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Universal periodic review of human rights in the United Kingdom 2017: response to recommendations

Published: 8 Dec 2017
Part of:
Equality and rights, Law and order
ISBN:
9781788514019

The Scottish Government response to recommendations from the third Universal Periodic Review of the UK's overall human rights record in May 2017.

158 page PDF

1.7MB

158 page PDF

1.7MB

Contents
Universal periodic review of human rights in the United Kingdom 2017: response to recommendations
7. Solidarity and Standard of Living

158 page PDF

1.7MB

7. Solidarity and Standard of Living

“ In a world of great wealth and technological advances, no person anywhere should be left behind. No person should go hungry, lack shelter or clean water and sanitation, face social and economic exclusion or live without access to basic health services and education. These are human rights, and form the foundations for a decent life.”

Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General

7.1 Business and human rights [234]

UPR recommendations [235]

  • Introduce measures to ensure oversight of British companies and accountability for any adverse human rights and environmental impacts of business operations overseas, including in conflict areas.
  • Repatriate illicit funds and proceeds of corruption.

UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights ( UNGPs) were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. They are based on a framework of state responsibility to protect human rights; business responsibility to respect human rights; and the requirement for remedy for negative human rights impacts.

The Scottish Government, SHRC and other partners are committed to developing a coordinated plan of action in Scotland to give effect to the UNGPs, building on the UK’s Action Plan. A national baseline assessment ( NBA) was published in October 2016 and sets out the current legal, policy and institutional framework in Scotland in relation to the UNGPs. [236] Further engagement with stakeholders in 2017 will help prioritise the NBA’s recommendations and identify participants of a working group to draft an action plan.

Scotland’s Economic Strategy

Scotland’s Economic Strategy [237] sets out an overarching framework to achieve a more productive, cohesive and fairer Scotland. It prioritises boosting investment and innovation, supporting inclusive growth, and increasing internationalisation. Throughout the Strategy there is a clear focus on the mutually reinforcing objectives of increasing competitiveness and tackling inequality.

Labour Market Strategy

The Scottish Government’s Labour Market Strategy [238] demonstrates how a labour market that is fair and inclusive, and that provides sustainable and well-paid jobs, is key to tackling income inequality and addressing wider issues, including health, crime, deprivation and social mobility. It sets out a vision for:

“A strong labour market that drives inclusive, sustainable economic growth characterised by growing, competitive businesses, high employment, a skilled population capable of meeting the needs of employers, and where fair work is central to improving the lives of individuals and their families.”

The Strategy also sets out the steps the Scottish Government is taking to persuade and influence businesses of the benefits of fair and inclusive work. It demonstrates action to ensure that every person, regardless of background, has the opportunity to participate successfully in the labour market and, in turn, to ensure that Scotland’s workforce has the right skills and attributes to meet the needs of the evolving labour market.

Fair Work Convention

The Fair Work Convention provides independent advice to the Scottish Government on matters relating to innovative and productive workplaces, industrial relations, fair work and the Living Wage in Scotland. The Fair Work Framework, [239] which provides a clear guide to the steps employers should strive to be taking, defines fair work as work that offers effective voice, opportunity, security, fulfilment and respect, and that can generate benefits for individuals, organisations and society.

Scottish Business Pledge

The Scottish Business Pledge [240] is a shared mission between government and business, with the goal of boosting productivity, competitiveness, fair work and employment. Businesses are not expected to adopt all nine elements straight away. However, paying the Living Wage is the core requirement and they are encouraged to apply for formal accreditation from the Living Wage Foundation over time.

Public procurement

The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 include an explicit procurement duty requiring contracting authorities to have due regard to whether both award criteria and contract performance conditions should include considerations to enable the better performance of the PSED. Tools and supporting guidance have been produced to assist contracting authorities identify and address how they can optimise economic, social and environmental outcomes of procurement activity (including equality).

The Scottish public procurement regulations [241] contain provisions to enable the exclusion of a bidder from tendering for public contracts where it can be demonstrated it has breached social, environmental or labour laws established by EU law, national law or collective agreements, including child labour and human trafficking. The regulations also permit a contract not to be awarded to a bidder where it can be shown that its bid does not comply with applicable obligations in the fields of social, environmental and labour law, and it is mandatory to reject a bid that has been established as abnormally low because it does not comply with such laws.

