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.

Knowledge and Understanding

Our ambition

We recognise that to effectively mainstream equality and human rights, and to embed these in the budget process, government officials require appropriate skills and knowledge. Developing staff capability and capacity is a critical element of the work we need to do. This will require investment so that all staff have a suitable base level of knowledge and skills in these areas as well as developing more in-depth skills for specific roles. This capability will require suitable resource and capacity. We must also ensure that the organisational culture aligns with this agenda.

To inform our thinking we will look at, and learn from, how equality and human rights budgeting is developing internationally. We will work with stakeholders to streamline our approach and ensure we draw on good practice as we move forward. We will continue to look outwards, seeking to learn from others and their approaches, while refining ours.

We are implementing improved training, guidance, tools and resources to better enable officials to develop policy and deliver services which advance equality and respect, protect and fulfil human rights. We want government staff to have access to the right development opportunities, guidance and tools when they need it. A mainstreaming strategy is key to setting out our approach to building skills and knowledge in equality and the progression of the realisation of rights across government. Our approach will include building on new compulsory diversity and inclusion training, which has been implemented for all Scottish Government staff, including considering how frequently staff should be expected to update this.

Current and planned activity

The Scottish Government regularly engages with the other devolved governments around budgetary issues, including sharing best practice and learning. In 2022, Scottish Government colleagues participated in joint training with Welsh colleagues on gender budgeting delivered by the Scottish Women’s Budget Group. They also heard from Irish colleagues on their progress in equality and, specifically, gender budgeting work in a dedicated Equality and Human Rights Budget Advisory Group session.

Our underpinning principle is to offer ‘just in time’ training, development and resources. This approach helps to ensure that individuals are enabled to produce high quality work, including impact assessments, when required rather than repeat training on a fixed timeline. However, through our equality, inclusion and human rights mainstreaming strategy consultation, we will explore the impact of compulsory training to inform our next steps.

In Spring 2023 we launched updated guidance, tools and training for Equality Impact Assessments. New training courses have also been provided, both online and in-person. There is a range of new guidance materials on Saltire (the government intranet), including templates and FAQs. This includes a suite of six new video clips of Scottish Government colleagues that focus on applying equality and human rights in policy making through equality impact assessments. In them, they discuss their experiences with equality impact assessments in their policy area - including how they overcame any difficulties and offering practical tips for completion.

We are also improving impact assessments more generally (including equality, children’s rights and wellbeing, islands and other areas). This includes a specific work package to consider effective approaches to develop capacity and; developing and testing human rights impact assessment training. We have been piloting monthly drop in clinics so that colleagues can attend and ask their impact assessment questions in one place. To date, these surgeries cover Equality, Human Rights, Fairer Scotland and Child Rights and Welfare Impact Assessments.

Our online learning platform, Pathways, provides a wide range of material on equality and human rights for officials to access as part of their continuous professional development, including resources such as Human Rights budgeting and Gender Budgeting in G20 Countries. A new ‘Introduction to Human Rights e-Learning’ course was launched in 2022 and is now available to all staff on Pathways. This e-learning provides an introduction to the principles of international human rights standards. In addition, an introduction to Human Rights session has been piloted in different policy areas. We will develop our learning offer further, alongside work to develop the Human Rights Bill.

We are working to establish Centres of Expertise across Government to develop officials’ understanding of equality and human rights relevant to different policy areas. The National Strategy for Economic Transformation (published on 1 March 2022) sets out ambitious actions to build a strong economy that tackles structural inequalities and offers opportunities for all to succeed; that is oriented towards wellbeing and fair work; and where everybody, in every community and region of the country, will share in our economic prosperity. To support this ambition, we announced the establishment of a Centre of Expertise in Equality and Human Rights last year to build knowledge, skills and understanding, and help embed equality and human rights within the economic policy-making process.

We recognise that participation is an area of development and initial needs analysis work has identified the development of officials’ skills to support participation and inclusion of lived experience as a key area of focus. Across the organisation awareness of the importance of incorporating lived experience into policy making has been gradually increasing and we are beginning to see further examples of this emerging. The Participation Framework was published in February 2023 and was developed to help staff to incorporate quality engagement opportunities into the policy or delivery cycle. Providing opportunities for citizens to take part in ways that will influence policy, service design and decision making is also a fundamental part of the Scottish Approach to Government.

