Chapter 1 Introduction - Equality and the Draft Budget 2017-18
Equality is at the heart of this Draft Budget's ambitions for a prosperous and fairer Scotland. It influences how we do business as a government and is key to growing the economy in an inclusive and sustainable way.
The Draft Budget has been accompanied by an Equality Budget Statement ( EBS) for the last eight years. Many aspects of the EBS - the integration of equality assessment into the process of setting a Draft Budget, EBS publication on the same day as the Draft Budget, the involvement of an expert advisory group - are acknowledged by stakeholders as world-leading, although we recognise that there is always room for further development and improvement.
Equality assessment throughout the budget process helps us to arrive at informed decisions and to make the best judgements about how to target government resources. It ensures that we understand, as far as possible, the equality impacts of the spending decisions set out. And where impacts appear negative for advancing equality, we can either explain the decision or try and mitigate against any negative effects. In some cases, the assessment can mean that particular proposals do not appear in the Draft Budget that is published.
This introductory chapter of the EBS begins by setting out the strategic context for equality from events this year, and then summarises the Draft Budget. The chapter concludes by summarising the equality budget process this year.
Strategic Equality Context
2016 has been a year of opportunity and challenge for equality in Scotland, as the following points demonstrate.
Moving forward after the Scottish Elections - The Scottish Elections were held in May and saw an early statement from the First Minister committing to equality of opportunity and tackling inequalities as the hallmark of Scottish Government work during this Parliamentary session.
Responding to Brexit - In terms of the equality impacts of Brexit, it was reassuring to see that, despite the disturbing tone of the discourse on immigration, the post-Brexit rise in hate crime was not replicated in Scotland. In response to the outcome of the EU Referendum, the Scottish Government made a series of keynote statements on our core values of respect and dignity; on the importance we place on policies that foster community cohesion; and on our welcome for EU nationals and our acknowledgement of the contribution many already make here.
The refugee crisis - Scotland has taken a strong stance on accepting and welcoming refugees, reflecting Scotland's role as a global citizen and recognising the value and richness that comes from diverse communities. As of December this year, Scotland had taken around 1,250 resettled Syrian refugees - more than a quarter (27 per cent) of the UK total.
Continued UK austerity - The Scottish Government has long argued that the UK Government's austerity programme is damaging and that a more flexible approach is needed. However, there were few signs that the UK is changing course from the Autumn Statement. Its failure to deliver on promises to help people on low incomes and families with children is likely to lead to significant, further reductions in the household incomes of those who are already struggling.
New powers - We are beginning to see a gradual transfer of powers to Scotland, many of which have equality implications. Particularly noteworthy are new taxation powers, and the commitment to new systems of social security and employability that will be person-centred, with dignity and respect at their core. UK welfare policy in recent years has hit women and disabled people very hard - and people on low incomes more generally. In taking forward these new powers the Scottish Government wants to take a very different approach to social security and employability.
Programme for Government - Our commitment to equality, human rights and tackling inequalities was restated in the Programme for Government (PfG) 2016-17 in September. The PfG had a strong focus on gender equality; on strengthening legislation on Board diversity; on gender recognition and domestic abuse. There were similar commitments to continue to focus on public service reform, decentralisation, community empowerment, participation and open government. The Draft Budget is a driver for these shifts in approach, with equality an ever important feature. Over the coming period, the Scottish Government has a real focus on delivery and making a difference on the ground. This is reflected in the suite of recent action-focused publications - the Fairer Scotland Action Plan; the Disability Delivery Plan and the Race Equality Framework.
Continued leadership - Scotland continues to provide leadership in the diversity of its political structures: the gender balance of its Cabinet; the centrality of equality in its budget process: and the diversity of sexual orientation within the Scottish Parliament. Nearly 8 per cent of MSPs are lesbian, gay or bisexual, and the Scottish Government's very clear position on promoting sexual orientation and gender identity rights has earned it the reputation of being one of the most progressive countries in Europe regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex equality.
