2. Equality and Non-Discrimination
The principles of equality and non-discrimination are central to the international human rights framework. In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN General Assembly affirmed that everyone is entitled to human rights "without distinction of any kind". This commitment was further developed in the range of human rights treaties that followed seeking to tackle specific forms of discrimination, such as discrimination against women, discrimination against people with disabilities, and discrimination on the basis of race.
The Scottish Government understands that giving real, everyday effect to these principles is part of our core function. Since the start of the UK's last UPR round we have engaged with a broad range of international treaty bodies on Scotland's compliance with these obligations (see Annex A), and in December 2020, we established an Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights Directorate to bring increased focus and profile to our ambitions in this area.
A) Gender Equality
The Scottish Government is committed to gender equality and is taking action across a range of priority areas to ensure that women and girls have and are empowered to exercise equal rights and opportunities, have equitable access to economic resources and decision-making, and live their lives free from all forms of violence, abuse and harassment.
In 2017, the First Minister established a National Advisory Council on Women and Girls ("NACWG") to provide independent strategic advice about the additional measures needed to end gender inequality. The Advisory Council has published three annual reports and the Scottish Government is implementing its recommendations across a range of areas. Phase Two of the NACWG was launched in March 2022, adopting a scrutiny and accountability role for a further three years. The new phase will ensure the delivery of the recommendations submitted to the First Minister in Phase One in a way that not only shapes policy development but also influences the system as a whole.
Other measures taken to demonstrate the Scottish Government's commitment to gender equality include the introduction of key pieces of legislation, including the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018, the Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Act 2021, the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act 2021 and the Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Act 2021. We are also taking a range of non-legislative measures, including to transform our childcare offer, to tackle the gender pay gap, to improve women's political representation, and to prevent all forms of violence against women and girls (see Section 4).
In December 2020 the Scottish Government published Scotland's first Gender Equality Index. This sets a baseline against which Scotland will be able to measure its progress towards equality between men and women through time. In August 2021, the Scottish Government launched the Women's Health Plan which aims to improve health outcomes and services for women and girls in Scotland. It sets out how the Scottish Government intends to reduce inequalities so all women enjoy the best possible health throughout their lives.
B) Race Equality
Scotland is determined to play its part in eradicating racism, inequality, and injustice, and in building a better, fairer world. Between 2019 and 2021 we allocated over �2.6 million to fund organisations working to advance race equality.
In March 2016, we established our Race Equality Framework for Scotland 2016-30 which sets out our vision for race equality in Scotland. We published the final report of our 3-year Race Equality Action Plan in March 2021. The final-year report includes consideration of activity across all the relevant portfolios, paying particular attention to the issues which have been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are currently developing our next long-term action plan to implement the Framework.
In the meantime, in September 2021 we published our Immediate Priorities Plan focused on delivering an equal and anti-racist recovery from COVID-19 for minority ethnic Scots. Our immediate priorities are rooted in the delivery of the recommendations of our Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity. Specifically, these actions cover our ongoing work to implement the data and systemic recommendations of the Group as agreed to by the Scottish Government in November 2020. They also include continuing work on race equality across the Scottish Government.
C) Disability and BSL
In 2016, the Scottish Government's commitment to the principles of the CRPD was set out in its disability action plan, A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People. The plan included 93 practical actions which significantly contribute to meeting our obligations under the CRPD and in realising disabled people's human rights. A detailed account of the progress made in implementing these actions was published in 2021, demonstrating progress under each of the plan's five ambitions.
The Scottish Government has committed to developing a new disability equality strategy in collaboration with Disabled People's Organisations ("DPOs"). The Scottish Government has allocated over �391,000 to DPOs to support their COVID-19 response work and our Social Renewal Advisory Board - set up to focus on tackling poverty and disadvantage and advancing equality - has considered the issues that disabled people have experienced over this period, taking views from a wide range of groups and organisations.
