Scottish Budget 2021-2022: Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget statement

This report assesses the Equality and Fairer Scotland impacts of the Scottish Budget 2021-2022.

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Summary Of Key Budget Commitments By Protected Characteristics

This chapter provides an overview of how the protected characteristics (age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation) and socio-economic disadvantage are impacted by the Scottish Budget 2021-22. Please note that this summary responds to the inequalities and the responses discussed in the EFSBS templates (see Annex A). As the templates responded to up to two key inequalities per protected characteristic or socio-economic disadvantage, they only illustrate a selection of key policy and budget responses per portfolio.

The effects of COVID-19 layer on top of existing structural imbalances and are predicted to be particularly severe for people on low incomes. As well as experiencing higher rates of positive cases and mortality from COVID-19 than people on higher incomes, they are more likely to experience poorer underlying mental and physical health and are also more likely to be in insecure work without financial reserves. COVID-19 has highlighted how people on low incomes often lack the space, resources, digital access and flexible working arrangements that people on higher incomes can access. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this has made it harder for them to cope with regulations, but these impacts highlight broader issues of inequality. As noted earlier, we know that poverty has higher prevalence across the protected characteristics so the funding commitments below will also have wider relevance.

Socio-economic Disadvantage

The development of responses to the COVID pandemic has been mindful of the need to support low income households, for example in the support for self-isolation and the proximity of testing sites to centres of population and main public transport routes. There is ongoing support to reduce health problems more prevalent in deprived areas, with specific commitments to support reductions in child obesity, improve physical activity, and to tackle drug and alcohol misuse. The Scottish Attainment Challenge, including Pupil Equity Funding, focuses specifically on children in low income families to ensure that they can reach their potential, with this further supported by the widening access programme and bursary payments for students. The commitments to expand early learning and childcare will benefit all children, but priority children, including those who are socio-economically disadvantaged, can access provision from age two rather than three.

Policy commitments continue to support low income households directly through improving employment options (see key risks 1,2 and 3), through improving digital inclusion (see key risk 7) and through tackling child poverty (key risk 8). The No One Left Behind programme takes a person-centred approach to helping people into employment. The Scottish Child Payment, which comes on-stream in 2021-22 along with continued support to the Scottish Welfare Fund, the Tackling Child Poverty Fund, affordable housing programme, Free School Meals and other Scottish benefits, all directly increase income for low income people and families.

In other portfolios there is recognition of the higher rate of road casualties in the most deprived communities and responses to air pollution, flood management, access to electric vehicles and the increased planting of trees to improve greenspaces near more deprived areas as part of Central Scotland Green Network. All of these can impact positively on socio-economically disadvantaged households, who we know are more at risk of negative impacts of air pollution and lack access to quality greenspace. The increased budget for community policing may help people in more deprived areas feel more safe. Finally, funding commitments also seek to increase the influence that socio-economically disadvantaged people can have through local place planning and community regeneration.


Children and young people

The Scottish Budget 2021-22 funds a number of policy areas which aim to improve the life experience and chances of Scotland’s children and young people.

Tackling child poverty is a core ambition of the Scottish Government and as key risk 8 shows, the 2021-22 budget continues to fund policies that seek to increase income from employment and social security or reduce costs of living for low income families.

Several policy commitments aim to widen skills and improve access to education and opportunities among Scotland’s children and young people. The expansion of early learning and childcare will benefit all three and four year old children and eligible two year olds. At school age, continued investments will support the ongoing delivery of the Scottish Attainment Challenge, including the Pupil Equity Fund. The implementation of an Equity Audit will also aim to deepen our understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and set clear areas of focus for accelerating recovery. Additional funding is committed for various technologies to support digital learning and teaching, including £25 million for digital devices for school-aged learners. This funding will also have a positive impact on advancing equality of attainment for children with Additional Support Needs by continuing to provide additional resources to promote learning and development.

The Scottish Budget 2021-22 continues to invest in the training and employment of young people. Various employment policies are detailed in key risk 2 as part of the Young Person’s Guarantee and Developing the Young Workforce programme. In addition, continued funding of Educational Maintenance Allowance, Higher Education Student Support, the National Transition Training Fund and bursaries and loans to support undergraduates studying in Scotland maintains the delivery of work-relevant learning to all young people, providing them with skills for the current and future job markets.

