The people of Scotland have experienced unprecedented challenges since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. It has exposed deep-rooted structural inequalities in our society and exacerbated the disproportionate impact on individuals and groups who already experience structural disadvantage. Public authorities have had a vital role in supporting individuals and communities, particularly those who may be experiencing disadvantage. Those experiences during the pandemic and our commitment to build back better during recovery have emphasised the importance of our work to mainstream and embed human rights in everything that we do.
In order to do so, we must have a strong legislative underpinning. Within the Equality Act 2010 sits the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) which requires the public sector to embed and promote equality throughout their processes with a view to advancing equality, tackling discrimination and fostering good relations. This has been supported through Scottish Specific Duties, introduced in 2012, designed to ensure that Scottish Ministers and public bodies give better effect to the PSED. As we approach 10 years since the creation of these duties, it is time to take stock and consider what more we can do to support a more effective regime in Scotland.
That’s why we have been reviewing the effectiveness of the regime. In March this year, we published a stage one report which identified the current issues with the regime and areas for improvement. Building on that thinking, this consultation contains ambitious proposals for change both relating to the Scottish Specific Duties, as well as the wider environment for implementation so that we can make the regime tangible for the people of Scotland. It sets out our thinking on commitments made in this year’s Programme for Government to embed inclusive communication and expand gender pay gap reporting duties to ethnicity and disability.
Taking stock and proposing these changes gives us an opportunity to create an effective regime and wider implementation environment that will make a stronger contribution to improving the lives of people in Scotland, by embedding equality considerations at the very heart of the public sector. I am grateful to those who have supported the development of this work to date, and I would like to call again on the public sector, equality advocacy groups, and people with lived experience to provide their unique perspective and expertise to help us continue to shape these proposals together, through this consultation.
Together we can create a Scotland that is inclusive, safe and empowering, a Scotland that celebrates the diversity of people, and where we protect, respect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination.
Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Housing and Local Government