Furthermore, guidance has been published which included model Terms and Conditions to allow for contract termination in the event of the contractor’s failure to comply with applicable obligations in the fields of social, environmental and labour law in the performance of a contract. [242]

The Scottish Government will continue to strive to promote a positive approach to human rights in its procurement, and part of this will include continuing to work alongside a variety of organisations on further development of its procurement tools and supporting guidance.

7.2 Taxation [243]

The Scottish Government supports the vision of an adequate, progressive and socially equitable fiscal policy. It already delivers this within the limited tax powers devolved to Scotland, and will continue to do so with all taxes where policy responsibility lies in Scotland, as well as showing strong leadership in tackling and disincentivising tax avoidance and abuse. The Scottish Government will continue to encourage the UK Government to follow a similar approach with reserved taxes, especially where these are levied on taxpayers in Scotland.

The Scottish approach to taxation

The Scottish Government aims to set all tax policy in line with the Scottish approach to taxation, [244] which centres on the four principles of certainty, efficiency, convenience and proportionality to ability to pay. The approach also comprises two additional elements: embracing a collaborative approach to tax policy development and a strong commitment to taking the toughest possible approach to tackling tax avoidance where the Scottish Government has the powers to do so.

While the Scotland Act 2016 provides for the assignment of a proportion of VAT revenues, the Scottish Government will not have any policy responsibility for this tax. The Scottish Government will always encourage the UK Government to ensure that public services are funded in a progressive way and, if devolution of responsibility for any of these tax powers were ever forthcoming, would implement a tax policy that was in line with the Scottish approach and the Adam Smith principles.

These principles have formed the core of policy proposals on the fully devolved taxes: Land and Buildings Transactions Tax ( LBTT) and Scottish Landfill Tax; income tax and Air Departure Tax and Aggregates Levy (both newly devolved through the Scotland Act 2016).

The Scottish Government has taken a collaborative approach in developing its legislative plans for the two fully devolved taxes, working with the professional law and accountancy bodies, housing and property sector, waste and resources industry and wider environmental bodies through regular forums. For Air Departure Tax, an expert stakeholder forum was established in August 2015 and the Scottish Government has launched two public consultations to help inform its approach for introducing the tax in Scotland. This positive approach to consultation has been welcomed by a number of stakeholders in their evidence to the Scottish Parliament Finance and Constitution Committee.

Tax avoidance and abuse

The Scottish Government takes the issue of tax avoidance very seriously. The Scottish General Anti-Avoidance Rule ( GAAR), established by the Revenue Scotland and Tax Powers Act 2014, [245] allows Revenue Scotland to take counteraction against tax avoidance arrangements considered to be artificial, even if they otherwise operate within the letter of the law. Revenue Scotland is the tax authority responsible for the administration and collection of Scotland’s devolved taxes, and will be responsible for Air Passenger Duty from April 2018, therefore the GAAR will apply to each of these taxes.

As HMRC will continue to be responsible for the collection and management of income tax, the Scottish Government has no direct role in tackling abuse. HMRC is committed to providing the same tax enforcement and compliance standards to Scottish income tax as to that in the rest of the UK where the same level of risk occurs, with the Scottish Government also having the ability to request additional enforcement and compliance activity if income tax policy diverges.

Tax revenue

The Scottish Government will always consider impacts of changes to tax rates on revenue, for example by asking the Council of Economic Advisors to comment on revenue risks from increasing the additional rate of income tax to 50%, and any mitigating actions that can be taken. The Scottish Government’s approach to setting rates and bands for fully devolved taxes, such as LBTT, has shown its intention to ensure that fiscal policy is progressive and socially equitable. In the first two years of this tax, the Scottish Government has lifted 19,000 homebuyers out of the tax altogether and ensured that over 90% of homeowners pay less or no tax on the purchase of their home.

The Scottish Government will continue to take an open, collaborative and evidence-based approach when making legislative changes to existing taxes and introducing new taxes. It will continue to use its existing stakeholder forums to ensure it receives a wide range of views from industry bodies and others on how fiscal policy is influencing the economy in Scotland.

The Scottish Government is currently legislating for a replacement of Air Passenger Duty in Scotland. To improve transparency and aid scrutiny, it has committed to undertaking and publishing a range of impact assessments in advance of finalising its plans. This includes an independent economic assessment, a Strategic Environmental Assessment, and assessments of greenhouse gas emissions and noise impacts. In addition to this, the legislation places two duties on the Scottish Ministers:

  • to have regard to the projected economic, environmental and social impacts when preparing draft secondary legislation on tax bands and rate amounts
  • to keep these impacts under review when the tax bands and rate amounts are in force

7.3 Employability and skills [246]

The success of Scotland’s Labour Market Strategy will be closely tied in to educational reforms. Scotland’s education system, along with the range of employability and training opportunities, must ensure that every person is equipped with the rights skill sets and attributes.