Continued investment in the Scotrail franchise will also provide affordable fares to job seekers and the newly employed – who are predominantly young people – on all routes in Scotland. Furthermore, sustained funding for the Bus Service Operators Grant will help ensure an extensive bus network, benefiting young people as frequent users of bus services. In 2021-22, we will also support the introduction of free bus travel for 5-18 year olds.

The Scottish Budget 2021-22 will increase investment in services to improve the health and wellbeing of children and young people. The Mental Health Transition and Recovery Plan outlines the Scottish Government’s response to the mental health impacts of COVID-19. The Plan sets out actions to offset inequalities for both specific populations who may be disproportionately affected, such as young people, as well as improving mental health outcomes at a population level. The budget also supports the Young Carer Grant, providing annual financial support to 16, 17 and 18 year old carers.

Older People

Older people are more likely to have underlying health conditions, making them more susceptible to the severe negative health effects of COVID-19. As key risk 4 notes, 9 in 10 deaths involving COVID-19 in Scotland have been among those aged 65 and over and two-fifths have been among those aged 85 and over. Older people are also more likely to live alone, less likely to have internet access, and less likely to use it even if they do have it, which have potentially significant implications for their wellbeing, especially during lockdown. They are also more likely to live in care homes or be receiving formal or informal care at home, both of which have seen significant service changes during the pandemic.

Many programmes within the Scottish Budget 2021-22 will positively impact on the health and wellbeing of older people. This budget supports delivery of our ‘A Fairer Scotland for Older People’ framework, challenging the inequalities people face as they age. It will continue to provide support to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on older and socially isolated people. The age-based vaccination programme which started in 2020 will continue to prioritise those with clinical risk factors. The Affordable Housing Supply Programme supports the delivery of flexible housing capable of being adapted to suit peoples’ changing requirements, and the adaptations programme delivered by Registered Social Landlords has been increased. The increased budget for the Scottish Police Authority will allow Police Scotland to maintain officer numbers and deliver on its new cyber strategy, which will particularly benefit older people, who are most at risk of cyber fraud. The budget for the Connecting Scotland fund will offer training and devices to older people to allow them be more connected to friends, family and services.


Disabled people are likely to experience a range of health and social impacts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, including increased risk of severe illness or death; difficulties accessing food and other essential supplies due to shortages of food in shops; difficulties affording food; inability to get online shopping slots; and social isolation. This interlinks with existing inequalities, where the disability employment rate is lower, poverty rates are higher, and reliance on social care higher than for non-disabled people. Many of the employment schemes noted in key risks 1 and 2, especially the No One Left Behind programme, will be beneficial in helping disabled people to obtain fair employment.

Expenditure on disability benefits in 2021-22, which includes the Child Disability Payment, is forecast to be £3 billion with delivery expected to have a positive impact both on disabled people and families with disabled children. Families with a disabled child or adult are a priority group for the Tackling Child Poverty Fund and will also be helped by the Scottish Child Payment. The £306 million budget for Carer’s Allowance and £42 million for Carer’s Allowance Supplement will also be of benefit to families with a disabled adult or child. To enhance the support provided to children and young people with Additional Support Needs, the Scottish Government is providing £15 million of funding in schools to further support the provision of front line staff, contributing to the improvement of outcomes for this group.

The Quality and Improvement budget in the Health portfolio includes funding for the provision of a number of policies which will benefit disabled people, including those with complex pain needs, those requiring access to social care and those with a sensory loss. Continued investment in adaptations, meanwhile, will support people to make the changes required to their home to make it easier to go about daily activities. The budget also provides for a review to streamline and improve overall adaptations systems.

Several policies in the budget seek to improve access to services and accessibility for disabled people, including the equality funding provided to support disabled people’s organisations, the refinements made to the Deposit Return Scheme, and the funding from Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity to Disability Equality Scotland to monitor and report on public realm accessibility during the course of the pandemic. Ongoing liaison with disabled people’s organisations is making sure that elections will be safe and accessible and that access to postal voting is available. In terms of criminal jury trials, each remote jury centre that the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service is leasing for the purposes of hosting jurors for Solemn trials has facilities that enable access for those with disabilities.

