Publication - Corporate report

Scottish Government's Response to the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls

Published: 26 Jun 2019

The Scottish Government's response to the First Minister's National Advisory Council on Women and Girls who published their report and recommendations in 2018.

Scottish Government's Response to the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls
Annex : Interim recommendation and additional areas of interest

Annex : Interim recommendation and additional areas of interest

Interim recommendation: Gender Sensitive Programme for Government 


The Programme for Government (PfG) lays out the First Minister’s legislative and policy priorities for the year ahead. All new policies progressed by the Scottish Government ought to include rigorous impact assessment. As such, the recommendation to develop a process that allows for consideration of the potential impact of new PfG proposals across different equality groups is welcome. PfG proposals should be robustly costed, impact assessed, and outcomes focussed. Having a revised process that builds these considerations into policy formation is therefore a positive step. 

How the Government and other partners will deliver it 

Officials from the Government’s Equality Unit, PfG and Equality and Social Justice Analysis teams have been working together to develop a process that allows for consideration of the potential impact of new PfG proposals across different equality groups. This has the additional benefit of considering impacts across all relevant protected characteristics, as well as gender.

Additional areas of interest

In the 2018 Report and Recommendations, alongside the 11 recommendations they made, and the interim recommendation we had already accepted calling for gender sensitive Programme for Governments, the National Advisory Council included some additional areas which they wanted to highlight that had come up in their discussions with the Circle and others. These were:

  • Procurement - the potential of using procurement systems to embed gender equality across supply chains.
  • The Scottish Business Pledge - the potential to enhance the pledge to encourage businesses across Scotland to take bolder action.
  • Better data and analysis - the potential of more effective collation and intersectional analysis to help us understand the picture in Scotland more clearly and inform policy and decision making.
  • Gender budgeting and economics - the potential of the strategic recognition that gender equality can lead to far great inclusive growth.

In this next section we provide an overview of our action in these areas. 

Procurement - the potential of using procurement systems to embed gender equality across supply chains.

What we’re doing

Scottish procurement legislation requires public bodies to consider how their procurements could be used to improve social, economic and environmental well-being, with a particular focus on reducing inequality, and act in a way to secure this. Scottish procurement legislation also includes a number of measures to ensure those bidding for public contracts in Scotland comply with environmental, social and employment law.

Public bodies can exclude a bidder from tendering for public contracts where it can be demonstrated that they have breached any obligations in the fields of environmental, social or employment law, including The Equality Act 2010. 

Public bodies are required to include conditions relating to the performance of public contracts as reasonably necessary to ensure that the contractor complies with environmental, social and employment laws. We have updated Scottish Government standard contract terms and conditions to allow for contract termination in the event of failure by a contractor to do so, and we issued guidance in June 2016 to encourage all public bodies to consider a similar approach.

Our Sustainable procurement duty tools[18] have been developed to help buyers address a range of social, economic and environmental risks and opportunities through their procurements, including equality. A suite of guidance[19] supports the tools to help embed sustainability into the procurement process. In the course of delivering the Fairer Scotland action plan for women: gender pay gap, we will develop our Sustainable procurement tools and guidance to help buyers across the public sector in Scotland identify and pursue equality outcomes in procurement. We will also identify a suitable public contract requirement from which we can develop an exemplary case study of how public sector equality duties can be met with respect to gender and procurement.

Statutory guidance[20] was issued under the Procurement Reform Scotland Act 2014[21] on the selection of tenderers and award of contracts - addressing Fair Work Practices, including the Living Wage in procurement. Contractors who deliver public contracts are therefore expected to adopt policies which demonstrate their compliance with relevant employment and equality law. Best practice guidance[22] and a toolkit[23] on how to address fair work through procurement were published in July 2018. These align with the Fair Work Framework[24] and the Scottish Business Pledge, and include a focus on equality and diversity, for example gender balance on boards, a diverse workforce and closing the gender pay gap. 

We have been working with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in Scotland over a number of years to mainstream equality through public procurement. In addition to having due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation, advancing equality of opportunity and fostering good relations are a priority focus for the delivery of positive outcomes through public procurement. 

The EHRC is supporting Local Authorities and their partners across the country on City Region Deals. These significant investment deals worth £2 billion, represent a key opportunity to ensure that their benefits are shared equally by everyone in Scotland’s communities, particularly women, disabled people and ethnic minorities. The EHRC used our sustainable procurement training framework to develop and deliver equality and procurement training with City and Region Deal participants in 2018. The training which has a particular focus on equality in relation to women, disabled people and ethnic minorities was adapted and delivered to Scottish Government buyers in February/March 2019.