  • Youth Employment Strategy - Developing the Young Workforce [247] ( DYW)
    • an integrated approach across education, training, employment and local government to reduce youth unemployment by 40% by 2021
    • the aim is for Scotland to respond with meaningful world class vocational education by broadening and improving the quality of what is on offer to young people, to produce more work-ready young people, with the skills relevant to current and emerging business skills needs
    • Scottish Ministers have committed to annual reporting on progress: reports have been published in December 2015 and December 2016 [248]
  • The Equalities Action Plan for Modern Apprenticeships ( MA) in Scotland
    • the five-year plan includes specific improvement targets for MA participation by disabled people, including part-time and flexible arrangements, to be achieved by 2021. Skills Development Scotland ( SDS) will report on these annually and published a Year 1 update on 18 July 2017
    • providing young disabled people with the highest level of MA funding for their chosen MA Framework until the age of 30
  • Scotland’s Devolved Employment Services
    • newly devolved powers on employment support have been exercised since 1 April 2017 and, following a one year transitional service, from April 2018 a new Scottish employability programme will be introduced - Fair Start Scotland ( FSS)
    • FSS will reflect the need for effective, person-centred services and in-work support
    • FSS will include tailored and personalised provision for disabled people for whom work is a reasonable objective and others who struggle in the labour market, including women and those from minority ethnic backgrounds
    • in developing the programme, the Scottish Government consulted widely with disabled people and their representatives, service providers and funders, and will work to integrate much more effectively with other services in Scotland already supporting disabled people, such as health and social care
    • for disabled people for whom it is appropriate, the Scottish Government will expect providers of employment services to offer supported employment [249]

Examples of specific programmes to increase employment rates, particularly for the most disadvantaged groups, include: Modern Apprenticeships; Opportunities for All (including Activity Agreements); Scotland’s Employer Recruitment Incentive (including the Open Doors Consortium - In-work support); and Community Jobs Scotland.

Pregnancy and maternity

The Scottish Government is working with the EHRC to tackle pregnancy and maternity discrimination. The Minister for Employability and Training chairs a working group, the remit of which includes: improving employers’ access to advice to ensure best practice; developing an industry-specific communications strategy around the benefits of positive pregnancy and maternity policies; and strengthening health and safety advice.

Women

The Scottish Government will work with large employers to help women who have had career breaks return to work. Equate Scotland has been awarded funding of up to £50,000 to deliver the first stage of activity. This 12-month project will provide at least 40 women with support to re-enter the STEM sector by offering one-to-one guidance, career clinics and access to webinars, and three month paid placements that focus on life sciences, digital skills and engineering. The Scottish Government will look to develop returner programmes in other sectors where a need is identified. The projects will help women update skills and knowledge and smooth the transition back into the workplace for both women and employers.

In its call inviting proposals for the returners initiative in April 2017, the Scottish Government asked organisations to consider proposals which could help minority ethnic women returners.

Minority ethnic groups

The employment rate for people from minority ethnic groups in Scotland decreased from 58.9% to 57.6% over the year to December 2016, compared with an overall employment rate (16-64 year olds) in Scotland of 72.9%. Employment rates for females from minority ethnic groups are typically around 24% lower than for minority ethnic males; whereas the gap between all males and females living in Scotland is approximately 7%. [250]

The Race Equality Framework for Scotland ( REF) sets out a vision for minority ethnic people to have equal, fair and proportionate access to employment and representation at all levels, grades and occupation types in Scotland’s workforce, and experience fewer labour market, workplace and income inequalities.

Actions in the REF focus on measures for young minority ethnic people, ensuring they have equal access to different post-school destinations and highlight the importance of careers advice and guidance. One of the themed roundtables organised as part of implementation of the REF (see section 6.3) will discuss employability, employment and income.

