Equality and Human Rights Budget Advisory Group's recommendations: Scottish Government response

Sets out our response to each of the four groupings of recommendations from the Group’s report. We also set out the key actions that we will take, many in partnership with others.

Organisation and Culture

Our ambition

We are driving an ambitious and progressive agenda to ensure that equality, inclusion and human rights are embedded in all we do. In April 2023, the First Minister set out his vision for Scotland and the outcomes he and his government aim to achieve by 2026. Equality and opportunity are at the heart of this vision. The Policy Prospectus describes three critical and interdependent missions, including an Equality mission, aimed at “Tackling poverty and protecting people from harm”. This drives everything we do.

We will deliver the organisational change that is needed through a range of means, including:

  • developing an overarching strategy
  • legislating on human rights
  • reforming the Public Sector Equality Duty
  • building capacity and changing culture
  • strengthening leadership, including at senior levels
  • making better use of equality data
  • building equality and rights into our budgeting processes

We are committed to ensuring that the equality and human rights analysis of budgets are enhanced and continue to be used more effectively to inform decision-making. We recognise there needs to be adequate access and time to engage with training on equality and human rights. To embed an increased understanding of the value that equality and human rights analysis adds to policy development and financial decisions; and the impact this has to further our equality and human rights ambitions.

Current and planned activity

We will consult on a new strategy to embed equality, inclusion and human rights across the public sector, improving how we centre these in all government policies, decisions and spending. We want to begin implementation of the strategy by the end of 2024.

We have acted to embed cross-government working, but acknowledge that there is more to do. The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance’s role includes responsibility for cross-government delivery and outcomes, which ensures that a cross-government approach is embedded at the most senior level of Scottish Government.

As part of our work to mainstream and embed equality and human rights, we are developing a strategic approach to improve the knowledge, skills and expertise across government and the wider public sector. The capability of staff is a fundamental lever - how we are progressing this is detailed in Section 4 Knowledge and Understanding.

We are establishing a new Senior Leadership Group to scrutinise and bring challenge to our strategic approach to embedding equality and human rights, ensuring they are at the heart of policy development. Critically, this group’s remit is to consider and implement systemic change in the organisation. We are ensuring that we establish the links between the work of the Equality and Human Rights Budget Advisory Group, other external experts, and this new group as we develop its work programme and Terms of Reference. The chair of EHRBAG has provided direct input to the design of this group. Having a clear, strong statement of intent as part of the Terms of Reference for the Group will play a key role in its success. This statement of intent will follow the three key themes of Leadership, Accountability and Creating Conditions, mirroring the approach by the First Minister’s National Advisory Council for Women and Girls.

The Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement is co-ordinated by representatives from DG Scottish Exchequer, the Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights Directorate, Community Analysis Division and Fairer Scotland teams. Each area offers different expertise in the process and cross-working is integral. While this acts as a strong example of cross-team working, we will continue to explore how we strengthen cross-working with all portfolios to improve the consistency of equality and human rights analysis from all areas. This year, we have developed detailed guidance for officials on equality analysis and the Public Sector Equality Duty to support their work on the PfG and 2024-25 Budget and will work to refine this with user testing.

The Resource Spending Review process took a cross-portfolio approach to address the Scottish Government’s key priorities, including supporting progress to meet our child poverty targets. We will continue to improve how we work across portfolios so that we deliver on our commitment to build back from the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that advances equality and human rights. Likewise, the Emergency Budget Review was based on a thorough review of all devolved spend planned for 2022-23, across all portfolios, to address significant pressures on the Budget, and to identify any opportunities to further support measures to help with the cost of living crisis.

We recognise that to produce meaningful results staff must be supported to do this. Therefore, developing more effective processes is a priority. The development of effective processes will continue to be subject to iterative improvement including reflecting, and building on learning from previous budgetary cycles.

Our Leadership Framework describes the behaviours and attributes that we seek in our senior leaders by expecting an inclusive leadership approach that actively seeks out and values difference to underpin all SCS behaviours. The framework aims to provide consistency and rigour in senior recruitment and inform the development of leaders at all levels.

Beyond this, we believe a comprehensive needs analysis that identifies the skills and knowledge required to further embed equality and human rights in all Scottish Government activity is critical. The information gathered through this needs analysis , will influence and further develop existing competence frameworks, including Skills for Success and policy profession frameworks, to ensure that these skills are properly reflected. More broadly, developing a clear framework of knowledge, skills and behavioural requirements will allow us to ensure that equality and human rights are built into the development structure and into all aspects of management including:

  • Recruitment and promotion
  • Performance management (building on the current diversity objectives)
  • Development and talent management

We have mandatory diversity and inclusion objectives for all Scottish Government staff to embed equality into their day to day practice. Diversity and inclusion objectives are set during an individual’s annual performance appraisals, worked on throughout the year and performance evaluated at the year-end review. Outcomes from appraisals feed into the individual’s development plans and training and are reviewed on an ongoing basis. This applies at all levels including Senior Civil Service. For Director General objective setting, the Permanent Secretary issued specific guidance, which included expectations around delivering the Scottish Government’s equality and human rights commitments.

The Scottish Government Policy Profession is being established as a formal profession, with the Policy Profession Standards setting out the expectations of all policy professionals. Through these standards and our learning offer we will raise the capability of colleagues in all aspects of policy making, which includes ensuring that the consideration of equality and human rights are embedded into the policy making process. The Director of Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights will sit on the Policy Profession Steering Group for this work and efforts will be made to further integrate equality and human rights, including gender competence, into policy making, including the budgetary processes.

Senior officials are asked to confirm their compliance with equality and human rights legislation through the annual certificates of assurance process. We will continue to develop this requirement in future by focusing the equality and diversity questions in the checklist in areas that we would like to improve and measure. The submitted answers, for example, can assist us in identifying the level of confidence senior officials have that processes are being followed and that they are ensuring adequate staff time for training.

Whilst cross-cutting responsibility for equality and human rights sits within the Social Justice portfolio and is led by that Cabinet Secretary, we are clear that Scottish Ministers have individual and collective responsibility for equality and human rights across their portfolio responsibilities. The Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees works across Government to engage with her Ministerial colleagues and raise awareness of the importance of equality and human rights across Government business. Guidance and briefings have been provided to Ministers which specifically include information on how their equality and human rights obligations relate to budget decisions. New Ministers coming into Government receive induction training on equality, inclusion and human rights, which we will continue to refine and develop to including specific reference to equality and human rights obligations as they relate to the budget.


Prior to, or for, the 2024-2025 Budget

  • Establish a senior leadership group which will scrutinise and bring challenge to the Scottish Government’s strategic approach to embedding equality and human rights and enabling cultural change.

Prior to, or for, the 2025-2026 Budget

  • Further embed Equality and Human Rights in competence and professional frameworks within the Scottish Government.
  • As part of the 2024-25 EFSBS review, review the success of the dedicated PfG and Budget guidance and identify and implement improvements.
  • Publish an Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights Mainstreaming Strategy


Email: EHRBAGsecretariat@gov.scot

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