Data and analysis - the potential of more effective collation and intersectional analysis to help us understand the picture in Scotland more clearly and inform policy and decision making.

What we’re doing

The Equality Evidence Finder is the first point of call for policymakers in Scotland looking for statistics and social research on the protected equality characteristics, across a wide range of policy areas. The site was recently rebuilt in tune with user needs and was relaunched in December 2018. The new site has a more modern look and feel, better navigation and users can now engage with the new interactive graphics to create their own bespoke charts for reporting. 

The site is also closely aligned with the National Performance Framework[25] and hosts data and charts for the 81 National Indicators. These indicators give a measure of national wellbeing and include a range of economic, social and environmental indicators. It is important that wherever relevant we don’t just consider the ‘average’ for Scotland but recognise the diversity of the Scottish population and use data to understand differences across the protected characteristics. 

Scottish Government equality analysts are working with social researchers to improve the qualitative evidence available on the Equality Evidence Finder[26]. This will supplement the statistics and should provide further insight, particularly for small and intersectional groups. 

Scotland’s Equality Evidence Strategy 2017/21 describes the equality evidence gaps we have identified in concert with our partner organisations and academic colleagues, and details a strategic approach to strengthening Scotland’s equality evidence base.

Responsibility for addressing these gaps in data and evidence will be shared across a range of organisations and interests. There is opportunity for data and information to be collected by the public sector, academic institutions, the third sector and from within communities themselves. The public sector has responsibilities under the equality duties and it is incumbent on all organisations to think about their role in funding, designing or undertaking data collection, research and analysis to fill evidence gaps. The Scottish Government will work collaboratively with partners to improve the equality evidence base for Scotland.

The Scottish Government works to ensure that the analysis adopts an intersectional perspective. Our recently published Gender Pay Gap Action Plan highlights, and draws on analysis demonstrating, that the barriers that exist for women also intersect with barriers such as race, religion, sexuality, class and disability. Every Child Every Chance, our Delivery Plan for tackling child poverty in Scotland, similarly builds on evidence that shows the extent to which child poverty and equality overlap, with strong age, gender, ethnicity and disability dimensions. Equally Safe, Scotland’s strategy to eradicate violence against women and girls, recognises that women and girls’ other protected characteristics can increase their level of risk of experiencing violence and abuse. The strategy links with other policies aimed at tackling inequalities such as our Race Equality Framework, Disability Delivery Plan[27], and our programme of work aimed at reducing discrimination against and improving attitudes to Gypsy/Travellers. These are just a few examples which help demonstrate that an intersectional approach is at the core of the Scottish Government’s analytical work that directly informs our policy and decision making.

Gender budgeting and economics - the potential of the strategic recognition that gender equality can lead to far greater inclusive growth.

What we’re doing

The National Performance Framework, which guides our approach to government and public services in Scotland, has sustainable and inclusive economic growth at its core. Scotland’s Economic Strategy[28] acknowledges the importance of gender equality to inclusive growth and commits to advancing gender equality through measures such as:

  • Increasing the level of funded early learning and childcare from 475 hours to 600 hours per year for 3 and 4 year olds, and the most vulnerable 2 year olds, as part of a major investment in our social infrastructure; 
  • Implementation of the equality recommendations of the Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce Commission[29] which include key performance indicators on addressing gender imbalance in vocational learning, including modern apprenticeships;
  • The development and implementation of the Scottish Government’s Women in Enterprise Action Framework[30];
  • Continued funding for a range of organisations to tackle the pay gap, address occupational segregation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) areas and to work with employers to promote and support flexible working;
  • Setting a voluntary target for all organisations to achieve gender parity on their boards by 2020, with a commitment to legislate on this issue as soon as we have the powers to do so.

Our recently published Gender Pay Gap Action Plan also highlights the economic benefits of closing the gender pay gap, as well as the benefits to individuals and employers.

The Equality Budget Advisory Group[31] is a non-statutory advisory group, convened by the Scottish Government, the remit of which is to help shape the Scottish Government’s equality and human rights approach to the budget. EBAG does this by:

  • Supporting a process of equality analysis to ensure the equality and human rights implications of the Scottish Government’s policy process are informing budgetary decisions, and that equality information presented in the Scottish budget documents is clear;
  • Contributing to mapping the pathway between evidence, policy and spend;
  • Identifying linkages between the Draft Budget, the National Performance Framework and the Economic Strategy and supporting scrutiny of these outcomes;
  • Contributing to improved awareness of and commitment to mainstreaming equality into policy and budget processes;
  • Responding to requests by Parliamentary Committees for advice and information.