Gender Reassignment

There is evidence that transgender people may suffer poorer outcomes in relation to the wider population, including in relation to homelessness, health and employment. The budget allocated to the operation of the Executive Agency, Social Security Scotland, will be used to collect and analyse equality data on applicants and clients in order to assess social security outcomes for transgender people compared to other groups, as the caseload increases.

Funding from this budget supports delivery of the Mental Health Transition and Recovery Plan, addressing key mental health concerns for the Scottish population. The Plan sets out actions to offset inequalities for specific populations who may be disproportionately affected (including trans people), as well as improving mental health outcomes at a population level.

The budget invests in a range of measures to prevent crime, including hate crime, and to promote trans-inclusive policy. Organisations wishing to access funding through our Delivering Equally Safe funding stream will be required to submit an LBTI inclusion plan to improve approaches to trans inclusion.

Pregnancy and Maternity

There are a range of policies funded in this year’s budget which will be of benefit to mothers through pregnancy and the first years of a new baby’s life. These include the Baby Box as well as income-based help with Best Start Grants, Best Start Foods and the Scottish Child Payment. The Parental Employment Support programme, Women Returner Programme and Flexibility Works can all help mothers return to, and cope in, the labour market. The expansion of early learning and childcare will almost double families’ entitlement to high quality early learning and childcare to 1,140 hours a year for all three and four year olds and eligible two year olds. Additional funding into mental health care and recruitment will help the high numbers of women who develop a mental illness while pregnant or following birth. Funding in 2021-22 will also continue to focus on the next phase of the Best Start Programme implementation, which increased the number of midwifery students and introduced continuity of midwifery and obstetric care. The next phase of this programme will be implemented for women with multiple complex social needs, and women from black and minority ethnic backgrounds for whom there are higher rates of negative outcomes. Through our continued funding, the Scottish Prison Service and other agencies will continue to take forward our progressive plans to transform the female custodial estate to address the specific needs of women, including pregnant women.


The impact of COVID-19 on the minority ethnic community has been quite profound, with higher infection and mortality rates for some groups as well as greater economic impacts. This, combined with the pressures caused by withdrawal from the EU for European nationals and the raised profile of structural inequality and discrimination created by the Black Lives Matter movement, mean that responding to racial issues is an increasing priority for 2021-22. Several portfolios recognise that a significant and long-term cultural change is required and have committed to improve data and evidence to build from a strong base (for example, approaches to reviewing the Race Equality Framework, the Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity, the Race and Justice data working group, and commitments to improve Social Security data).

Poverty rates for many minority ethnicities are high, so all funded commitments noted under socio-economic disadvantage will be relevant here, although they may need tailoring at implementation level to ensure awareness and take-up across all communities.

In addition, various employment and fair work policies, as noted in key risks 1, 2 and 3 and the Economy, Fair Work and Culture template (Annex A), include substantial tailored support for people of minority ethnicities including the fair work Flexible Development Fund, Women Returners Programme, Young Person’s Guarantee and No One Left Behind.

Additional communications support is being developed to help EU Nationals apply for settled status and to ensure that everyone for whom English is not a first language knows how to vote safely in the forthcoming elections. Work is also funded to educate social enterprises on the barriers experienced by people of minority ethnicities and to increase board representation.

Religion and Belief

The Scottish Budget 2021-22 will continue to invest in programmes to support equality in religion and belief.

Tackling hate crime remains a key focus for a number of protected characteristics. The Justice portfolio invests in a range of measures to prevent crime, including religiously aggravated crime. An essential element of our wider approach to tackling hate crime is the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill, which we are currently taking through parliament. Ongoing investments by COPFS will support both services for victims of hate crimes and educational campaigns to increase awareness of individual rights and responsibilities in relation to offensive behaviour. This will have a positive impact across the protected characteristics, including in tackling inequalities related to religion and belief.

Funding is continuing in 2021-22 for a Hate Crime Charter for transport via Disability Equality Scotland. The purpose of this is to ensure that people across the protected groups feel comfortable and safe using public transport – this includes being free from hate crime, bullying and harassment when travelling.

