Scotland's equality evidence strategy 2017-2021

Describes the Scottish Government’s approach to strengthening Scotland’s equality evidence base.

This document is part of a collection

7.The Current Equality Evidence Base

The Scottish Government and its agencies collect, analyse and publish equality-relevant evidence across a wide range of policy areas. In order to make it easier for users to locate and access this information, the Scottish Government launched an equality evidence web resource, the Equality Evidence Finder in 2012 which provides a wealth of data and other evidence with accompanying commentary, background papers, and links to further information. The Equality Evidence Finder signposts users to more detail held elsewhere on the Scottish Government or external websites. Much of the analysis is provided by Scottish Government analysts working on a variety of policy areas, e.g. education and health. This network of analysts provides content for the biannual update of the Evidence Finder. Equality analysts also produce additional high quality analysis and this is used to fill gaps in the evidence base.

This new strategy will be aimed broadly at developing the statistics and research held within the existing framework as set out in the Equality Evidence Finder overarching grid (illustrated below). In addition to providing links to Official Statistics, we will continue to signpost users to wider external research and economic analysis to supplement statistics, and enhance the evidence base. This framework has been a popular and intuitive portal for users to access equality evidence.

Equality Evidence

At present, some characteristics are better populated with data than others. Reliable data on gender and age are available from a wide range of data sources, including sample surveys, and are often presented at local level. Other areas e.g. transgender, are less well populated. Pregnancy and maternity, and marriage and civil partnership don't have bespoke columns in the above grid at present. Evidence for these characteristics is presented within existing columns e.g. gender and sexual orientation, however this will be reviewed. Stakeholders often cite evidence gaps around intersectionality.

Intersectionality [11] requires government and the wider public sector to think more carefully about what services are provided, how, and to whom. It is widely acknowledged that it can be challenging to evidence impacts on particular intersections of protected characteristics because of low population numbers and the sheer number of different variations. The Scottish Government's 'core questions' approach of including the same 'core questions' in the national health, household and crime surveys has provided better data on most single protected characteristics. But, even with this data, it is sometimes difficult to produce statistically significant results with the sample sizes achieved. Moving forward we will continue to use statistics, social research and economic analysis to fill the evidence gaps, using both quantitative and qualitative information as appropriate.

Scotland's Census 2011

The census is the most comprehensive source of equality data in Scotland, allowing for detailed analysis by equality group and by sub-national geography. Following the release of the 2011 Census datasets in 2014, Scottish Government equality statisticians carried out comprehensive and wide-ranging analysis, producing a series of tables and reports. These reports added value to equality data published on Scotland's Census [12] website by National Records of Scotland ( NRS). They brought together relevant data from the census and other sources, and used infographics to give a detailed overview of equality in Scotland, covering Ethnicity, Religion, Disability, Gypsy/Travellers and users of British Sign Language ( BSL).

A list of equality analysis reports from the 2011 Census follows:

  • Overview of Equality Results from the 2011 Census Release 2 (2014) [13]
    This report provided further analysis of equality data originally released from the Census by National Records of Scotland ( NRS), and pulled this together into a user friendly format providing new analysis and insight, particularly around deprivation;
  • Analysis of Equality Results from the 2011 Census (2014) [14]
    This report brought together relevant data from the census and other sources, and used infographics to paint a picture of equality in Scotland, covering Ethnicity, Gypsy/Travellers, Religion, Disability and British Sign Language ( BSL) users;
  • Analysis of Equality Results from the 2011 Census - Part 2 (2015) [15]
    This report brought together relevant statistics from the census and other sources to provide a highly detailed description of equality in Scotland. The policy areas covered were Labour Market, Education, Housing and Transport;
  • Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland - A Comprehensive Analysis of the 2011 [16] Census (2015)
    This report brought together previously published analysis to provide a comprehensive and wide-ranging evidence base on Scotland's Gypsy/Travellers. It presented analysis of key areas such as health, education, housing, transport and economic indicators to reveal important information on the lives and life chances of Gypsy/Travellers.