Evidence of progress in some areas - Data published this year has highlighted welcome progress in a number of areas. For example, there has been a welcome trend towards people in Scotland holding more positive attitudes to diversity. Between 2010 and 2015, there was a 10 percentage point decline, from 43 per cent to 33 per cent, in the proportion of people who said that they would rather live in an area 'where most people are similar to you'. Rather more, amounting to nearly half (47 per cent), said they would prefer to live in an area 'with lots of different kinds of people'. In addition, between 2010 and 2015 there was a positive shift in attitudes towards lesbian, gay and bisexual people. In 2010, 30 per cent of people said they would be 'unhappy' or 'very unhappy' about a close relative marrying, forming a civil partnership or a long-term relationship with someone of the same sex as themselves; by 2015 this had effectively halved to 16 per cent. 2016 also saw a further fall in the gender pay gap, with the difference between men and women's median hourly earnings for full-time work falling from 7.7 per cent in 2015 to 6.2 per cent in 2016. And although even one incident of domestic abuse is unsatisfactory, 2016 also saw a recorded drop of 3 per cent in the number of such incidents reported.
Much more to do - Despite the positives above, we cannot be, and we are not, complacent. There is still so much to do and that is why we continue to ensure that investment in equality is maintained over this budget period.
The Draft Budget 2017-18
This Draft Budget sets out the Scottish Government's tax and spending plans for 2017-18. It responds directly to many of the challenges above and delivers the positive steps set out in the Programme for Government to build a nation with a dynamic, sustainable and inclusive economy, one which wherever possible advances equality.
Inclusive Growth - The Draft Budget supports the long-term aspiration of inclusive growth. We recognise that inequality in society acts as a constraint on growth and that we will have most success when the proceeds of growth are widely shared. The Draft Budget reflects this via a targeted prioritisation of resources, reforms where necessary, and a responsible use of the tax powers available to the Scottish Parliament in order to protect public services and household incomes.
Taxation - As well as setting out our spending plans for next year, this Draft Budget also sets out for the first time the Scottish Government's proposals for income tax in Scotland under the powers devolved through the Scotland Act 2016. Whilst these powers are insufficient to fully reverse the regressive impact of the UK Government's austerity agenda, they do increase the options available to the Scottish Government to deliver an alternative approach.
City Deals - This Draft Budget confirms the Scottish Government's 2017-18 funding commitments to City Deals for Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness, as part of an overall Scottish Government contribution of more than £750 million over the lifetime of the deals. Within City Deals proposals there is a commitment to establish programmes that target youth unemployment, help disabled people in receipt of Employment Support Allowance, and help boost the incomes of people on low wages.
Early Learning and Childcare - Early learning and childcare is the most significant infrastructure investment in the Scottish Government's investment programme. Expanded high quality childcare entitlement will provide more parents with the choice to move into employment, increase their hours of work, or to study. It should improve child outcomes too: by 2018, nurseries in our most deprived areas will benefit from an additional qualified teacher or graduate.
Housing - We are investing heavily to deliver 50,000 affordable homes during the life of this Parliament. This total includes 35,000 properties for social rent, a tenure particularly important to lone parent households and disabled people.
Energy Efficiency - The Draft Budget provides over £140 million of investment in energy efficiency measures as a significant first step in delivering our commitment to invest over £500 million in energy efficiency over the life of this Parliament. This investment particularly benefits those on low incomes, and older and/or disabled people.
Employment and the Labour Market - The Draft Budget 2017-18 delivers a wide portfolio of skills, training and employment support, including an expansion to the number of Modern Apprenticeships ( MA) opportunities at the same time as we tackle some of the equality challenges of the MA programme; the implementation of the Youth Employment Strategy; and the delivery of employment-focused college provision for young people. We will also provide ongoing skills support for priority sectors in the economy, such as Care and Early Years, where jobs are often filled by low-skilled women.
Pay - Public procurement contracts now stipulate adherence to Fair Work policies, including the Living Wage and the Business Pledge, to create more sustainable, fair and inclusive jobs in Scotland. The proposed local government settlement delivers the Living Wage for all social care workers and our public sector pay policy delivers a fair and affordable settlement at this time of economic uncertainty and challenges for household finances.