As part of the implementation of DYW, a revised SDS school service offer has been rolled out in all secondary schools. This means that all young people will engage with SDS careers advisers earlier, starting during the P7/S1 transition and then continuing throughout their schooling. This provides the opportunity for every young person to have a 1-2-1 with an SDS careers adviser prior to making senior subject choices. Young asylum seekers and refugees will be offered an intensive coaching service from SDS advisers through ESOL Family Learning groups. SDS, Scottish Government, local authorities and members of the SDS Equality and Diversity Network, including those representing the interests of minority ethnic groups, continue to monitor the effectiveness of the implementation of the careers standards and guidance.

One of the key performance indicators for the SDS Equalities Action Plan is to increase the number of MA starts from minority ethnic communities to equal the population share by 2021. [251] The proportion of MA starts self-identifying as being from a Mixed or Multiple, Asian, African, Caribbean or Black, and Other ethnic group was 1.6% (equivalent to 414 starts) in 2015-16, and 1.7% (436 starts) in 2016-17. SDS will continue working directly with employers, the SAAB Employer Equalities Group and DYW groups to encourage the uptake of a more diverse workforce through MAs. SDS published a Year 1 update on 18 July 2017.

A £500,000 Workplace Equality Fund, based on recommendations in the REF and the findings of the Equal Opportunities Committee inquiry into Removing Barriers: Race, Ethnicity and Employment, [252] aims to address long standing barriers to accessing the labour market. It is anticipated that the Fund will help to identify and promote practice that reduces employment inequalities, discrimination and barriers, including recruitment and progression for women, disabled people, ethnic minorities and older people (aged over 50).

To continue its exploration of what more it can do on the recognition of overseas qualifications, the Scottish Government commissioned a short project to review and update the recommendations of the 2010 Scoping Study on Support Mechanisms for the Recognition of Skills, Learning and Qualifications of Migrant Workers and Refugees within the current context. This work was undertaken by the University of Glasgow.

Employability support

Contracted employability support for long-term unemployed people is now devolved to Scotland. The Scottish Government is developing a long-term 2020 and beyond vision to identify specific needs of clients and develop a fully integrated and aligned service that helps people move into good quality, sustainable work. The intention is that some unemployed customers will have early access to the programme, and this will include refugees and those from a minority ethnic background. Service providers must demonstrate how they will engage positively to support customers into sustained employment, recognising the geographic variations in ethnic minority populations and being sensitive to the cultural issues affecting them, particularly women and refugees. The Scottish Government will work with successful bidders to ensure this requirement is met.

In 2016-17 the Scottish Government’s initiative for responding to redundancy situations, Partnership Action for Continuing Employment ( PACE), [253] supported 15,167 individuals and 299 employers over 406 sites. The most recent survey (October 2016) showed that 71% of surveyed recipients obtained employment within six months. [254]

7.4 Migrant workers [255]

UPR recommendations [256]

  • Revise regulation and administrative practices in order to protect the human rights of female domestic migrant workers, particularly when their work permits are linked to their employer and they have been victims of human trafficking and work exploitation

Immigration matters are fully reserved to the UK Government.

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 includes the offences of human trafficking and of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. The Act requires the development of a Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy, which was created in conjunction with stakeholders and published on 30 May 2017. Implementation of the Strategy is being taken forward, including actions in relation to identifying victims and supporting them to safety and recovery; identifying perpetrators and disrupting their activity; and addressing the issues that foster trafficking and exploitation.

See sections 4.1, 7.5, 7.9 and 7.12 for information on the Scottish Government activity regarding access to justice, the Living Wage, employment tribunal fees and social security.

7.5 The Living Wage [257]

UPR recommendations [258]

  • Consider, in consultation with stakeholders, adopting a universal basic income to replace the existing social protection system.

Employment Law is a reserved matter.

The Scottish Government actively promotes payment of the real Living Wage of £8.45 per hour, which is paid to all its employees 18 years old and over. It is calculated according to the basic cost of living and takes account of the adequacy of household incomes for achieving an acceptable minimum living standard.

The Scottish Government has long championed payment of the Living Wage and the real benefits to Scotland’s economy of treating people more fairly. It has demonstrated its commitment by becoming an Accredited Living Wage Employer and by increasing funding for the Scottish Living Wage Accreditation Initiative to £300,000, to reach the target of 1,000 accredited Living Wage employers by Autumn 2017. [259]

The Scottish Government is using all the powers at its disposal to promote fair pay and conditions, and continues to encourage every organisation, regardless of size, sector or location, to ensure that all members of staff receive a fair level of pay. Of the four countries of the UK, Scotland has the highest proportion of employees - around 80% - paid the Living Wage.

