4. Mainstreaming Equality and Human Rights - Embedding Lasting Change
Both the REF and the REAP are clear that lasting change, and meaningful improvement of equality for minority ethnic groups, can only be brought about by a concerted, Scotland-wide, and partnership-focussed approach. To support this, we are focused on ensuring that equality is embedded in everything we do. We remain committed to putting in place the structures that will allow us to strengthen and deliver this mainstreaming approach, which will embed equality at the start of, and throughout, all our work at design, development and delivery stages.
The National Performance Framework
Our National Performance Framework (NPF) guides everything the Scottish Government does. The purpose of the Framework is:
- to create a more successful country;
- to give opportunities to all people living in Scotland;
- to increase the wellbeing of people living in Scotland;
- to create sustainable and inclusive growth, and;
- to reduce inequalities and give equal importance to economic, environmental, and social progress.
There are a number of specific outcomes to support the NPF's purpose, including that people respect, protect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination. However, both the overall purpose and the full list of outcomes of the NPF are clear that equality is a vital ingredient in Scotland's identity and its future. We will continue to use the NPF to underpin all the actions we take forward under the REF and into our plans following the conclusion of the existing REAP.
The Directorate for Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights
An important step towards putting equality at the centre of the Scottish Government's agenda has been the creation of the new Directorate for Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights, incorporating the existing Divisions for Equality & Human Rights and Connected Communities, as well as working closely with People Directorate on matters relating to internal diversity and inclusion. The new Directorate will be key to ensuring equality is considered across all aspects of public policy development, supporting not only the next stages of work towards the ambitions of the REF, but also underpinning key outcomes in our National Performance Framework.
A New Statutory Framework for Human Rights
As well as driving forward equality work, the Scottish Government is also committed to the further realisation of human rights, as part of our work to embed lasting and meaningful change. Central to that is the government-led National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership, which was established in early 2019, in response to the recommendations made in December 2018 by the First Minister's Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership. The Taskforce has been working to establish a statutory framework for human rights that can bring internationally recognised human rights into domestic law and protect the human rights of every member of Scottish society.
The First Minister's Advisory Group recommended that a wide range of human rights be included in a new statutory framework for human rights, including: civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; environmental rights; and further specific rights belonging to children, women, disabled people, on race and rights for older persons, and for LGBTI communities. In the 2020-21 Programme for Government, we committed to continue work on the Taskforce, to deliver a radical blueprint for this human rights legislation covering all areas of devolved responsibility. This included active consideration of the incorporation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), working closely with key stakeholders in this sector. We are proud that the Taskforce report has now recommended the incorporation of CERD, as part of a new and comprehensive statutory human rights framework to be taken forward in the next Parliamentary term.
To reach its recommendations, the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership undertook a wide range of engagement with public bodies, civil society organisations and many others, with five roundtables specifically focused on race and a reference group to consider CERD incorporation. Furthermore, the Taskforce was also guided by papers from an Academic Advisory Panel of human rights experts, papers from stakeholders and the 'All Our Rights in Law' project lead by the Human Rights Consortium Scotland and the Scottish Human Rights Commission which fed directly into the Taskforce's considerations.
In line with all our work at this time, next steps in relation to the further realisation of minority ethnic people's human rights in Scotland will include consideration of the new and existing inequalities brought to the forefront by COVID-19.
Our Mainstreaming Programme of Work
Since the Equality Act 2010 came into force, the Scottish Government has been bound by the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), which requires us to eliminate discrimination, foster good relations and advance equality across the public sector – putting these commitments at the heart of everything we do.
To ensure that we meet this duty, the Scottish Government has been seeking to mainstream equality and human rights across all of our policies and practices. As we move to the next stages of our COVID-19 renewal and recovery work, it is vital that we use this opportunity to make fundamental and lasting changes to address the inequalities exposed and exacerbated by the pandemic, including in relation to race.
To support this, our 2020 Programme for Government makes the commitment to 'develop an equality and human rights mainstreaming strategy, which is underpinned by a comprehensive approach to improving data collation and analysis, and will ensure that the voices of those impacted shape our approach and policies.' The development of our new mainstreaming strategy is still in its early stages, and we will engage with race equality and other stakeholders to shape this work.
Beyond the new strategy, and as per the Scottish Specific Duties under the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), the Scottish Government is initiating work to begin setting new equality outcomes for the 2021-25 reporting cycle, which will be published in April 2021.
The PSED review will be progressed in two stages between now and summer 2021. This will enable progress to continue to be made whilst retaining capacity to engage with COVID-related equality matters, which remains critically important, and to deliver on our PSED responsibilities to report on progress and set new outcomes.
We will publish a report on the effectiveness of PSED in Scotland, learning from the experience of seeking to discharge the equality duty during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have undertaken substantial engagement with stakeholder and equality networks throughout the pandemic, and we have therefore learned a great deal about the operation of PSED in these circumstances. This learning will shape interim findings and suggested next steps, which will underpin the second stage set out below. Work on this report is now underway and we intend to publish it in early spring 2021.
We will engage closely with equality stakeholders to develop specific proposals, and this will form part of the development of the new strategy for embedding equality and human rights in the work of the government, as per the commitment made in the September 2020 Programme for Government. This will ensure that PSED is considered alongside the overall equality and human rights framework, which is vital given the importance of PSED as a key legislative driver for change. It has previously been confirmed that there will be no regulatory change to the PSEDs during the current parliamentary session.
To help us respond to some of the more immediate issues raised by COVID-19, the Scottish Government is considering inclusion of some short-term, specific outcomes in this context, alongside our longer-term goals. For more information on our forward planning, please see Section 6 of this report.