Fairer Scotland Duty: interim guidance for public bodies

This is the interim guidance for the Fairer Scotland Duty which comes into force in April 2018.


Case Studies

Case Study 1: Development Of An Urban Housing Plan

Before the Fairer Scotland Duty

A local authority is putting together a new business plan for low-cost housing and to help inform the next review of their local development plan. There are two potential sites but in financial terms the business plan expresses a preference for the new housing to be sited in the far east end of the council area. This is a greenfield site which is not part of the green belt, and where it is easy and relatively cheap to lay the new utility pipes and to build houses with gardens which people have said they wanted. This is great on the one hand because there's a real shortage of houses that most people could afford in the area and it represents good value because the cost per home is lower than building in other areas. But on the other hand, there are very few bus services. So many people, especially those on low pay, could find it hard to get to work. And the authority cannot say at this stage that the area will also include the services people really need – there are no existing shops or a health centre, for instance. The business plan says that buses and local services would need to be thought about in the local development plan, but there's no information about how these new services would be put in place.

After the Fairer Scotland Duty

The new Duty is in place and the authority considers this a strategically important decision so it now starts to consider carefully how the new housing will reduce inequalities of outcome. First, it explores the evidence with analysts, focusing in particular on evidence on outcomes in a similar development built ten years previously in a similar outlying area. It also hosts consultation meetings with local people and hears personal testimony from a new group it's set up to bring the voices of people with experience of poverty into decision-making. This leads to new thinking emerging and in the Assessment stage new proposals are worked up.

The next draft version of the business plan keeps the initial idea for the new housing in the far east end of the council area because of the ease and cost of development and because they can build houses rather than flats. But if this area is the preferred option, new bus services will have to be set up to help local people, especially those on low pay, get to work. Shops and a health centre would be needed too, along with other basic services. This version of the business plan includes much more information about how these new services will be set up and how much they will cost.

The business plan also sets out another idea – to build a different type of flatted low-cost housing in an empty site nearer to the centre of the council area. This type of development costs more per home, because there are old pipes to dig up and contaminated land to treat. But it would make it easier for people living in the new housing to get to work and to use the local services that are already there. Looking ahead, it would also be more consistent with existing planning policies that prioritise the use of brownfield land. Some money would still need to be spent on upgrading local services and a play area for children but the cost is lower than providing new services.

The local authority knows it doesn't have all the answers. So, ahead of wider consultation on the local development plan, it tests these ideas with local people again. People say that they prefer the idea to build in the centre of the council area, particularly to make it easy to get a job or to change jobs and to access services. This option is particularly attractive to disabled people, who have been specifically asked about access issues – both in terms of transport and housing.

The local authority now balances all this information to make the best judgement and publishes a short report explaining its final decision.

Case Study 2: Planning A City Region Deal Amongst Multiple Public Sector Partners

A group of public bodies are working together on a City Region Deal.

Before the Fairer Scotland Duty

The City Growth Deal that's published contains strong statements about the need to tackle poverty and inequality. While the deal offers some very welcome investment, considerable economic development opportunities, and some highly skilled new jobs, there is a question about whether more could have been done to use the significant investment to drive reductions in inequality locally.

After the Fairer Scotland Duty

As part of the development of the City Deal, the partners agree to work together to consider the Fairer Scotland Duty in a collaborative way, taking an inclusive growth approach, even though some of the bodies involved are not covered by the Duty.

The final content of the deal will be how it both supports economic growth and reduces inequalities of outcome. So how change will be monitored and evaluated is key, and the partners therefore deploy analytical resources to help them consider what the impacts will be over the long-term.

Partners are already working with the 'inclusive growth diagnostic', an evidence-based approach for determining the growth and inclusion priorities in a particular area and projects which score well in inclusive growth terms are given additional weight. This means that the final deal is more likely to have positive outcomes in terms of reducing inequalities. A key component of the inclusive growth diagnostic process is input from stakeholders, including the local community. In this case, the partners ask for help from a local community group, made up of people with experience of poverty, to build the evidence base and shape the deal's development.

The final version of the Plan includes investment, considerable economic development opportunities, and a mix of new jobs, the majority of which will be recruited locally. It includes a strong narrative about reducing inequalities and sets out clearly how the deal will make that happen and how they will monitor and evaluate progress. The community group thinks the deal offers them hope, after a period where they hadn't felt their views had been properly heard.

