The publication of the Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement (EFSBS) alongside the Scottish Budget 2021-22 highlights the consistent commitment of the Scottish Government to examine the impact of the Scottish Budget on Scottish citizens.
The Context for the Scottish Budget
The Scottish Budget delivers against a national vision of wellbeing and 11 national outcomes (See Figure 1). But, this year the Scottish Budget is being proposed in very uncertain times. The ongoing and unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic is at a critical stage. In recent months the development and subsequent roll-out of viable vaccines has provided some good news but this is set against a situation where the NHS are required to cope with a new variation of the virus causing rising infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths. In addition, the withdrawal of Scotland from the European Union (EU) and the growing climate emergency combine with the pandemic to provide a difficult context for recovery.
To focus on creating a more successful country with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish through increased wellbeing, and sustainable and inclusive economic growth
We are a society which treats all our people with kindness, dignity and compassion, respects the rule of law, and acts in an open and transparent way
- Children and Young People: We grow up loved, safe and respected so that we realise our full potential
- Communities: We live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe
- Culture: We are creative and our vibrant and diverse cultures are expressed and enjoyed widely
- Economy: We have a globally competitive, entrepreneurial, inclusive and sustainable economy
- Education: We are well educated, skilled and able to contribute to society
- Environment: We value, enjoy, protect and enhance our environment
- Fair Work and Business:We have thriving and innovative businesses, with quality jobs and fair work for everyone
- Health: We are healthy and active
- Human Rights: We respect, protect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination
- International: We are open, connected and make a positive contribution internationally
- Poverty: We tackle poverty by sharing opportunities, wealth and power more equally
The Scottish Budget seeks to increase wellbeing by improving outcomes for Scottish society as a whole, but also its component parts. It seeks to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity, foster good relations and progressively realise human rights through both the generation of revenues and the allocation of expenditure.
With regard to the Scottish Budget this means:
1. Revenue should be raised in a way that does not discriminate directly or indirectly against any specific group on the grounds of protected characteristics or socio-economic disadvantage and provides sufficient funds to progressively realise human rights.
2. Allocations and expenditures should not be directly or indirectly discriminatory and should be implemented in such a way to advance equality in its broadest sense.
3. The budget process and documentation should be transparent – allowing people to engage with and understand the budget.
Every year the Programme for Government sets out the delivery aims of the Scottish Government that are implemented in the Budget. The Programme for Government for 2020-21 focused on the policies needed to ensure Scotland’s economic, health and social recovery from COVID-19 and to re-set progress towards our national outcomes. It committed to:
- A national mission to create new jobs, good jobs and green jobs – with a particular focus on young people, supporting retraining and investing in a Green New Deal to tackle climate change.
- Promoting lifelong health and wellbeing – by tackling COVID-19, remobilising and reforming the NHS and social care, and tackling health inequalities.
- Promoting equality and helping young people to fulfil their potential.
The Context of Inequality at the Time of the 2021-22 Scottish Budget
In order to fulfil our duties under the Public Sector Equality and Fairer Scotland Duties, including the Scottish Specific Regulations, and our commitments on human rights, the Scottish Budget is assessed for its impact on the Scottish population. In practice, this means aiming to meet minimum standards of rights and reducing measurable differences in progressive outcomes by protected characteristics (age; disability; gender reassignment; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; sexual orientation) and by socio-economic disadvantage (low income or wealth; area deprivation; lack of material resources; background) when compared with the rest of the population.
We know that inequality in outcomes occur for people in protected groups no matter how rich or poor they are. For example, discrimination in the workplace, hate crime in society, or the inability for an older and/or disabled person to buy or adapt a home that is suitable for their needs will all negatively impact on life chances and wellbeing.
We also know that outcomes are worse for people living in poverty, especially those who have been living in poverty for a number of years.
Further, we know that there are close connections within and between the protected characteristics and socio-economic disadvantage. Combinations of different protected characteristics and socio-economic disadvantage can layer, reinforce and entrench poor outcomes for people. Analysis shows that people in protected groups were more likely to be experiencing poverty and to be living in the more deprived communities in Scotland. Prevalence of poverty is particularly high for children, lone parents (over 90 per cent are women), minority ethnic people, disabled people, and parents of young children. Similarly we know that people with limiting long-term physical or mental health conditions, lone parents, people aged 25-34 and some ethnic minority groups, such as white Polish, were more likely to live in the most deprived communities.
