by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution and the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities.
We are very pleased to present the Scottish Government’s equality statement on its tax and spending proposals for 2018-19. This is the ninth Equality Budget Statement ( EBS) published by the Scottish Government, again reflecting that advancing equality is at the heart of everything we do. This statement is the end point of considerations that have shaped policy and budgetary decisions throughout the year.
It is our view that effective decision making on tax raising and spending means understanding what public spending is intended to achieve and what is actually being achieved. That is why we prioritise our budgets to focus on the outcomes – the results – for people in Scotland. However, we know that it is important that we consider not just the average impact for Scotland, but the impacts on different populations and different protected characteristics to ensure that we do continually strive towards equality.
The 2018-19 Draft Budget sets out our next steps in delivering an ambitious, transformative Programme for Government. It comes at a time when the UK Government is setting a context of austerity, challenging welfare reform for individuals and extreme uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Alongside this, we are also faced with broader demographic and societal change, such as an ageing population; continued health inequalities; a gender pay gap; unacceptable discrimination; and high poverty prevalence for certain groups. We acknowledge these challenges and remain absolutely committed to building a Fairer Scotland where equality of opportunity leads to better social and economic outcomes for all.
We have used our tax-raising powers to unlock additional revenues that allow us to address challenges and safeguard our public services. In doing so, the Draft Budget recognises the financial pressures that households are under and protects those on the lowest incomes.
As our Programme for Government set out, and the Draft Budget reinforces, we are prioritising spend towards building a strong, inclusive economy. The Draft Budget underpins our economic vision with resource to develop a competitive business environment; investment in infrastructure, including digital and skills; and support to become an international leader in technologies and practices needed to move towards a low carbon economy. The Draft Budget demonstrates our understanding that sustainable economic growth can best be achieved by removing barriers to full participation and harnessing the entrepreneurship, diversity, creativity and skills of all of Scottish society. That is clearly shown in our developing approach to employability and skills.
Scotland’s public services are at the heart of this inclusive agenda. It is imperative that they adapt to the challenges faced by our economy and society overall, and continue to provide support to those who need it. To support public services we have again invested heavily in education, health and social care.
Alongside an increasingly inclusive economy, we also know that we need a secure and respectful safety net for people. We have committed to delivering this through the social security powers that have been devolved. However, we must continue to rely on the UK Government’s decisions for the vast majority of welfare systems in Scotland. To this end, this Draft Budget continues to do what it can to mitigate the worst effects of UK Government welfare reform.
In preparing the EBS this year, we are as ever grateful to EBAG, the Equality Budget Advisory Group, for its continuing support and advice. The EBS is held in some regard internationally as a good example of equality assessment, but we are not complacent. We are already working alongside EBAG to develop methods and data to improve our equality assessments for the future.
Derek Mackay MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution
Angela Constance MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities