Attendees and apologies
- Liz Hawkins, Communities Analysis (chair)
- Angela O’Hagan, Glasgow Caledonian University/Scottish Women’s Budget Group
- James Fowlie, CoSLA
- Jim McCormick, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
- Fiona Page, Financial Strategy
- Karen Grieve, Equality Unit
- John Nicholson, Financial Strategy
- Chris Oswald, EHRC
- Lorraine Cook, CoSLA
Items and actions
1. EBAG capacity, remit and membership
Brief introductions were made to welcome Fiona to the group. Fiona has joined the Financial Strategy Division and her new Unit will be leading the co-ordination work to produce the annual draft Scottish Government Budget and will be responsible for producing the new Medium Term Financial Strategy. Ian Storrie has now moved post.
Liz referred to the remit of EBAG and asked the Group: a) what was missing from this b) what current EBAG members’ capacity was for taking this work forward and if the Group should be expanded c) what EBAG’s thoughts were on establishing a Chair for the Group independent of the Scottish Government, and perhaps remunerating them for this work
a) In terms of the remit of the Group, given the changes to the fiscal framework arrangements around which the Scottish Government operates, EBAG felt it was an important time to be involved in this environment and to help support the scrutiny of the budget going forward.
The role of EBAG is to support a process of equality analysis regarding the Draft Budget as equality is not only contained in the EBS but is mainstreamed throughout the Draft Budget. As budgetary decisions are formulated through policy process, the budget process is seen very much as part of the policy process. EBAG supports this work through horizon scanning and looking ahead to significant elements that the Scottish Government needs to be cognisant of when making budgetary decisions. There are huge opportunities ahead in terms of linkages between the Draft Budget, the National Performance Framework and the Economic Strategy and how we are scrutinising the outcomes of these.
b) Members agreed that EBAG would benefit from increased membership, however, that it was not just about being able to field people to attend meetings, but also what they could bring to the Group in terms of the depth and scope of the work. In addition to the budgetary focus of the Group, there is also the need to consider the BPRG recommendation, socio-economic duty, child poverty and social security amongst other issues. It was agreed a core group of officials would be approached to be part of EBAG, including Stephen Ing (OCEA), Steve Boyd (Economic Policy) and Aidan Grisewood (Revenue/Tax) to facilitate the coordination of this work across the Scottish Government. In addition, a wider pool of people would be invited to meet with EBAG to talk to specific agenda items.
The Group felt that a clear reset regarding the purpose of the Group and its authorising environment was needed, and suggested that this could then be part of any advertisement for external members who may want to join EBAG. Engaging and awareness raising work about the role of the Group – including a re-introduction blog and briefing sessions with Local Government and Children and Families colleagues – might also be helpful. If the membership of EBAG is to be expanded, it would be good to bring in external people, including academics, who can spot linkages between big policy issues and can help to move things in a different direction. Liz agreed that this would be in line with Ministers’ thinking on this matter.
Action: to outline what the short briefing sessions would look like and who should be invited (members to consider this and bring suggestions to the next EBAG meeting)
c) EBAG members agreed that it would be useful to have an independent chair as this person could represent EBAG’s interests at Committee which Scottish Government officials could not do.
It was agreed a new draft remit would be circulated for comment before Ministerial sign off was sought. The process for appointing external members could be informed by similar work undertaken by the Advisory Council on Women and Girls and the Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership.
Action: remit and scope of EBAG to be revised and sent to Ministers for approval (Liz and Karen)
2. Potential activities for inclusion in the workplan for next 12-18 months
a) Gender Focus – update provided by Liz
There are four activities associated with this work. The first two (assistance on EQIAs in the Economy Portfolio and training in the Economy Portfolio for economists) will be procured externally. There will also be distributional analysis work carried out around gender, and the fourth activity is looking at gender outcomes and how the Budget relates to this.
On the fourth activity, Liz advised that Gender Budgeting Coordination Group had been established. It will meet for the first time on 26 April and be chaired by Uzma Khan, Deputy Director of Economic Strategy. The initial focus of the group will be gender, but it could be that this work is rolled out to other portfolios and across other protected characteristics in future.
b) BPRG recommendation around distributional analysis – update provided by Liz
This will initially focus on tax analysis benefits. Analysis of the broader social contract is methodologically complex and initial work would be needed to identify what was feasible.
c) Equality inclusion in the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) – update provided by Fiona
The MTFS is likely to have a forward looking, horizon scanning focus. The Scottish Government is constrained on its ability to set multi-year budgets because of the current UK Government annual budget approach. This means that the MTFS is not likely to be present a five year forward looking budget. This may change in later future publications if a UK spending review is undertaken. The MTFS is likely to explain the fiscal environment which Scottish Ministers now operate under and explore potential financial challenges and uncertainties in future years such as the removal of the public sector pay gap. Scottish Ministers have indicated to the Scottish Parliament that the document will be published on 31 May this year.
The challenge of incorporating meaningful equality themes in a macro-economic type publication was discussed. EBAG members indicated that it should be possible to consider equality issues such as the gender pay gap, the disability and race employment gap, and child poverty and offered to develop an equality overview demonstrating the relationships between these policy issues to help inform the new strategy. It was also suggested that some modelling work based on household types more at risk of financial economic shock in the next five years would be useful to undertake.
Fiona indicated that it would be particularly helpful if any contributions were sent to her by mid-April in order that these could be considered as part of the MTFS.
Action: EBAG members to send equality material contributions to Fiona to inform the Medium Term Financial Strategy by mid-April (Angela, Jim and James)
d) EHRiC ask around human rights budgeting commitment – update provided by Liz
Human rights budgeting should be included in EBAG’s remit more given this was a specific ask of the EHRiC. The Group discussed the SHRC’s work with human rights stakeholders around what human rights indicators might look like in the budget process, and international practice in this area. The Group agreed that the SHRC should be invited to join EBAG.
EHRiC is reporting in June and there will be a meeting after the summer to discuss human rights budgeting. The Group agreed to leave further discussion on this issue until September.
Action: Invite SHRC to join EBAG (Karen)
e) Deep dive (identify specific requests)
The Group agreed that it would be sensible to begin the forward look on child poverty now. With regards the retrospective look on affordable housing, EBAG felt a better understanding of work that is contributing to a cumulative look would be helpful, such as the work the EHRC has supported around City Deals. This would helpfully inform what more needs to be done and what issues will be selected for a deep dive the following year.
Angela had raised with Mr Mackay at the meeting in February what analysis was being undertaken on the outcomes of major Scottish Government commitments, such as childcare expansion. A measurement framework is required in order to gather evidence on the link between childcare expansion and women re-entering the workforce.
Angela mentioned that the lack of any equality dimension to the work on City Region Deals linked with the Scottish National Investment Bank was a missed opportunity. She asked what had been learned in the approach of City Deals, and if there some remedial work to be done here to push on the policy side. It would be helpful to have a better understanding of how resources are being allocated and how funding is being targeted in order to advance equality.
It would be helpful to see the way in which equality fits into any accountability loop – a set of measures and commitments which are weighed up to understand how successful interventions have been. It was suggested that this formed the basis of the next EBAG thematic meeting, and that this should be held in May if possible.
Jim raised the regional inclusive growth hub and that he is attending workshops in Glasgow on inclusive growth in April and will feedback to EBAG. Jim felt it would be helpful for there to be some light touch scanning over the next few months so that the Group is not starting from scratch in the autumn.
Telephone: 0300 244 4000
Equality and Budget Advisory Group
Directorate for Local Government and Communities
Area 3H South