Equality and Third Sector - These budgets will be protected in 2017-18. Both play a vital role supporting organisations that seek to advance equality and help those communities most impacted by discrimination and disadvantage.
High Quality Public Services - Among a range of investment in public services, this Draft Budget delivers over £300 million additional resource funding for the NHS, providing a real terms uplift in 2017-18 as part of the commitment to increase NHS resource funding by £500 million above inflation over the life of this Parliament. Many of the investments here will help older and disabled people, as well as children.
Educational Attainment - Our Attainment Scotland Fund will target funding at schools and local authorities in need, including additional resource through the pupil equity funding programme. Helping to close the attainment gap is crucial for reducing child poverty.
People and Communities - We are also continuing to invest in community-led regeneration of some of Scotland's most deprived areas through the People and Communities Fund. The Empowering Communities Fund supports communities to tackle poverty and exclusion on their own terms. Funding also supports the Community Empowerment Act - promoting the use of participatory democracy approaches such as participatory budgeting.
Social Security - Our approach to Social Security will include the reform of assessments for disability benefits, the extension of winter fuel payments to families with severely disabled children, a new enhanced Best Start Grant to help low-income parents and an increased Carer's Allowance. We will also abolish the 'bedroom tax', which affects disabled people especially, as soon as we can and continue to support the Scottish Welfare Fund and advice services.
The Equality and Budget Advisory Group
The Equality and Budget Advisory Group ( EBAG) has supported the Scottish Government's efforts to bring equality considerations into its budget preparations since the early years of devolution.
The group, which is a mix of external members and Government officials, meets on a regular basis through the year, providing support to the Scottish Government on its equality budget processes and advising on particular areas of policy concern.
EBAG's considerations this year included a series of thematic inquiries on issues the group considered key to the advancement of equality. Discussions were held around:
- City Deals
- Inclusive Growth
- Investment and the Care Economy
- Social Security
This year, the EBS includes a thematic chapter on inclusive growth (as Chapter 3) as an introduction to some of the issues.
The work of EBAG is extremely helpful to the Scottish Government in setting out its equality statement on the Draft Budget and we remain grateful to its members for their time and insight.
Improving Equality Evidence
The Scottish Government continues its strong commitment to improving the equality evidence base, which is crucial to high quality impact assessment.
Significant equality analysis from the Census, covering a number of protected characteristics, has been published by the Scottish Government in recent years. This includes rich analysis on gypsy traveller communities, minority ethnic groups, and disabled people, amongst others.
In addition, the Scottish Surveys Core Questions ( SSCQ), an annual Official Statistics publication for Scotland, can now provide analysis by country of birth, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age and sex, marital status, as well as other variables including education level economic activity, tenure, car access and household type.
Further, the Scottish Government's Equality Evidence Finder, which brings together evidence on the protected characteristics in one portal, continues to be updated on a regular basis.
All these resources can be found here: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/People/Equality/Equalities.
Finally, the Fairer Scotland Action Plan ( FSAP) committed to publish an Equality Evidence Strategy in early 2017 to do still more to develop the equality evidence base. This will improve our understanding across all protected characteristics and develop the intersectional evidence base, as well as supporting the implementation of the Race Equality Framework and the Disability Delivery Plan. FSAP also promised a Gender Index for Scotland later in 2017 to draw out differences in gender equality and barriers to women's economic progress. For more on these developments, see http://www.gov.scot/fairerscotland.
About the EBS 2017-18
The first substantive chapter in the EBS provides an overview of impacts by the equality protected characteristics established in the Equality Act 2010. This also considers socio-economic inequality and provides an overall assessment of the impacts on child rights and wellbeing and on child poverty.
A thematic chapter on inclusive growth follows for additional background.
The remainder of the EBS document is taken up with summary chapters for each Ministerial portfolio ( e.g. Health and Sport; Education and Skills), exploring these issues in more detail.
Email: Paul Tyrer