The Scottish Government has a commitment to promote the use and understanding of British Sign Language ("BSL") as a full and proper language across the Scottish public sector, and has a BSL National Plan in place for 2017 to 2023 with 70 actions across ten long-term ambitions.
Our long-term aim is to make Scotland the best place in the world for people who sign to live, work, visit and learn. This means that people whose primary language is BSL will be fully involved in all areas of daily and public life in Scotland, and can fully enjoy their rights, free from discrimination and stigma. In addition to the work being undertaken by the Scottish Government, Scottish national public bodies, local authorities, regional National Health Service ("NHS") boards, colleges and universities are required to publish their own Local Authority BSL Plans. As such, individual bodies may commit themselves to other specific actions to promote BSL.
In October 2021, the Scottish Government published a report updating on the progress being made towards implementing the 2017-2023 BSL National Plan. This report shows progress on a range of fronts, including education, BSL/English interpreting, and public life. The report outlines how the Scottish Government has funded BSL Partnership organisations to engage with and support public bodies in developing their BSL plans, and notes other important developments such as the decision that Scotland's census in 2022 would ask "can you use BSL?" for the first time.
D) Autism and Learning Disabilities
The Scottish Government published the Learning/Intellectual Disabilities and Autism: Towards Transformation Plan in March 2021. The Plan looks at the actions needed to shape supports, services, and attitudes to ensure that the human rights of autistic people and people with learning/intellectual disabilities are respected and protected, and that they are empowered to live their lives the same as everyone else.
The Scottish Government commissioned the Independent Evaluation of the Scottish Strategy for Autism 2011-21, which was published in September 2021 . In response to the evaluation, the Scottish Government announced �650,000 to pilot Adult Neurodevelopmental Pathways in four NHS Health Boards, to support them in implementing a single diagnostic pathway for Autism and ADHD. The pilot started in January 2022 and is running for 12 months.
The Scottish Government has committed to introducing a Learning Disability, Autism and Neurodiversity Bill. As stated in the Programme for Government 2021-2022, the scoping work on a Bill as well as the role of a Commissioner is occurring during this parliamentary year. As part of the scoping work, the Scottish Government has recently run a series of events with existing stakeholders to allow us to work alongside people with lived experience to design the public consultation for the Bill and the initial policy options that can be included in that consultation.
E) Older People, Age Equality, and Social Isolation and Loneliness
In 2018, the Scottish Government convened the Older People's Strategic Action Forum and in 2019 published A Fairer Scotland for Older People: Framework for Action, which has been the strategic plan to raise awareness of the issues that older people face and to break down barriers across multiple areas including housing, transport, and health and social care.
In December 2018, the Scottish Government also published A Connected Scotland which is a key document in tackling social isolation and loneliness across all ages and stages of the life course. In January 2019, the National Implementation Group (now the Social Isolation and Loneliness Advisory Group), comprising a range of public and third-sector organisations, was established to put the strategy into action.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Scottish Government's Winter Support Package included �5.91 million investment in digital inclusion, supporting Connecting Scotland for older people, to tackle social isolation and loneliness and promote equality. In 2021, nine organisations received a share of a further �1 million funding to tackle immediate need related to the pandemic. This funding is part of the Scottish Government's commitment to develop a new five-year plan to tackle social isolation and loneliness, backed with investment of �10 million. The format of that funding is currently in development and it will enable projects and organisations to facilitate progress towards the priorities of A Connected Scotland and to contribute to the recovery and reduction in societal harm associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
F) Faith and Belief
The Scottish Government is developing a new faith and belief engagement strategy, which aims to build greater understanding and more effective working relations between the Scottish Government and faith and belief communities. The Faith and Belief Representatives Group is working in collaboration with the Scottish Government to develop this engagement strategy, and to provide feedback on their community priorities. The Strategy's focus will be on innovation and collaboration, and facilitating faith and belief engagement in policy development across government. We seek to empower faith and belief communities to be active partners in our COVID-19 recovery and to enable interfaith collaboration on issues of concern to these communities, including climate change, wellbeing, poverty, social isolation and loneliness, a conversion practices ban, and gender recognition reform.