We launched our Equality Data Improvement Programme (EDIP) in April 2021 to strengthen Scotland’s equality evidence base, following the conclusion of our Equality Evidence Strategy 2017-21. During the COVID-19 pandemic we saw that those most negatively impacted by the pandemic were those who were already marginalised and seldom heard. Furthermore, analysis of pandemic data highlighted gaps in our data for some protected characteristics, as well as intersecting characteristics.

Through the EDIP, we aim to improve the collection, publication and effective use of data about a diverse range of people and households. We plan to identify and fill gaps in the equality evidence base, share learning and good practice, and develop plans for longer-term data improvement. Actions in the EDIP range from: running workshops and sharing good practice case studies, to assessing the availability of equality data across the Scottish Government.

The first phase of the EDIP concluded with the publication of Scotland’s new Equality Evidence Strategy in Spring 2023. This new Equality Evidence Strategy examines key aspects, such as the vision and purpose, and will include a plan which sets out key milestones along with identifying priority actions to fill equality gaps. The plan is shaped by responses from our public consultation and events carried out during 2022. Equality data improvements will be driven by analysts throughout the lifetime of the next Equality Evidence Strategy, covering the years 2023-25, by which time high quality, granular equality data from the Census 2022 should be available.


Prior to, or for, the 2024-2025 Budget

  • In conjunction with the Equality and Human Rights Budget Advisory Group, we will organise an annual knowledge exchange event with other devolved governments commencing 2023.
  • Through our equality, inclusion and human rights mainstreaming strategy consultation, we will explore the impact of compulsory training to inform our next steps.

Prior to, or for, the 2025-2026 Budget

  • Publication of the Equality Human Rights Mainstreaming Strategy, outlining a strategic approach to capability development.

Annex: Response to Recommendations

Recommendation 1: New commitments and their intended outcomes should be developed on the basis of advancing equality and human rights, and assessed for their consistency with the Programme for Government, National Performance Framework and other targets. Existing requirements under the Public Sector Equality Duty and Fairer Scotland Duty should be effectively implemented, alongside human rights assessments and other dimensions of wellbeing, equality and human rights analysis. Closer scrutiny is essential to ensure they are conducted in a timely and meaningful way and that they are monitored and updated as policies are implemented over time.

We accept this recommendation.

Recommendation 2: Existing cumulative and ongoing spending commitments and funded programmes should be included in assessments of equality outcomes and progress in securing human rights and NPF outcomes.

We accept this recommendation.

Recommendation 3: Multi-year spending reviews should be aimed for in the future. Multi-year spending reviews were part of the original design of the Scottish Budget process and recommended by the Budget Process Review Group, including the production of a pre-budget framework developed in dialogue with partners. Multi-year spending reviews are particularly important for local government and other key delivery partners, and should form part of the budget process from the 2022-23 budget process.

We accept this recommendation.

Recommendation 4: The Scottish Government [should] produce a pre-budget statement, in-year reports and a mid-year review in line with international standards. The pre-budget statement should disclose the broad parameters of fiscal policies in advance of the Executive’s Budget Proposal and outline the government’s economic forecast, anticipated revenue, expenditures, and debt. In-year reports should include information on actual revenues collected, actual expenditures made, and debt incurred at different intervals, and be issued quarterly or monthly. These should also report the equality and human rights impacts of in-year budgeting allocations or adjustments. Finally, the mid-year review should be a comprehensive update on the implementation of the budget as of the middle of the fiscal year, and include a review of economic assumptions and an updated forecast of budget outcomes. Equalities analysis and narrative within the core budget document is improved as a result. These recommendations are consistent with both the Budget Process Review Group report, and the commitments in the Open Government Action Plan.

We accept the principle of this recommendation and what it is aiming to achieve, insofar as it can be applied to a devolved fiscal context. We already publish the Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) prior to summer recess each year which covers many of the pre-budget statement requirements. We plan to review the schedule and content of in-year review publications. There are limitations in some of the information due to the devolved nature of the Scottish Government.

Recommendation 5: Work with public authorities funded through the Scottish Budget and who have obligations under the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) and human rights legislation to develop processes for reporting on the impact of past spend and budget allocations on equality outcomes and advancing human rights.