The partners publish their Fairer Scotland Duty assessment jointly as part of a suite of documents related to the city region deal. There is no need for each partner to produce their own individual assessment, because they all signed up to it.

Case Study 3: A Significant Investment Decision Within An Economic Development Strategy

A private research company has contacted one of the Scottish enterprise agencies about developing a new Scottish research headquarters on a site on the outskirts of a small rural town. The town has high levels of poverty and few job opportunities for less skilled workers. The Agency is keen for the area to welcome any type of investment and economic development.

Before the Fairer Scotland Duty

The Agency considers the proposal and notes that the research headquarters will bring 45 new jobs to the area. Most of the jobs will be high quality, secure with good career progression. The building will be newly built to high sustainability criteria with their London headquarters overseeing the building. New jobs will be made for skilled researchers but also for less skilled workers such as security, lab technicians, administration, cleaning and servicing of the building. The skilled jobs will be recruited internationally. The other jobs will be filled on contract from their London headquarters through recruitment agencies in the nearest city, 30 miles away. On balance, the Agency is very keen to signal that they welcome new investment and encourage the location of the research headquarters.

After the Fairer Scotland Duty

The Agency contacts the Local Authority, which like the Agency is covered by the Duty, and also engages with the Scottish Funding Council and Skills Development Scotland, which are not covered by the Duty. Together, they establish a task force to review the proposal to see if it either reduces or further increases inequality of outcome due to socio-economic disadvantage. By considering the evidence carefully, they identify that the research jobs are good quality but that they are unlikely to be filled in the local area. Furthermore, the jobs that are lower-skilled may be more suitable for people who experience socio-economic disadvantage but they are not going to be recruited locally. Moreover, the building work itself will be undertaken by a company that has no current apprentices and a poor record of providing career progression to its employees.

The Task Force is still keen to encourage the research headquarters to be developed locally and enters into negotiation with the company to try to mitigate some of the identified negative impacts. They include local people in some of the meetings to help them encourage the company to think about recruiting some of their semi-skilled jobs locally. The company is reluctant because of the skilled nature of the work but a local college agrees to help and offers a day release training opportunity for administration and lab technician posts. As a result, the company agrees to develop a graduate development programme and a modern apprenticeship programme enabling it to build its support workforce over time whilst continuing to recruit its key researcher posts internationally. The company was unwilling to change their building contracts but did agree that future maintenance programmes would be tendered amongst smaller, more local trades. Encouraged by the business benefits of the approach the organisation signs up to the Scottish Business Pledge ensuring that all employees are paid at least the real living wage further mitigating poverty in and out of work.

The Task Force felt that these changes had fulfilled their Duty. They jointly write up the assessment and publish it on partners' websites – although only the Agency and the local authority are obliged to do so legally, all partners wish to make clear their commitment to tackling disadvantage. They warmly welcome the new investment.

Data sources


Data Source


Low Income

Scottish Government poverty and income inequality statistics are published annually. A wealth of data is available, including on child, working age and pensioner poverty. The most recent publication was March 2018.


Low Income

The End Child Poverty Coalition has published relative child poverty estimates for local areas in Scotland, down to ward level. The most recent publication was January 2018.


Low income

The Scottish Government published national persistent poverty statistics for the first time in March 2017.


Low Income

The New Policy Institute has produced useful analysis on disability and poverty for Joseph Rowntree Foundation.


Low wealth

The Wealth and Assets Survey provides data on wealth inequality in Scotland. The last publication was 14 February 2017.


Material Deprivation

The Scottish Government publishes national combined low income and material deprivation as part of its annual poverty statistics report. The most recent publication was November 2017.


Material Deprivation

The Scottish Government published its first combined low income and material deprivation statistics at local authority level in November 2017. These are experimental statistics.


Area Deprivation

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation ( SIMD) is the official tool for finding the most deprived areas in Scotland. SIMD16 was last published on 31 August 2016.


Area Deprivation

The further work done on minimum income standard for remote, rural Scotland may also be useful.


Communities of place

Review of Equality Evidence in Rural Scotland.


Communities of interest

The Scottish Government Equality Evidence Finder is an updated web resource providing equality evidence by subject area and protected characteristic. It is to be expanded over 2018-19 to cover socio-economic disadvantage too.


