Scotland’s Equality Evidence Strategy 2023-2025

This strategy sets out our approach to improving and strengthening Scotland’s equality evidence base over a three year period to the end of 2025.

4. Context

Scotland's previous Equality Evidence Strategy was launched in 2017 and important improvements were made to Scotland's equality evidence base throughout its life span (2017-2021). In late 2019, an interim progress report was published that detailed key improvements to the evidence base over the strategy's first two years.

The past few years, particularly during and following the COVID-19 pandemic, have seen extensive activity focused on the equality evidence base. This includes the convening of working groups to steer and inform the work of the Scottish Government and the undertaking of a range of projects to fill priority gaps and identify and promote good practice. This section summarises key developments undertaken and ongoing activity to set the scene in which this strategy has been developed. Annex A provides a more detailed overview of recent progress and the current equality evidence base.

Equality Data Improvement Programme (EDIP)

Since the launch of Scotland's previous Equality Evidence Strategy in 2017, progress has been made by the Scottish Government to strengthen the equality evidence base. This complements improvement work undertaken across the wider public sector.

Following the conclusion of the Equality Evidence Strategy 2017-2021, the EDIP was launched in April 2021 to lay the groundwork for the development of an ambitious cross-professional data improvement plan for the future. The EDIP built on the work being taken forward by individual analytical areas to produce evidence, guidance, best practice and enhanced networks to improve equality data in the short term. The first phase of the EDIP was governed by a project board, co-chaired by Scotland's Chief Social Researcher and Chief Statistician, which included representatives from a range of external public sector bodies with a key interest in mainstreaming equalities.

Throughout the first phase of the EDIP, progress was made to strengthen Scotland's equality evidence base over a number of projects (see Annex A). Several EDIP projects that were taken forward by the Scottish Government sit within the Inclusive Data Taskforce Implementation Plan, which sets out how data inclusivity will be improved across the UK statistical system.

Many areas of the public sector, including different parts of the Scottish Government, are already progressing work to improve their equality evidence. It is worth reinforcing that often the most effective equality data improvement work will be achieved where policymakers, analysts and stakeholders focus on specific subject domains and characteristics (including the protected characteristics specified in the Equality Act 2010). This work allows active prioritisation of the key service outcome issues that can, in turn, help drive and prioritise the data to be collected.

It is important that the EDIP and this strategy be seen as part of a broader programme of mainstreaming equality and human rights activity within the public sector in Scotland. There needs to be good communication between data producers, policymakers and practitioners to ensure that improved data leads to improved outcomes. Service improvement can occur by motivated, trained and knowledgeable staff intervening and seeking best practice at any of the different points in the policy development process.

Equality mainstreaming

The Scottish Government seeks to promote and advance equality in all that it does, building on policies and legislation already in place.

The Scottish Government is currently developing an equality and human rights mainstreaming strategy. After engagement with both internal and external stakeholders during 2022, a draft framework has been prepared with four main sections: Strengthening Leadership and Accountability; Improving Policy Coherence; Building and Using Evidence and Experience; Capability, Capacity and Culture.

Further engagement with stakeholders will be carried out in 2023 to further develop the mainstreaming strategy. As we finalise this strategy, we are currently working on tools and protocols to support other organisations and the Scottish Government, to further strengthen mainstreaming activity including links to guidance, proformas and best practice examples. These are designed to deliver the aims and objectives of the mainstreaming strategy, and will be shared as part of the engagement with stakeholders which we are aiming to commence in spring 2023.

In addition to equality mainstreaming activity, there are also a number of advisory groups, frameworks and strategies that work with or within the Scottish Government with a focus on strengthening the equality evidence base. Details of these can be found in Annex B.


Embedding an intersectional approach into policymaking in the Scottish Government is a wider ambition that will require whole system change. Key to achieving this ambition is ensuring alignment between different areas of improvement and recommendations, for example between data and the operation of the PSED in Scotland.

During 2022, the Scottish Government published an evidence synthesis of literature on the concept of intersectionality to improve confidence and competence among analysts and policymakers. This report examined what the concept means, and how it can be applied to policymaking and analysis, as well as providing spotlight examples. In addition to this, the Scottish Government ran a seminar in July 2022 on applying the concept of intersectionality to analysis. This seminar was very well attended and received positive feedback.