Scottish Government also publishes the Equality Budget Statement[32] alongside the draft budget each year. This is an equality assessment of proposed spending plans by ministerial portfolios which considers the impacts of the budget on different populations and different protected characteristics to ensure that the budget works to effectively advance equality. 

In 2019, we will for the first time also be adopting a process of examining the gender sensitivity of new policies within the Programme for Government. 

The Scottish Business Pledge - the potential to enhance the pledge to encourage businesses across Scotland to take bolder action.

What we’re doing

We announced in A Fairer Scotland for Women: a gender pay gap that we would undertake a refresh of the gender and diversity element of the Scottish Business Pledge to encourage actions and measures to address all aspects of diversity and inclusion, including the gender pay gap.

Fair Work First

The First Minister announced Fair Work First in October 2018 as the government’s default position on Fair Work. Specifically, this gives a commitment that, by the end of this Parliament, the Scottish Government will, whenever it is appropriate to do so:

  • Extend fair work criteria to: every type of grant; funding stream; and business support budget open to us; and 
  • Extend the range of Scottish Government and public sector contracts that fair work criteria will apply to. 

Through Fair Work First employers will be asked to commit to:

  • Investment in skills and training
  • No inappropriate use of zero hours contracts
  • Action to tackle the gender pay gap
  • Genuine workforce engagement
  • Payment of the real Living Wage.

In relation to the gender pay gap, we are developing criteria setting out our expectation for what we expect employers to do by way of developing and publishing their gender pay gap, depending on the size and nature of the organisation concerned.

Fair Work First is a key aspect of the Fair Work Action Plan[33], published in February 2019. A Fairer Scotland for Women: gender pay gap action plan[34] was subsequently published in March 2019 to drive focused action to address the gender inequality that women face which combines to create the gender pay gap in the workplace.

Progress on Fair Work First includes:

Fair Work criteria in Scottish Enterprise grants

  • The 2019 Programme for Government[35] includes a commitment to introduce fair work criteria to Regional Selective Assistance and other large Scottish Enterprise (SE) job-related grants - starting with grants offered in 2019/20. 
  • The SE grants to which fair work criteria is being applied this year includes: large Research & Development grants; Environmental Aid; Training Aid; Aid for Start-Ups and Aid for Disadvantaged and Disabled Workers. SE have defined ‘large’ grants as those over £100,000. 
  • Grant recipients can use the funding awarded only to support those jobs which are paid at least at the living wage rate and do not have zero hours contracts. Grant recipients will also be required to meet the legislative requirements to publish information on the gender pay gap, and are being asked to publish an action plan setting out the steps they will take to narrow their pay gap.
  • SE will support grant recipients to extend this fair work criteria across their wider workforce. They will also support smaller applicants to publish their gender pay gap and encourage all applicants to take steps to narrow the gap. 
  • Fair work officials are working with Scottish Enterprise to evaluate the impact of this fair work conditionality to inform wider roll-out of Fair Work First.

Fair Work First in procurement

  • Fair Work officials are working with the Scottish Government’s procurement teams to explore opportunities for attaching Fair Work First criteria to public sector contracts (building on the inclusion of a request for tenderers to demonstrate their commitment to fair work and payment of the real Living Wage in tender document over the past two years).
  • Fair work criterion and the new Fair Work First default position, are included in the procurement process for a £400 million public contract for facilities management services. This procurement process will ask bidders to adopt Fair Work practices for all workers engaged on the contract, over its seven-year duration.

Fair Work First in SG grants

  • We are exploring options for including Fair Work First criteria in grant offer letters issuing from SG and in doing so, are mindful of an approach that is appropriate and proportionate.
  • As a starting point, grants issuing from the Fair & Inclusive Workplaces Unit for 2019/20 will include Fair Work First criteria. We will use this to test and refine our approach going forward.

Fair Work First in public bodies

  • Ministers have made clear public bodies must lead the way in adopting fair working practices. We are, therefore, working with Public Bodies Unit, the government’s HR department, to agree an approach for engaging with the 120+ public bodies. 
  • The enterprise and skills agencies (Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council) are early adopters of Fair Work First criteria within their organisation. We will use the lessons learnt to guide our approach for reaching out to the remaining public bodies, with a view to them all being on board from 2020/21.

Next Steps

  • We will publish a One-Year-On Report next spring for both the Fair Work and Gender Pay Gap Action Plans. 
  • We are continuing to support a Ministerial Working Group, established to give leadership to Fair Work and support mainstreaming across all portfolios.