The Scottish Government continues to respond to the Low Pay Commission consultation on the National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage - that the National Living Wage should reflect the rate of the real Living Wage, which is paid to employees aged 18 and over, and not be merely an enhanced minimum rate for over 25s.

Adult social care workers

The Scottish Government has committed to paying the Living Wage to adult social care workers from 1 October 2016, and has been working closely with health and social care partnerships and providers to make delivery successful. This is an ambitious commitment, which will allow councils to commission adult social care from the independent and voluntary sectors on the basis that care workers are paid the real Living Wage, giving up to 40,000 people, mainly women, doing some of the most valuable work in Scotland a well-deserved pay rise.

Public procurement

In relation to public procurement, the Scottish Government cannot make payment of the Living Wage a mandatory contract requirement. Any requirement on contractors, as part of a public procurement process or public contract, to pay their employees a living wage set at a higher rate than the UK’s National Minimum Wage is unlikely to be compatible with EU law. This position was twice confirmed by the European Commission in correspondence with the Scottish Ministers (May 2012 and May 2014).

Despite this, and the fact that employment law is a reserved matter, the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 took every opportunity to tackle payment of the Living Wage through procurement. The Act requires public bodies’ procurement strategies to include a statement of their general policy on payment of a living wage to people involved in delivering public contracts. The Statutory Guidance on Addressing Fair Work Practices, including the Living Wage, in Procurement [260] makes clear that payment of the Living Wage is a significant indicator of an employer’s commitment to fair work practices.

Universal basic income

Four Scottish local authorities are currently considering how they can pilot elements of a citizen’s universal basic income. One of its attractions is that it may help those on the lowest incomes back into work or help them work more hours, while providing an unconditional ‘basic income’ as a safety net. The Scottish Government has stated that bold and imaginative projects like this deserve support, whilst also recognising that the concept is currently untested in an advanced economy.

The 2017-18 PfG contains commitments to:

  • establish a fund to help the local authorities develop their proposals further and establish suitable testing
  • ask the independent Poverty and Inequality Commission in Scotland to consider how it could help to draw together findings from local authorities to inform the government’s thinking

7.6 Blacklisting [261]

The Scottish Government regards the practice of blacklisting in any form as unacceptable, particularly given the serious negative impacts it can have on the lives of those affected. A number of actions have been taken through procurement to effectively implement the Employment Relations Act 1999 (Blacklists) Regulations 2010. [262]

The Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2015 [263] (higher value OJEU (Official Journal of the European Union) threshold contracts) and the Procurement (Scotland) Regulations 2016 [264] (lower value contracts), which came into force on 18 April 2016, contain provision to ensure that companies that are involved in blacklisting will be excluded from bidding for public contracts. Public bodies are legally required to exclude from bidding for public contracts any businesses which have been found to have breached the 2010 Regulations, or which have admitted to doing so, until they have taken appropriate remedial measures or a period of three years has elapsed - the longest period of exclusion EU law allows.

Statutory guidance, Addressing Fair Work Practices, including the Living Wage, in Procurement requires public bodies, before undertaking a procurement exercise, to consider whether it is relevant and proportionate to include a question on fair work practices as part of the competition. A positive approach to fair work practices may include progressive workforce engagement, for example having arrangements in place to ensure trade union recognition and representation and, in the absence of a recognised trade union, the existence of alternative arrangements to give staff an effective voice.

7.7 Trade unions [265]

Employment law and industrial relations are matters currently reserved to the UK Government.

The Scottish Government is strongly opposed to the UK Government’s Trade Union Act 2016, which presents a direct threat to the rights of workers and to Scotland’s approach to industrial relations. Particular concerns relate to the potential impact of provisions on Article 8(1)(c) of the ICESCR, the right of trade unions to function freely. The Scottish Government continues to make the case that this is unnecessary legislation and does not reflect the true position of trade unions in Scotland.

Working Together for a Fairer Scotland; Scottish Government Response to the Working Together Review [266] underlines that a progressive approach to industrial relations and to trade unionism is at the heart of a fairer, more successful society. The Scottish Government is committed to working collaboratively with trade unions, its social and economic partners, to promote strong industrial relations in Scotland and to limit the impacts of the Trade Union Act. The Scottish Government encourages staff to join and play an active part in an appropriate trade union and, where strikes do occur, has given a guarantee that it would not employ agency staff to cover strike action.