The Scottish Government welcomes the publication in June 2021 of the Report of the Inquiry into Islamophobia in Scotland by the Cross-Party Group on Tackling Islamophobia, and will carefully consider the recommendations made. As part of the development of our new hate crime strategy we will consider with stakeholders the need to define Islamophobia. This will include consideration of the UK's All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims' definition of Islamophobia.
In May 2021, the Scottish Government delivered a Hate Crime Security Fund for places of worship in partnership with Police Scotland. A total fund of �500,000 was made available to mitigate hate crime and incidents at places of worship. Initial grants were paid out in November 2021 allowing the installation of security measures to begin.
G) LGBTI Equality
In the Programme for Government 2021-2022, the Scottish Government made a commitment to "protect LGBT people from harm by banning the damaging promotion and practice of conversion therapy, bringing forward legislation that is as comprehensive as possible within devolved powers by the end of 2023, if UK Government proposals do not go far enough". This commitment was also made in the Bute House Agreement. The Programme for Government 2022-2023 commits the Scottish Government to "develop a Bill to end conversion practices, covering both sexual orientation and gender identity".
In November 2021, the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government announced that an Expert Advisory Group on Ending Conversion Practices would be established in 2022. The Group held their inaugural meeting in March 2022 and met eight times through to their final meeting in August 2022. Its membership included individuals who are experts in their field from LGBTI organisations, faith and belief organisations and communities, mental health, the legal profession, human rights practitioners, academics, and people with personal lived experience of conversion practices.
The Group explored measures to end conversion practices, and submitted their report and recommendations to the Scottish Government in October 2022. The Group also published further specific research on conversion practices in minority ethnic faith communities and communities of colour and the impact of measures to end conversion practices within these communities. The Scottish Government will consider the Group's recommendations carefully as we move forward with the development of measures through the Bill process and further policy development.
Separately, the Working Group on Non-Binary Equality considered how best to improve equality for non-binary people in Scotland, taking account of international best practice, existing research, and the expertise and lived experience of the Group's members. The Group submitted 35 recommendations to Ministers in March 2022. The Scottish Government carefully considered the Group's work and issued a response in July 2022. We accepted, either in full or in part, 24 of the recommendations and will consider eight further. The Programme for Government 2021-2022 committed the Scottish Government to developing an Action Plan by spring 2023 to improve non-binary equality and wellbeing based on the Group's recommendations.
Furthermore, in September 2021 the Scottish Government took the world-leading step of embedding LGBT-inclusive education across the curriculum. This first phase of implementation consists of a centralised website, an LGBT basic awareness e-learning module for all school staff, and a toolkit of newly developed LGBT-inclusive education teaching resources. Work has also progressed on integrating LGBT-inclusive education training within all Initial Teacher Education programmes in Scotland, the creation of a Stage 2 e-learning module on LGBT inclusion within curricular content, and a free Implementation and Evaluation Toolkit to provide schools with a structured pathway to take forward their work on LGBT-inclusive education.
LGBT-inclusive education will equip teachers and school leaders with the training and resources they need to approach these topics with knowledge and confidence, and to help effectively challenge homophobia, biphobia and/or transphobia in the school environment and wider community. Through normalising LGBT lives and experiences, and educating on the issues faced by LGBT individuals historically and presently, pupils will be encouraged towards greater respect for all and a renewed commitment towards inclusion and equality.
H) Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill
On 2 March 2022, the Scottish Government introduced the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament. The aim of the Bill is to reform the Gender Recognition Act 2004, improving the process for trans men and women applying for legal gender recognition, as the current system can have an adverse impact on applicants due to the requirement for a medical diagnosis and other evidence, as well as the intrusive and lengthy process.