Many of the national and official statistical datasets managed by the Scottish Government's Analytical Services Divisions (ASDs) and the National Records of Scotland (NRS) collect and publish equality data. As part of the EDIP, the Scottish Government carried out an Equality Data Audit in autumn 2021. Analysts were asked to assess all datasets used by their ASD to produce official or national statistics, update NPF indicators or inform significant ministerial decision making, and report on which equality variables were collected and published from each. The audit found that almost a third of datasets (29%) were being used to produce intersectionaldata breakdowns. The most common of these was age by sex, followed by race by sex, and disability by sex.

Where there is more than one characteristic collected from individuals in datasets held by the Scottish Government, intersectional breakdowns may be possible (though in practice often subject to limitations around small sample sizes and data disclosure). Although the analysis produced from these datasets is ultimately the decision of the ASDs who manage them, the Scottish Government Equality Analysis team will continue to promote good practice and co-ordinate robust intersectional analysis to build a strong evidence base.

Examples of intersectional analysis taking place within the Scottish Government includes:

In some instances, statistical data collections may not be the best source of intersectional evidence, particularly where the subgroup sample size is relatively small. It is important to consider whether other sources of evidence would better inform understanding of the experiences of groups with intersecting characteristics, including through more focused qualitative research, and using methods that present opportunities for co-production of research with individuals and groups with lived experience of structural inequality.

Participation and engagement

While nearly all research involves participants and their participation of some sort, participatory research is distinct. It typically uses methods that offer people with lived experience greater decision making power and influence, for example taking a collaborative approach to developing a solution to an issue. This recognises that people have valuable expertise through lived experience, which is important to fully identify the causes of and solutions to an issue. Significant programmes of work across the Scottish Government have taken approaches that use participatory methods or draw on lived experience in research and policy development. In autumn 2022, a survey of Participation and Engagement work taking place across Scottish Government was undertaken. The survey provides an initial overview of the extent and nature of Scottish Government's Participation and Engagement work. The survey included questions on the characteristics of participants and stakeholders involved in Scottish Government's Participation and Engagement work. Its findings note the large number of participatory engagements taking place across Scottish Government, and identify options for a co-ordinated approach to support the delivery of this work.

Examples of participation and engagement work which has taken place across the Scottish Government include the Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) 'Experts by Experience Panel'; the Citizens' Assembly of Scotland and Scotland's Climate Assembly; the Social Renewal Advisory Board and The 'People's Panel on Wellbeing 2022 and beyond'.

Participative methods have been used by the Scottish Government to develop the social security system in Scotland through Social Security Scotland's Experience Panels. These panels are made up of people who have experience of one or more of the relevant benefits (i.e. benefits due for devolution following the Scotland Act 2016), and more than 2,400 people registered as panel members when launched in 2017. An example of participative work carried out with the Experience Panels is presented in Box 2.

Box 2: Social Security Scotland – Co-designing the Social Security Charter and Measurement Framework

The Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 makes provision for the production of a Charter and Measurement Framework, to be made in consultation with people with lived experience of the social security system.[7] A group of diverse people with a range of conditions and experiences (the Core Group) – made up mostly of Experience Panel members – have taken part in workshops with Scottish Government analysts to create the charter, based on the principles in The Act.

The co-design of the Charter Measurement Framework was undertaken between March and August 2019. Scottish Government officials held:

  • seven full-day workshops with Core Group 2, including an advice and discussion session between the group and the Scottish Commission on Social Security (SCoSS)
  • two meetings with representatives from stakeholder groups
  • two meetings with SCoSS

Crucial elements of the co-design process included:

  • enabling participation: breaking down barriers to participation through, for example, use of sign language interpreters and audio describers where necessary. All written materials used by the group were made available in accessible formats, for example, large print or different colour contrast, where needed
  • power: group decision making and ownership about the process of producing the Charter Measurement Framework and the processes' outputs
  • knowledge: capacity building with participants; guests, including policy colleagues and ministers, to inform group of latest developments/answer questions
  • knowledge exchange: recognising lived experience as expertise



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