Evidence shows that the health, social and economic harms arising from the direct and indirect effects of contracting COVID-19, as well as from the measures put in place to control the spread of the virus, are significant and unequal. Further, these unequal COVID-19 harms are impacting disproportionately on people who were already experiencing worse life chances and outcomes across many domains, such as income, wealth, living standards, labour market participation, health, social capital and education. The crisis has also drawn out more harshly the localised effect of deprivation as a focus for multiple inequalities and poor outcomes.,
Commitments to Equality, Fairer Scotland and Human Rights
Tackling inequality was already central to the Scottish Government’s policies prior to COVID-19, with many actions already taken forward or planned. These are set out in documents including the Race Equality Framework and Action Plan; the Gender Pay Gap Action Plan; A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People; A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: Employment Action Plan; British Sign Language (BSL) National Plan; A Fairer Scotland for Older People; A Connected Scotland (our strategy for tackling social isolation and loneliness); Equally Safe (our strategy for tackling violence against women and girls); Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan; and the Fair Work Action Plan.
However, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:
‘COVID-19 is a test of societies, of governments, of communities and of individuals. It is a time for solidarity and cooperation to tackle the virus, and to mitigate the effects, often unintended, of measures designed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Respect for human rights across the spectrum, including economic, social, cultural, and civil and political rights, will be fundamental to the success of the public health response and recovery from the pandemic’.
The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) requires public authorities (including the Scottish Government) to have due regard to the need to: eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation; advance equality of opportunity; and foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not.
The Fairer Scotland Duty (FSD) arises from Part 1 of the Equality Act 2010 and came into force in Scotland from 1 April 2018. It sits alongside the PSED, and places a legal responsibility on the Scottish Government and other public bodies to consider actively how decisions can reduce inequality of outcome resulting from socio-economic disadvantage. This consideration should be informed by evidence of inequality and the potential impacts of decisions upon disadvantaged groups.
The norms and standards contained in international human rights conventions include not only the civil and political rights found in the European Convention of Human Rights – such as the rights to freedom of expression; a fair trial; privacy; and non-discrimination – but also economic, social and cultural rights. For example, everyone in Scotland has the right to an adequate standard of living, including both adequate housing and adequate food. Other key rights include the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; to education; to social security; and to fair employment, as well as the right to take part in cultural life. UN treaties also provide specific rights and protections against discrimination in the enjoyment of a wide-range of human rights for women, children, disabled people, and ethnic, religious and other minorities.
Equality, poverty and human rights organisations have raised a broad range of issues, reflecting the particular impact of COVID-19 and our response to the pandemic on the communities they represent. These issues cut across all Scottish Government portfolios, reinforcing the fact that promoting equality, tackling poverty and advancing human rights needs to be at the heart of all decision-making during these unprecedented times. The Scottish Government has consistently committed to promoting equality and human rights and, within the last year, has made further specific commitments:
- We have committed to continue to support the National Taskforce on Human Rights Leadership, including delivery of a participatory approach to the development of the proposed human rights Bill.
- We will review the operation of the PSED, providing an opportunity for the Scottish Government, listed authorities, third‑sector organisations, professional and improvement agencies, and other interested parties, to consider the future direction of travel for the overall regime and for the Scottish Specific Duties. This will also provide an opportunity to consider how any changes to the regime might work in practice, the implications of any changes for listed authorities and how we can best evidence improvements in the outcomes for people across the range of protected characteristics.
- We will develop a strategy to mainstream and embed equality and human rights across the Scottish Government, which is underpinned by more effective gathering and use of data and ensuring that the voice of lived experience informs policy development.
- We will launch a new funding stream to support strategic activity to mainstream and embed equality and human rights, which will align with the values and outcomes of the National Performance Framework.
- We will continue to deliver and further develop the Scottish Human Rights Defender Fellowship, in conjunction with civil society partners and the University of Dundee.
- We will ensure that Scotland engages successfully with international human rights mechanisms, including reporting performance against treaty obligations, responding to international recommendations and facilitating visits and inspections by relevant international bodies and UN Special Rapporteurs.
Further, in June 2020, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government and the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People announced the creation of a Social Renewal Advisory Board. The remit of the board was to build on the shifts in policy and practice that had been seen during the early months of the pandemic to drive forward equality and social justice. Board members included experts in housing, disability, poverty, homelessness, local government and the third sector with voices of lived experience being central to the work. The board reported in January 2021 with a stretching range of recommendations. The Scottish Government is currently considering its response.
Structure of this Year’s Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement
The EFSBS is a supporting document to the Scottish Budget 2021-22 and should be read alongside the core budget document (including funding tables) and associated publications.
This year’s report looks different to previous years. This main report has three sections: an introduction; a section identifying ten key existing or emerging risks resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside our policy and budget response; and an overview of the impact of key aspects of this year’s budget on different protected characteristic and socio-economic disadvantage.
A separate annex (Annex A) provides detailed tables presenting analysis for each budget portfolio. A second annex (Annex B) outlines the development of equality budgeting in the Scottish Government. An additional summary has also been produced. These document can be found under ‘supporting documents’ on the webpage.
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