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.

7. Actions to improve the equality evidence base

The Scottish Government know that there are gaps in the equality evidence base. Recognising this, and in order to respond to user needs, an Equality Data Audit was undertaken within the Scottish Government. The purpose of this audit was to identify where evidence gaps existed across analytical areas (e.g. health, justice) and across a characteristics.

In October 2021 Equality Data Audit returns were received from across the 10 analytical areas of the Scottish Government and National Records of Scotland (NRS). Analysts were required to provide RAG (red, amber, green) ratings[8], for each dataset in their area, on the collection and publication of data on nine characteristics[9].

Additional information was also requested about each dataset on any barriers to equality data improvement, pressures for improvement, and any current work underway or plans to make equality data improvements.

Analysts were asked to include in their return all datasets used by their analytical area to:

  • produce official or national statistics
  • inform National Performance Framework (NPF) indicator progress
  • produce statistics that have informed Scottish ministers' decision-making

A total of 199 datasets were included in returns across the 10 analytical areas, of these:

  • age and sex (or gender) were collected in over 6 in 10 datasets, and breakdowns by these characteristics published from around 5 in 10 datasets
  • race (or ethnicity) and disability were collected in just under 3 in 10 datasets, and breakdowns by these characteristics published from around 2 in 10 datasets
  • marriage and civil partnership and religion or belief were collected in just over 1 in 10 datasets, and breakdowns by these characteristics published from less than 1 in 10 datasets
  • sexual orientation was collected in 1 in 10 datasets, and breakdowns by this characteristic published from less than 1 in 10 datasets
  • pregnancy and maternity and gender reassignment were collected and breakdowns by these characteristics published from less 1 in 10 datasets

More detailed information on the findings of the Equality Data Audit by analytical area and RAG rating is available this summary paper.

Improvement criteria

The actions outlined in the table below show a range of different types of planned analytical activity aimed at improving Scotland's equality evidence base. These datasets and improvement activities were chosen by analysts following the internal equality data audit and were based on the following set of criteria. The Scottish Government and NRS sought to identify equality data improvement actions that are challenging but achievable (particularly taking into account available resources) and where there were:

  • already known pressures to improve equality data within the portfolio area
  • known evidence gaps, including those highlighted by external stakeholders or policymakers
  • relevance and a clear user need for the data, i.e. consideration of which equality variables would be relevant to implementation or evaluation of policies or measuring service delivery
  • likely to be the resources required to make improvements

Summary of improvement actions

Annex D sets out, in tabular form, the actions identified by the Scottish Government and NRS across a number of key themes. These actions cover improvements to the data on a range of equality variables, including all nine of the protected characteristics, and improvements are within a timeframe until the end of 2025.

Many of the actions focus on improvements to routinely-used datasets and statistical outputs to ensure investment in evidence sources known already to inform significant decision making. However, there are also likely to be numerous social research questions that will arise over the course of the strategy which will be considered and prioritised locally based on policy needs, stakeholder input and available resources.

The list of actions that follow demonstrate the ambition of the Scottish Government and NRS to improve the equality evidence base across a range of themes.

These improvement actions are wide-ranging and cover all parts of the data cycle, from engaging with users about their needs around data collection right through to strengthening analysis and reporting. Some common themes have emerged from the actions, which are summarised below.

Implementation of the improvement actions will deliver on our vision. Across the actions, we are committing to:

  • working with data providers to improve the completeness of the equality data they have access to for analysis. We have recognised the benefit of working with data suppliers to improve the breadth, quality, granularity and intersectionality of data held on systems. There is also commitment to improve consistency of the variables collected and bring them in line with the Census 2022. Some areas are planning on carry out scoping exercises to assess the quality of the equality data collected by data suppliers and determine gaps
  • improving data utility. Several methods were put forward that were designed to improve the quality of the data and increase sample sizes for better analysis. These included data pooling, i.e. combining multiple years' worth of data to gain a larger number of records so that analysis can be carried out and broken down by smaller equality groups. Data utility can also be improved by data linkage and some analytical areas intend to combine their own data with the population census
  • producing more detailed analysis of data already collected. For example, expanding the range of characteristics in publications and including additional tables showing breakdowns by equality variables not previously collected
  • carrying out new analysis of substantial data sources, such as the Census, where new data is expected to come on stream. Where the dataset has larger sample sizes, there is also scope for new intersectional equality analysis and some analytical areas intend to carry this out
  • sharing good practice to increase the confidence and competence in the collection, analysis and use of equality evidence



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