The Bill amends the 2004 Act to introduce a new process for applying for legal gender recognition in Scotland, and new criteria which require to be satisfied by applicants to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate ("GRC"). The Bill does not change the effects of a GRC and the rights and responsibilities which a person has on obtaining legal gender recognition.
The key differences between the current grounds and procedure and those provided for in the Bill are:
- the removal of the requirement for an applicant to have or have had gender dysphoria (and, correspondingly, the removal of the requirement for an applicant to provide medical reports with their application);
- a reduction in the minimum age for applicants from 18 to 16;
- the removal of the Gender Recognition Panel from the process, with applications instead being made to the Registrar General for Scotland;
- a reduction in the period for which an applicant must have lived in their acquired gender before submitting an application from two years to three months;
- the introduction of a mandatory three-month reflection period and a requirement for the applicant to confirm after the end of that period that they wish to proceed with the application before the application can be determined.
In October 2019, the Scottish Government published Improving the Lives of Gypsy/Travellers: 2019-2021, a joint action plan setting out the concrete steps it will take to improve outcomes for Gypsy/Travellers, and published its update to the plan in March 2021. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic the plan has been extended to October 2022. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ("COSLA") and the Scottish Government are continuing to deliver the actions set out in the plan.
Each year we provide more than �1 million to tackle discrimination and improve the lives of Gypsy/Travellers. Our partner organisations who receive core funding each year include the Scottish Traveller Education Programme ("STEP") and Friends of Romano Luv. These organisations support young people in education, celebrate the culture of Gypsy/Travellers, and support the Scottish Government in its decision-making processes to meet the needs of the Gypsy/Traveller community. For example, we have commissioned STEP to conduct research into the educational experiences of Gypsy/Traveller children and their families, which will be used to develop and share best practice in engaging and supporting these learners and their families. We also fund various partners to tackle discrimination and prejudice, in particular when Gypsy/Travellers access health, social security and education services.
Every 3 months a Community Conversation is held to hear the views of the Community and to allow direct questioning of the Minister responsible in the Scottish Government for Gypsy/Travellers.
The Housing to 2040 strategy announced a �20 million Gypsy/Traveller Accommodation Fund for 2021-2026 for more and better Gypsy/Traveller accommodation. This builds on the �2 million short term funding provided in 2020-2021 to make immediate improvements on public sites, representing a sustained investment in Gypsy/Traveller accommodation. The Fund will initially be focussed on a number of demonstration projects to establish examples of model sites. These first projects will develop expertise in site development. Three local authorities will receive funding from the 2021-2023 allocation of the Fund. In March 2022, the Fund opened for a second funding round for further demonstration projects in 2023-2025.
To drive a significant improvement in the quality of sites going forward, we have published an Interim Site Design Guide for Gypsy/Traveller sites, developed in conjunction with residents and local authorities. The Guide is intended to assist new build and site redevelopment to meet the varying needs of families, including children, older people, and disabled people, and to align with key principles of the Housing to 2040 strategy, such as accessibility and energy efficiency (see Section 7(D)).
J) Mainstreaming Equality and Human Rights
The Scottish Government is developing an equality and human rights mainstreaming strategy which we are aiming to publish and start implementing by the end of 2024.
Building on learning from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as our work over the past decade to mainstream and embed equality and human rights, we will seek to strengthen the mainstreaming of equality and human rights in our policy-making as a single joint endeavour, to ensure that policies drive progress towards a fairer, more equal Scotland. The strategy will be underpinned by improvements in how we collect and use data, and by improvements in how we harness lived experience to ensure that policy works for those with one or more of the protected characteristics in a way that ensures that their fundamental human rights are protected, respected and fulfilled.
K) Equality Data Collection and Impact Assessment
The Scottish Government's Equality Evidence Finder, first launched in 2012 and revamped in 2018, brings together the latest statistics and research for Scotland across different themes for age, disability, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status and transgender status. The site is updated regularly with a summary of the key official statistics, social research, and NPF equality analysis. Links to further datasets, statistics, and research are provided to help users find the full range of available equality evidence for Scotland.
