This year’s budget, including this Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement alongside it, is being published in the context of one of the greatest challenges of any of our lifetimes – the global COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented measures needed to combat it.
We have all had to face up to the huge changes that this has brought but the impacts have fallen disproportionately on particular groups and on their rights. Older and disabled people, along with some minority ethnic communities, have been harder hit by the direct effects of the virus itself. Disadvantages have been compounded for those who have traditionally been more disadvantaged in our labour market. Women have had to shoulder most of an increase in unpaid caring responsibilities, adding to their already disproportionate contribution. Some of the impacts of the pandemic, particularly on young people, will be felt over an extended time.
While the pandemic has brought many of these issues into ever sharper focus they are not new and that is why, over time, we have worked to improve the Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement, within overall changes to the budget process.
This year’s Statement has therefore been developed to provide a clearer focus on the main challenges that are faced, across different portfolios, in relation to socio-economic equality, on the basis of the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010, and on the realisation of human rights. It also sets out the main ways that these challenges are being addressed through our budget decisions.
The need for that focus is more compelling than ever. We remain committed to addressing the equality and human rights challenges that we face, through the pandemic and beyond.