We accept this recommendation and already have actions in train to implement it. We note that local authorities to whom this recommendation would apply are separate, autonomous and independent public bodies.

Recommendation 6: Analysis of the impact of changes in spending commitments to public and third sector organisations in relation to advancing Scottish Government priorities should be conducted and published.

We accept this recommendation and will work with EHRBAG to implement it.

Recommendation 7: Improve transparency and public participation in the budget process through the consistent publication of a Citizens’ Budget and accessible information on the budget process.

We accept this recommendation and already have actions in train to implement it. Details of response are contained in Section 3 Communication.

Recommendation 8: Invest in building knowledge and capacity on understanding equality evidence and human rights international standards in order to improve equality and human rights assessment and evaluation of outcomes. Set a timetable for training with oversight by the Mainstreaming Strategy Steering Group and Executive Team, with relevant updates on training on budget analysis to EHRBAG.

We accept this recommendation and already have actions in train to implement it. Details of response are contained in Section 4 Knowledge and Understanding.

Recommendation 9: Evaluation of outcomes as published in the annual wellbeing report should become an integral part of the budget process and inform the different stages of pre-formulation, budget preparation, and evaluation of spend. These evaluation reports, of outcomes and spend, should be published on the Scottish Government website and should include consideration of key structural inequality by protected characteristics (and their intersections) as well as impacts on the realisation of human rights.

We accept the principle of this recommendation and what it is aiming to achieve but the Scottish Government does not publish an annual wellbeing report. We agree, nevertheless, that outcomes are an integral part of the budget process.

Recommendation 10: Public participation in formulating budget commitments and to ensure the integration of lived experience of policy decisions is essential. It is also contained within existing Open Government and Budget Process Review Group commitments to improve transparency and participation in the Scottish Budget process, as well as necessary to meet international standards. The fiscal transparency project of the Scottish Exchequer is also exploring the formulation of a Citizens’ Budget which aligns with the recommendations from EHRBAG.

We accept the principle of this recommendation. Our work on Your Scotland, Your Finances and research into Citizen’s Budgeting is intended to improve future public engagement with the Budget process. Lived experience is integrated into policy decisions as part of the policy development process. We are not currently considering how to further embed lived experience into the overall Budget process.

Recommendation 11: Continue to develop, improve and embed equality in the policy process that helps Ministers make budget decisions and informs the nature of associated budget publications including the Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement (EFSBS). In addition, introduce a pre-budget statement as part of the advance formulation and scrutiny process, as recommended in the Budget Review Group Report, and to fill gaps in international standards as identified in the SHRC Independent Budget Initiative. This statement should include a Pre-Budget Equality and Human Rights Assessment / Annual Portfolio Performance Update and be published immediately before summer recess. Progress reports should be made to EBAG and published on the Scottish Government website.

We accept the principle of this recommendation and already have actions in train to implement it. See response to Recommendation 4 for information on pre-budget statement.

Recommendation 12: Promote internal engagement with the EFSBS process and external use of the EFSBS as part of a suite of analytical activities and products that focus on how public resources and decisions are being used to drive equality and human rights and the evaluation of the impact of that spend. This analysis would be produced internally and assess the key inequalities of outcome relating to the main policy objectives in each portfolio, and what evidence there is on how these inequalities could be addressed. This analysis allows Ministers and senior officials to actively consider key issues and make budget and Programme for Government decisions informed by the evidence.

We accept this recommendation and have actions in train to implement it.

Recommendation 13: Build on initial approaches to frame action on equalities within a risk assessment framework as trialled in the 2021-2022 Draft Budget/EFSBS to support the process of identifying and responding to inequalities and advancing equality and the realisation of rights as the basis for allocating funds.

We accept this recommendation and will work with EHRBAG to implement it.

Recommendation 14: Retain EBAG with an expanded/re-worked name to reflect the drive for equality and human rights budgeting, confirm a set of Terms of Reference for EBAG, and continue the role of independent chair.

We have completed this recommendation.

Recommendation 15: Ministers should clearly articulate priority areas of action and focus in relation to advancing equality and the realisation of rights in the policy and budget documentation referred to above. They should endorse the EBAG recommendations, commission Scottish Government to develop an action plan, and set key milestones from September 2021.