Scotland's Census 2021

National Records of Scotland ( NRS) carried out a 2021 Census topic consultation and published a report [17] of the findings in August 2016. In addition to the equality topics covered in 2011, this consultation identified a user need for information on sexual orientation and gender identity. NRS is working closely with the Office for National Statistics ( ONS) and stakeholders to further explore the need for data on these topics, and the potential data quality. Stakeholder workshops and question testing, including public acceptability testing, will continue into 2018 to further explore the need for and quality of data collection in the census.

Scottish Surveys Core Questions ( SSCQ) Publications

The Scottish Surveys Core Questions [18] ( SSCQ) is an annual Official Statistics publication which enables the production of reliable and detailed information on the composition, characteristics and attitudes of Scottish households and adults across a number of topic areas including equality characteristics, housing, employment and perceptions of health and crime. The latest statistics from SSCQ relate to the 2015 collection period, published in November 2016. Statistics from the 2014, 2013 and 2012 collection periods have also been released as Official Statistics. The main analytical report for the 2014 data focused on equality group themes and provided analysis of the differences between groups, sub-national areas and changes over three years. The SSCQ has gained 'Official Statistics' status and is now a key annual source of equality data in Scotland.

Equality, Poverty and Social Security - Sexual Orientation in Scotland 2017, A Summary of the Evidence Base

Scottish Government equality analysts used the SSCQ data to inform the report 'Sexual Orientation in Scotland 2017 - A Summary of the Evidence Base' [19] which was released in January 2017. This report examined the differences between heterosexual adults in Scotland and those who self-identify their sexual orientation as lesbian, gay, bisexual or other in major household surveys.

The SSCQ has recently been reviewed and the Scottish Government is considering the addition of a new non-binary gender question, along with the proposal to harmonise the discrimination and harassment question.

Core Questions ( SSCQ) multi-year data set - the Scottish Government intend to release a SSCQ multi-year dataset later in 2017. This will provide extra analytical utility, allowing the results to be broken down by smaller equality groups. The ONS have recently combined three years of Annual Population Survey ( APS) data in order to produce sub-national sexual identity estimates in England [20] .

Other Major Surveys and Administrative Sources

There are other major sources of equality evidence in Scotland. The Annual Population Survey [21] ( APS) provides equality breakdowns of key labour market statistics. The Scottish Household Survey [22] ( SHS), the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey [23] ( SCJS) and the Scottish Health Survey [24] ( SHeS) make up part of the Scottish Government's set of core questions but also provide equality evidence in their own right on many important policy areas such as neighbourhoods and communities, access to the internet, and transport.

There are strong administrative data sources within education such as the annual pupil census[25] and Scottish Funding Council ( SFC) [26] data for further and higher education students.

The NHS collect a wealth of administrative data, and their Information Services Division ( ISD Scotland [27] ) are working to improve the equality breakdowns available from this. They have developed a report titled 'Measuring use of health services by equality groups' [28] . This report sets the scene in terms of data availability and presents comparisons where data are available (referencing existing work and presenting results of new analysis on age and sex and a new approach to boost the completeness of ethnicity recording in health datasets). It also outlines next steps to further develop and improve measurement and use of equality data. Alongside the report, ISD released a health dataset equality evidence finder to make it easier for users to identify what data and evidence is available. This complements the broader equality evidence finder produced by the Scottish Government. The ISD version is hosted on their website and was published in June 2017 [29] .

The Labour Market Strategy [30] , published in August 2016, includes a commitment to improve our approach to measurement, reviewing available data sources to establish gaps and developing a more comprehensive approach to how we measure progress against the five Labour Market Strategy outcomes. These include an outcome on creating a labour market with equality of opportunity to access work and to progress within employment to ensure that everyone is able to maximise their potential. It also includes a commitment to consider how this is presented through the National Performance Framework.

A 'Strategic Labour Market group' has been created and its remit is ' to work alongside the Fair Work Convention and play a key role in determining how we measure progress in the context of the published Labour Market Outcomes'.