Glossary of terms

APPROPRIATE OFFICER – Each Fairer Scotland assessment process should be signed off by an appropriate officer. 'Appropriate' refers to a level of authority or seniority sufficient to demonstrate that due regard has been given in each case. While this will vary by public body, in the Scottish Government's case, an appropriate officer would be a deputy director or a director.

CHILD POVERTY ACT (SCOTLAND) 2017 – Legislation setting ambiti ous targets for eradicating child poverty in Scotland by 2030.

COMMUNITIES OF PLACE – People who are bound together because of where they reside, work, visit or otherwise spend a continuous portion of their time. For example, people in particular rural, remote and island areas.

COMMUNITIES OF INTEREST – Groups of people who share an experience, for example, people who have experienced homelessness or care; or those who share one or more of the protected characteristics listed in the Equality Act 2010; or groups who may share an identity, for example lone parents.

DUE REGARD – Due regard is explained in more detail earlier in this document. To show that a public body has paid due regard, it should demonstrate active consideration, ideally including participation with communities affected. How much regard is due will depend on the relevance of the decision to the scale of socio-economic disadvantage and inequalities of outcome in relation to each strategic issue – proportionality is key, in other words. Due regard does not mean there is an obligation to achieve a result. Results are, nevertheless, important.

EQUALITY ACT 2010UK legislation which first set out new equality duties. The Duty on 'socio-economic inequalities' (which has been renamed the Fairer Scotland Duty) formed Part 1 of this Act of Parliament.

FAIRER SCOTLAND DUTY – Part 1 of the Equality Act 2010 set out a new Duty on socio-economic inequalities. The new Duty comes into force in Scotland (but not in other parts of the UK) from April 2018. It requires public bodies to pay due regard to narrowing the inequalities of outcome, caused by socio-economic disadvantage, when making strategic decisions.

IMPLEMENTATION PERIOD – There will be a three year implementation period for the Fairer Scotland Duty. This will help the Scottish Government and the EHRC learn from best practice, adjust guidance, and make sure that the operation of the new Duty works well alongside the PSED.

INEQUALITIES OF OUTCOME – Any measurable differences in outcomes, for example, in relation to health and life expectancy or educational attainment. Socio-economically disadvantaged households have a higher risk of experiencing negative outcomes.

INTERSECTIONALITY – Intersectionality means recognising that people's identities and social positions are shaped by multiple factors including age, disability, ethnicity, religion and belief, sexual orientation and socioeconomic background.

KEY REQUIREMENT – This is the central expectation of the Fairer Scotland Duty as set out in this guidance. To meet the Duty, public bodies should: actively consider, at an appropriate level, what more they can do to reduce the inequalities of outcome, caused by socio-economic disadvantage, in any strategic decision-making or policy development context, and publish a short written assessment, showing how they've done this.

LOW INCOME – Low income is a key driver of a range of negative outcomes and can be defined in a range of ways. Relative poverty (after housing costs) is a useful headline measure, looking at the number of individuals living in households with incomes below 60% of UK median income. But there are a range of other measures too – see RESOURCES for more information.

LOW WEALTH – Having access to wealth (including financial products, equity from housing, and a decent pension) provides some protection from socio-economic disadvantage, particularly when the wealth comes in the form of accessible savings.

MATERIAL DEPRIVATION – This refers to households being unable to access basic goods and services.

PUBLIC SECTOR EQUALITY DUTY – This Duty requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act 2010; advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic (as defined by the 2010 Act) and persons who do not share it; and foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC BACKGROUND – The structural disadvantage that can arise from parents' education, employment and income – social class, in other words.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC DISADVANTAGE – In broad terms, socio-economic disadvantage means living on below average incomes, with little accumulated wealth, leading to greater material deprivation, restricting the ability to access basic goods and services. Socio-economic disadvantage can be experienced in both places and communities of interest, leading to further negative outcomes such as social exclusion.

STRATEGIC LEVEL – These are the key, high-level decisions that the public sector takes. Many of these decisions may be made in the context of public service reform and improving outcomes for people and communities. In general, they will be decisions that affect how the public body fulfils its intended purpose, over a significant period of time. These would normally include strategy documents, decisions about setting priorities, allocating resources, and commissioning services.


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