Muslim adults are more likely to be in poverty and therefore more likely to be eligible for a qualifying benefit such as Scottish Child Payment. The Social Security budget also funds the Funeral Support Payment. Processing applications within 10 working days is expected to have a positive impact for faith groups, such as Muslims, that require funerals to take place within certain timescales, as they will receive the payment quickly thus reducing the time between the funeral and when payment is received.

Scottish Government officials are very aware of, and focused on, the importance of faith and worship for a significant proportion of the Scottish population and the benefits to spiritual and wider wellbeing that communal worship can bring. Funding is made available to enable online streaming and virtual attendance of services, particularly by vulnerable and shielding individuals unable to attend whilst places of worship were open.


As Scotland’s Gender Equality Index shows, gender inequality exists in a range of domains including work, money, time, knowledge, power and health.[127] Women across the range of protected characteristics can face multiple discrimination, including girls, young women, disabled women, women from minority ethnicities, lesbian, bisexual and trans women, lone parents and older women.[128]

In the pre-COVID-19 labour market, women were unequal in terms of pay, participation and progression due to a variety of drivers including occupational segregation, job valuation, discrimination, and time available to work. Key risks 1, 2 and 3 outline our response to employment participation risks for women, which builds on the Gender Pay Gap Action Plan and includes employability schemes, encouragement of flexible working practices through TimeWise and Flexibility Works, expansion of early learning and childcare provision, and a ‘What Works’ centre where specialist gender support can be accessed that will give public bodies the third sector and business the tools to act to change culture. Funding will continue to support work to improve fair work in social care, where women make up the majority of the workforce. However such occupational segregation is also being tackled with the gender targets of Scottish Funding Council and the Skills Development Scotland’s Equality Action Plan, both funded through this year’s budget, seeking to reduce occupational sectoral divisions at the start of careers. Specific schemes have also been established to encourage women into agriculture and aquaculture, where they are under-represented.

Women tended to have poorer mental health pre-COVID, which has worsened during the pandemic. The funding of the COVID-19 Mental Health Transition and Recovery Plan, and the programmes it supports as set out in key risk 6, should be beneficial for women and especially young women.[129] Domestic abuse appears to have increased during COVID-19 and key risk 10 sets out the evidence and our response, which builds on the ongoing Equally Safe programme. The continued investment in the Ending Homelessness Together Fund allows for continued work to support positive housing outcomes for victims of domestic abuse.

Women continue to take on primary care roles more often than men and will benefit from the Carer’s Allowance and the Carer’s Allowance Supplement from within this budget. The Scottish Child Payment, along with Best Start, will also be beneficial to low income women and men who are parents.

As noted in key risks 4 and 5, age-standardised deaths rates from COVID-19 for men were significantly higher than for women, as were alcohol-specific and drug-related deaths. Funding to support the COVID-19 response and vaccination programme and new commitment’s to tackle Scotland’s drug death crisis will be beneficial.

Sexual Orientation

The Scottish Budget 2021-22 will invest in several programmes that help to build on the progress made on equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual plus people. This includes a new funding stream to support the mainstreaming and embedding of equality and human rights across Scotland, with outcomes aligned closely with the National Performance Framework.

As for other protected groups, hate crime remains a high priority. We will continue to work with Police Scotland and wider stakeholders to tackle hate crime and prejudice, including supporting the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill which is currently progressing through parliament. We recognise the need to improve hate crime data and evidence, ensuring disaggregated data can be provided by Police Scotland on a sustainable basis. The Scottish Police Authority budget will also continue to provide funding to support the Scottish LGBTI Staff Association in its role to advance LGBTI equality, inclusion and support throughout policing in Scotland and within the communities they serve.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual people and those of other sexual orientations were more likely to report poor mental and physical health than heterosexual people, including higher levels of smoking.[130]. The range of funding across the Health and Sport portfolio will support the LGBT community, including with mental health.

The Scottish Budget 2021-22 will also support the National Registers of Scotland to include voluntary questions on sexual orientation and transgender status/history in the Population Census in 2022. This will allow for increased measurement of sexual orientation and the development of baseline data on gender identity.



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