6. Equality and human rights
An Equality and Fairer Scotland Statement has been published alongside the spending review. This statement outlines the key opportunities and challenges that the Scottish Government faces over this parliamentary term; what these mean for inequality, fairness, and human rights; and how the spending review and other initiatives respond.
Q5: In Chapter 3 we have shared that we will be conducting an equality assessment of the Resource Spending Review's findings.
We welcome your views on any particular equality and human rights impacts which we should consider in the context of the priorities (question 1) and primary drivers of public spending (question 2) we have set out.
Several organisations supported the Scottish Government's decision to conduct an equality assessment of the RSR's findings, and a number of organisations had specific proposals as to how assessments should be carried out.
COSLA said that all spheres of government should be applying the principle of non-regression of rights, which impacts both revenue raising and allocation of funding, and gender responsive budgeting. It also said that there should be an analysis of current policy, legislation and the Scottish Budget to ensure that it is supporting the progressive realisation of rights. The Scottish Women's Budget Group also called for the use of a gender budget analysis throughout the planning and impact assessment process, and the application of an equality lens to avoid widening the inequality gap.
Scotland's Learning Partnership agreed with the approach outlined in the RSR Framework – that the RSR would be outcomes focused, and evidence informed. However, in supporting this, they commented: "Sometimes outcomes are driven by SG without proper and due attention to the users of that particular service and this needs to be fully transparent so that doesn't happen. Our recent experience of evidence based has been poor so we will not comment here, similarly with consultation-it has been used to disempower rather than empower people."
Respondents provided their views on particular equality and human rights impacts which should be considered in the context of the priorities and primary drivers of public spending set out in the Framework.
Tackling inequality and climate change was an issue for some respondents. EAUC Scotland called for a focus on the 'Just transition' by concentrating on communities reliant on fossil fuels or high energy processes and poorer communities. This was echoed in the Civil Society – Climate Change roundtable where participants noted the importance of the Just Transition Committee's report.
The importance of human rights analysis was highlighted by a number of respondents. Citizens Advice Scotland also encouraged the Scottish Government to ensure equality and human rights implications are at the forefront of the RSR process, and vulnerable groups (disabled, terminally ill, low income households) are not disproportionately affected in achieving priorities.
ENABLE Scotland highlighted the need for spending priorities to reflect the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the disabled and further expressed the need to prioritise the human right to excellent quality human rights-driven self-directed care and support, as well as community-based services while Penumbra called on the government to ensure change and better outcomes for vulnerable communities. The Royal Society of Edinburgh called on the Scottish Government to reflect the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on disabled people, and guarantee the right to excellent quality human rights-driven, self-directed health and social care support services.
A number of organisations commented on the importance of impact assessments in making effective policy and finance decisions and emphasised the need for them in order to tackle inequality.
The ALLIANCE called for the use of a detailed, robust and timely Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessment to ensure equitable financial decision making. The Fraser of Allander Institute called on the Scottish Government to conduct Equality Impact Assessments prior to final decision making, ensure accountable financial decision making, appropriately assess decisions to reduce spend significantly, disaggregate protected characteristics to represent views of affected people, and allocate appropriate time to accommodate appropriate consideration.
Regarding meeting child poverty targets, Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland commented: "Robust statutory assessments, such as Equalities Impact Assessments, Children's Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessments and the Fairer Scotland assessment should be used to examine and report, in detail, on a range of potential options before decisions are made to ensure that options chosen contribute to meeting the child poverty targets and do not inadvertently disadvantage or exclude a particular group."
Renfrewshire Council called on the government to recognise tackling inequality as a driver of public spending and involve people with lived experiences in Equality Impact Assessments.
In addition to their comments on gender budgeting, as detailed in this report, SWBG commented: "The Equality Impact Assessment process is integral to decision making and must be properly resourced to ensure public spending achieves its intended goals and does not have negative unintended consequences."
Young Scot recommended the use of the Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment to meet relevant duties, including the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 and Getting It Right for Every Child while Children in Scotland recommended conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment in relation to the Resource Spending Review's findings.
The Equality Budget Advisory Group noted that there is a risk if Scottish Government initiatives, such as the RSR, retrofitted Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments to the process rather than integrating them as core parts of the design, development and decision-making. The Group also noted that transparency around decision-making could be improved by making it easier to locate Impact Assessments on the Scottish Government website.
In relation to equality-specific impacts identified by respondents, a number of common themes emerged:
On staff remuneration, Voluntary Health Scotland called on the Scottish Government to apply the minimum hourly rate of £10.50 for adult social care workers to the children's workforce. They also called for information around the possible assumptions that led to the inclusion of adult workforce, but omission of children's workforce, from the minimum hourly rate of £10.50.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland called for the consideration of all rights including the use of legal powers under mental health legislation and the improvement of mental health resourcing and staffing. Similarly, Support in Mind Scotland urged the government to identify groups more vulnerable to mental health issues in order to advance mental health equality.
The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland's said that the RSR, must take account of key mental health legislative provisions, protect people with mental and physical disabilities, consider people of all ages, situations, and conditions with a diagnosis of mental illness or other disabilities and closely align with the outcomes of the Scottish Mental Health Law Review. Furthermore, weight must be given to UN Convention on the Rights of the Child article 2, UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCPRD) article 2 and 7, in addition to article 28 in relation to children specifically. The Human Rights Act 1998 articles. 2, 3 and 8 must be considered to ensure that any impact does not interfere with citizens' fundamental rights.
SWBG called on the Scottish Government to integrate a gender budget analysis, within a human rights approach, into the RSR process and design spending commitments on policy and programmes with the help of an intersectional gender analysis.
Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) called for prioritised spending on people in need of alcohol-related treatment and interventions, the inclusion of individuals with lived alcohol-related experiences in decision making, and proportionate spending and funding for alcohol-related harms among minority groups.
The Scottish Community Development Centre called on the government to actively involve key equalities/ human rights organisations in public spending decisions and directly engage groups affected by key priorities. Voluntary Action North Lanarkshire called on the Scottish Government to take targeted action for specific equality groups.
According to the David Hume Institute, age diversity should be considered part of workforce strategy and all age groups should be supported into and during employment.
Respondents took the opportunity to raise further considerations as part of their response to the equality impact assessment.
The Scottish Science Advisory Council called for more engagement with the academic community to help SG learn from other countries. Colleges Scotland called for stronger, longer-term funding to help colleges thrive and urged the government to close the gap between secondary school, college and university funding and provide additional resources and support to colleges.
The North United Communities Ltd. called on the Scottish Government to treat the third sector equally. The Scottish Wildlife Trust also called on the government to treat the environment and biodiversity as having equal footing with other priorities while Museum Galleries Scotland called on the Scottish Government to be mindful of the impact of spending decisions on the provision of cultural amenities.
Linguistic rights were highlighted by Bòrd na Gàidhlig which they said should be reflected through all aspects of the Scottish Government's work, not only in relation to cultural rights, but also to ensure the consideration of human rights includes potential impacts on the Gaelic language.
Some individual respondents took the opportunity offered by this question to raise matters such as calling on the government to stop the limitation of free speech through hate speech laws, scrap councils, balance spending with fairness, and balance equal opportunities with competence. Individual respondents also called on the Scottish Government to consider systematic disadvantages which might negatively impact minority ethnic groups, consider lived experiences over statistics and adopt a universal basic services approach.
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