In addition to its own surveys, the Scottish Government regularly funds specific modules within the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey ( SSA) to answer key questions around equalities issues. Examples include the 2014 module exploring attitudes to violence against women [31] and the 2015 module on attitudes to discrimination and positive action [32] . Repeating these modules at certain time intervals allows for trend data and measuring change in attitudes over time.

New EHRC Measurement Framework

The Equality and Human Rights Commission [33] ( EHRC) has a duty to monitor progress on equality and human rights across England, Scotland and Wales. Its 'Is Scotland Fairer' [34] report, published in 2016, presented data and evidence to evaluate progress for equality groups.

The EHRC are currently reviewing their Measurement Framework. Previously, four frameworks gave a picture of progress across important areas of life in Britain. EHRC now intend to development a single measurement framework for equality and human rights. The single measurement framework will be based on the human rights indicator framework [35] developed by the United Nations. It will provide evidence on structure (the human rights and equality standards the UK must follow), process (what is being done to meet the standards) and outcomes (the experiences of individuals and groups).

It will focus on six 'domains', which reflect the areas in life that are important to people and help them to succeed:

1. education
2. work
3. living standards
4. health
5. justice and detention
6. participation

Further details of the proposal and indicators can be found on the measurement framework section of the EHRC website [36] .

Equality Evidence Toolkit

Scottish Government analysts met with a cross section of stakeholders in public authorities to discuss what would be helpful in enabling them to find evidence to report against their requirements in the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties)(Scotland) Regulations 2012. These meetings helped the Scottish Government to develop the Equality Evidence Toolkit for Public Authorities [37] . This resource can be used for: finding evidence to report progress towards equality outcomes; equality mainstreaming; and reporting information on employees.

The Scottish Government has recently published a new set of Equality Outcomes in its Equality Mainstreaming report [38] and will work to develop the measures that inform these outcomes, helping to meet its obligations from the Public Sector Equality Duty.

Social Security Experience Panels

To aid the design of Scotland's Social Security system, the Scottish Government is setting up 'Experience Panels' to involve at least 2,000 people with direct personal experience of the current system. Key to its design is working with people who have direct experience and knowledge of the current system and finding out from them what works, what needs improved and what the new system can do to support them. Once recruitment for the panel closes, an initial piece of work will be carried out to monitor the equality characteristics of participants, and equality information will continue to be monitored throughout the lifespan of the panels, providing new and valuable equality evidence. These panels are so big so that they can be representative of people who use the system - in themselves they are not qualitative although the type of work undertaken at later stages could well be qualitative.

External Research

It has been evident from discussions with both internal and external stakeholders that a wealth of equality evidence already exists, carried out by universities, third sector and other equality representation groups and covering a wide range of characteristics and policy areas which fill many of the gaps in the evidence base.

Much of that evidence is already available on organisations' websites, and following suggestions by our stakeholders, we enhanced our Equality Evidence Finder by linking to both Government and other organisations' relevant work across the protected characteristics. This has helped to enhance the narrative within each intersection page, widening the evidence picture for our users and adding context to the official statistics.

We will continue to signpost users to wider research to supplement statistics, and enhance the evidence base.

The Equality Evidence Finder - Future Developments

Scottish Government analysts have been working with their Digital Transformation User Research Team in an attempt to understand more about users of web content and their needs for our analytical services. This will help the Scottish Government to consider what analytical content to offer in the future.

It is expected that the Equality Evidence Finder will transition through time to the same online platform as the rest of the Scottish Government's analytical content, though there is no clear timescale for this at present. It is important that this new platform meets the needs of our users in terms of functionality and accessibility and we intend to explore key future user requirements and invite users to shape the improved Equality Evidence Finder. To this end, equality analysts carried out an online user survey in June 2017.

In addition to improving the Equality Evidence Finder, Scottish Government equality analysts will seek to make more equality information available on [39] . presents a range of official statistics about Scotland for information and re-use. Data is available by theme, organisation, or geography. Datasets are searchable by postcode and can be viewed as tables, maps and charts or downloaded in various formats.


Email: Jon Hunter,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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