In April 2021, building on Scotland's Equality Evidence Strategy 2017-2021, the Scottish Government launched the first phase of its Equality Data Improvement Programme, which will be undertaken over 18 months. This will lead to the publication of a revised Equality Evidence Strategy in early 2023, followed by a second phase of the programme running from 2023-2025. A central element of this work is an Equality Data Audit, in which analysts from different portfolios across the Scottish Government assessed the availability of data disaggregated by protected characteristic and developed improvement plans, which will be shaped by our stakeholders, to make disaggregated data available where gaps are identified and where it is feasible to do so. A stronger and more complete equality evidence base will support the collective effort across the public sector to fulfil the requirements of the Public Sector Equality Duty ("PSED").
Specifically recognising the data gaps highlighted by the Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity, the Scottish Government's Race Equality: Immediate Priorities Plan, published in September 2021, has at its heart recommendations on data improvement and systemic change. Furthermore, a Sex and Gender in Data Group, led by the Chief Statistician, has developed revised guidance on the collection and use of data about a person's sex and gender, which was published in September 2021, and a Scotland-specific Gender Equality Index was published in December 2020 to ensure we better understand progress on women's equality in a range of different contexts (see Section 2(A)).
The Scottish Government is also reviewing its approach to Equality Impact Assessments ("EQIAs") to ensure that they have the greatest effect in eliminating discrimination, advancing equality of opportunity, and fostering good relations between people, and is developing a human rights impact assessment framework for all policy and legislative work to be in place by the end of 2024.
L) Public Sector Equality Duty
Public authorities, including the Scottish Government, are subject to a comprehensive set of equality requirements, as set out in the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 as amended ("the 2012 Regulations"). The 2012 Regulations are aimed at helping Scottish public authorities improve implementation of the PSED by requiring them to report progress on mainstreaming equality, to propose and publish equality outcomes, and to assess policies and practices from the perspective of equality by undertaking EQIAs and publishing employee information on pay and occupational segregation.
Reports setting out progress on mainstreaming the PSED are required every two years by the 2012 regulations. The Scottish Government last reported in March 2021, which also included the setting of new equality outcomes that are focussed on tackling some of the most challenging and persistent inequalities in society. By the end of April 2023 we will publish our next report, setting out how we are meeting the Scottish Specific Duties (the collective name given to all the duties contained in the 2012 Regulations), as well as an interim report on progress made in achieving our current set of equality outcomes.
The Scottish Government is currently undertaking a review into the effectiveness of the PSED in Scotland. From December 2021 to April 2022, the Scottish Government ran a public consultation which set out a series of detailed proposals both for legislative changes to the Scottish Specific Duties as well as changes to the wider implementation environment. Subject to the outcome of that consultation and consideration of next steps, the Scottish Government aims to lay any draft revised regulations in the Scottish Parliament in 2023, with regulatory changes coming into force in 2025.
M) Equality and Human Rights Fund
In early 2021, Scottish Ministers committed a �24 million fund over three years to advance human rights, promote equality and tackle discrimination. The Equality and Human Rights Fund, overseen by Inspiring Scotland, ran an open application process between February and May 2021. Notifications of funding were made at the end of July 2021, and the first payments were made in October 2021. 48 organisations are funded through the Fund. Intersectionality is an important priority for the Fund and many groups have demonstrated how they support and champion the rights of people facing disadvantage due to multiple and interconnected inequalities.
The 48 funded organisations deliver a mixture of direct work tackling inequality and discrimination, infrastructure support and policy work that advances equality and the realisation of human rights in Scotland. The Fund covers a broad range of activity, including direct service delivery to individuals who share protected characteristics, building the capacity of other organisations, and strategic work for local and national policy-makers.
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