We accept this recommendation.

Recommendation 16: Members of the Executive Team, and senior Scottish Government officials, should deliver clear leadership, direction and communication on ensuring that equality and human rights objectives and analysis are clearly evidenced and articulated in policy development and all budget decisions.

We accept this recommendation.

Recommendation 17: Scottish Government officials should be supported to constructively challenge colleagues on budgeting decisions and the importance of assessing decisions for their equalities and human rights impacts should be widely acknowledged.

We accept this recommendation.

Recommendation 18: Ensure all published budget documents are as clear and concise as possible.

We accept this recommendation and have actions in train to implement this.

Recommendation 19: Commit to, and produce, a ‘Citizens’ Budget’ – a condensed, accessible version of the budget, in line with Open Government and Budget Process Review Group commitments and to meet gaps in international standards.

We accept this recommendation and have actions in train to implement this.

Recommendation 20: Publish an easy read version of each of the key budget documents alongside the main document (including the EFSBS) in the Draft Budget 2022-23.

We accept this recommendation and have actions in train to implement it. We currently produce the Your Scotland, Your Finances which is an accessible version of the core Budget document.

Recommendation 21: Create online and deliberative spaces to engage public participation in understanding the budget process and composition, to deliberate on policy and revenue decisions, and to seek feedback on budget documents from users. Such actions are consistent with recommendations from the Social Renewal Advisory Board, the current commitment to Open Government and work underway within the Exchequer on Open Budgeting. Ensuring such participatory activities are inclusive and integrate and equalities and human rights perspective in the deliberative processes will be essential.

We accept the principle of this recommendation. We will continue to progress our commitments in line with the Open Government Action Plan, working with the relevant Commitment Group.

Recommendation 22: Develop a new Scottish Government website/budget portal dedicated to publishing analysis, reporting, evaluation reports, and other tools related to equality and human rights budgeting. These recommendations reflect the recommendations from the Social Renewal Advisory Board, the Open Government Commitments, and the fiscal transparency project of the Scottish Exchequer, all of which underscore a concerted programme of work for the parliamentary term 2021-2026.

We accept this recommendation.

Recommendation 23: Senior officials should prioritise and allocate adequate staff time to be trained on, and to undertake, robust equality and human rights analysis of both policy and budgets.

W e accept this recommendation.

Recommendation 24: Equality and human rights responsibilities should be clearly articulated within performance management systems for all staff.

We accept this recommendation and already have actions in train to implement it.

Recommendation 25: Finance, policy and analyst staff should be supported by senior officials to work closely together to produce equalities and human rights analysis of spend, and processes are established to facilitate this joint working.

We accept this recommendation.

Recommendation 26: Cross-portfolio working must become the norm in tackling inequalities and promoting human rights in relation to formulating policy and spending commitments.

We accept this recommendation.

Recommendation 27: Ministers’ own awareness and commitment to routinely request analysis of how proposed budgets would impact on equalities and human rights, and how to take this analysis into account when making final decisions on budget allocations, should be increased at portfolio level and across Cabinet. Ministerial training should be considered.

We accept this recommendation and already have actions in train to implement it.

Recommendation 28: Scottish Government increases cross-office competence by increasing the capacity for running training and providing advice on:

  • structural inequalities and dimensions of equalities analysis
  • domestic and international legislation including Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) and international human rights standards
  • effective equality impact assessments in the context of multiple impact assessment processes
  • inclusive public participation on budget formulation and evaluation of outcomes

We accept this recommendation.

Recommendation 29: Scottish Government commits to continuous improvement of the equality evidence base such that officials have better access to, and knowledge of, relevant data and evidence and have an improved understanding of the structural nature of inequalities.

We accept this recommendation.

Recommendation 30: Officials are required to undertake mandatory equality impact training every three years.

We accept the principle of this recommendation, however we are mindful that there are more effective options for ensuring that officials have access to the right training at the right time. We already have actions in train to achieve the spirit of this recommendation, such as the recent publication of training materials on impact assessments for use by officials across the organisation, accessible when they need it.

Recommendation 31: Design and deliver a programme of shared learning and knowledge exchange in partnership with devolved governments from autumn 2021 onwards.

We accept this recommendation.


Email: EHRBAGsecretariat@gov.scot

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