- 7 Mar 2018
Attendees and apologies
- Liz Hawkins, Communities Analysis (chair)
- John Nicholson, Finance Strategy
- Chris Oswald, EHRC
- James Fowlie, CoSLA
- Lorraine Cook, CoSLA
- Angela O’Hagan, Glasgow Caledonian University/Scottish Women’s Budget Group (by phone)
- Karen Grieve, Equality Unit
- Lisa Bird, Equality, Human Rights and Third Sector
- Audrey MacDougall, Communities Analysis
- Jim McCormick, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Items and actions
Item 1 - Update
Liz provided a brief update on issues since the publication of the EBS, including EHRiC scrutiny of the EBS and parliamentary debate, and Marsha Scott and Emma Ritch’s meeting with the First Minister to discuss gender budgeting which has led to specific gender budgeting work in the Economy portfolio. She also set out the various asks of the group, including:
- request from BPRG for EBAG to consider development of appropriate analytical tools to support equality analysis in budget process
- request from BPRG for EBAG to advise on distributional analysis
- request from EHRiC for EBAG to further consult about incorporating human rights into the budget
- request from EHRiC for EBAG to consider whether a consultation panel should be formed
James queried why the gender budgeting work was focused on the Economy portfolio given there is already a commitment to inclusive growth that should cover gender. He also asked whether this work should be taken forward by the Chief Economist’s new strategy board advisor.
Angela advised that analysis had begun in SG departments, but more EQIAs need to be utilised to inform and shape policy so that inclusive growth is based on effective equality analysis, whether that is across the protected characteristics or applied more narrowly. Inclusive growth is a powerful lever, but policies that lack gender analysis continue to reinforce gender inequality in the labour market. Referencing people who are economically inactive is indicative of an absence of gender analysis, and all the policies and legislation to advance equality for women, such as Gender Representation on Public Boards, is more a list of specific actions on gender policy rather than an economic policy mind-set. Chris mentioned that equality analysis started with gender budgeting pilots on sport and smoking cessation, and that what was being proposed now should not be seen as a pilot.
Liz replied that equality has been mainstreamed throughout SG for a number of years but this is not consistently being done to an appropriate standard. In recognition that gender competence is not in place across the board, the SG is putting a range of measures in place, including partnering with external people to help provide that gender competence for policy officials in the Economy portfolio as well as specific training for analytical professions, including the economist group.
EBAG has been identified to take on a number of recommendations from the Budget Process Review Group (BPRG) and EHRiC. James asked if EBAG’s remit could be revisited to ensure it empowered the group to take forward these recommendations, and to ensure they had not been given responsibility for something that should not sit with them. The lack of capacity of EBAG members to take on any of this work was also discussed.
EBAG see their role as an advisory one, adding value to the scrutiny process. EBAG’s view is that the responsibility for work around improved equality budgeting should not sit with them, but that the group needs to challenge and push back so that this is mainstreamed equality business for the SG. EBAG see their role as determining the terms, the actions, how to measure progress, and how the practicalities, learning and knowledge is rolled out across other SG departments.
Liz suggested that a representative from the Economy portfolio could be invited to the next EBAG meeting to talk about the pilot, and agreed that EBAG’s original remit should be reviewed.
Item 2 - Budget and Medium Term Financial Statement
John advised that Stage 3 of the Budget Bill had been passed the previous week, and that Finance colleagues were now turning their attention to producing a medium term financial strategy. This is a new type of publication not previously produced by the SG which is complicated because the SG does not have full fiscal responsibility. The requirement on SG is to produce a five year forward look four weeks before the summer recess, and for this to be published at the end of May. Colleagues are currently undertaking economic and tax modelling looking at existing spending commitments and what these mean both on a five year trajectory and for each part of the SG. This piece of work will interact with the new National Performance Framework, and a number of focus groups will be set up for the new national outcome areas. The UK Government will announce their next spending review in Spring 2019 rather than in the course of 2018.
Chris asked if equality or inclusive growth would be explored as part of this process. John advised that the BPRG was trying to prescribe this at one point, but it has now been reduced to core elements with flexibility for the SG to work out how to best address it, and that Ministers will take decisions on this in successive years. Chris made the point that there is a danger that this work is mainstreamed to the point that it becomes implicit, and he would rather this was explicit. He understood the reluctance to set targets, but if we do not say we want a greater ethnic minority workforce or more gendered balance in certain areas, that won’t lead to a step change and equality outcomes will be missed. Angela added that targets need to be outcome focused to better understand what difference a particular policy direction and investment allocation is making, and that this should be the aspiration of the medium term financial strategy.
EBAG’s remit as set out in a submission to the Equal Opportunities Committee in 2008-09 about the budget process is as follows:
- “improve the presentation of information about equalities issues in the Scottish Government's budget documents
- raise awareness about the need to mainstream equalities into both policies and budgets
- investigate ways of monitoring Government expenditure on different equality groups”
This was updated more recently along the following lines:
“The group's remit is to help shape our equality approach to the budget. Specifically, the Scottish Government is working with EBAG to:
- provide advice on considering the equality implications of budgetary decisions across all policy areas
- contribute to mapping the pathway between evidence, policy and spend
- improve the presentation of equality information in the Scottish budget documents
- contribute to improved commitment to, and awareness of, mainstreaming equality into policy and budget processes”
Telephone: 0300 244 4000
Equality and Budget Advisory Group
Directorate for Local Government and Communities
Area 3H South