additional, better connected and bolder action in order to embed gender equality within early years and school education
  • Funding a post to support GEMS to increase their impact, engagement and visibility amongst industry and other stakeholders.



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