The Scottish Government has established the Fair Work Convention, whose remit is to drive forward Fair Work in Scotland. It looks to ensure that public bodies, trade unions and other partners work to embed Fair Work and the Fair Work Framework across Scottish industry, including public and third sectors. The Scottish Government is taking practical steps to retain and enhance the role of trade unions, and to embed the Fair Work Framework in its workplaces by providing £250,000 for a second year for the Trade Union and Fair Work Modernisation Fund. This will ensure that trade union reps are not needlessly diverted by the burdens of the 2016 Act from supporting members and promoting fairer work practices.

The Scottish Government is clear that the only way it can ensure the continuation of strong industrial relations in Scotland and limit the impacts of the Trade Union Act is if employment law is devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government will continue to press the UK Government for the full set of powers around employment law.

7.8 Zero hours contracts [267]

Employment Law is a reserved matter.

The Scottish Government has embedded fair work within its Economic Strategy and Labour Market Strategy, and in 2015 established the Fair Work Convention.

The Scottish Government does not directly employ people on zero hours contracts and condemns the inappropriate use of exploitative zero hours contracts. Unfair work practices like this are unacceptable and undermine ambitions to grow the economy and tackle inequalities. The Scottish Government does, however, recognise that the use of non-exploitative zero hours contracts can ensure flexible support for both businesses and individuals.

The use of reported zero hours contracts in Scotland’s labour market is lower than in the UK as whole (2.2% and 2.8% respectively). The Scottish Business Pledge includes a commitment not to employ people on exploitative zero hours contracts (or comparable very low core hours), or to ensure that any such contracts are fair and appropriate.

Stability of employment and hours of work are important elements of fair work. Where feasible, these forms of employment, for example direct employment or fixed-term employment contracts, should be offered to workers to ensure that everyone is provided with adequate security, stability and the ability to more effectively plan for the future.

Statutory guidance on Addressing Fair Work Practices, including the Living Wage, in Procurement, makes clear that a bidder’s positive approach to fair work practices can have an impact on the quality of services, goods and works being procured. Public bodies must now consider, before undertaking a procurement exercise, whether it is relevant and proportionate to include a question on fair work practices as part of the competition.

7.9 Employment tribunal fees [268]

The Scottish Government wants all employers to adopt fair working practices but where this doesn’t happen workers should have fair access to justice. The Smith Commission recommended the devolution of all powers over the operation and management of all reserved tribunals, including the employment tribunals. Section 39 of the Scotland Act 2016 allows for such a transfer of responsibilities.

The UK Government has written to the Scottish Government confirming that the operation and management of employment tribunals will be transferred to Scotland. Agreement by the UK and Scottish Parliaments on the terms of the transfer, which will be set out in an Order in Council, will be required. The Scottish Government is continuing to discuss the transfer of reserved tribunals to Scotland with stakeholders and the UK Government, including the proposed timetable of the devolution of responsibilities relating to the main jurisdictions.

On 26 July 2017 the Supreme Court ruled the UK Government’s introduction of employment tribunal fees in 2013 as being unlawful and discriminatory against women. The Scottish Government strongly opposed the UK Government’s introduction of the fees and is delighted with the Supreme Court ruling. The 2015 PfG committed to abolishing the fees in Scotland when the management and operation of employment tribunals were devolved.

The Scottish Government will continue to work with stakeholders, including trade unions, to ensure that the new employment tribunal system in Scotland provides access to justice and contributes to the Scottish Government’s vision for fair work to be embedded in all workplaces in Scotland.

7.10 Welfare reform mitigation [269]

UPR recommendations [270]

  • With consideration of the disproportionate impact of austerity measures, ensure the welfare of all segments of society; tackle poverty and inequality and enhance social mobility, with policies targeted at disadvantaged families and their children

The powers contained in the Welfare Reform Act 2012 are reserved to the UK Government. A report to the Scottish Parliament on the impacts on the people of Scotland of the Act and other welfare measures passed since 2010, Welfare Reform (Further Provision) (Scotland) Act 2012 - Annual Report – 2017, [271] was published on 29 June 2017.

Around £1 billion will be cut from welfare spending in Scotland each and every year by 2021, with a £0.2 billion cut due to changes this year alone. The Scottish Government remains concerned about many aspects of the UK Government’s welfare reforms. It continues to press UK Ministers to make improvements and to ensure safeguards are in place for those who need them. The Scottish Government has made clear its continued opposition to the cuts and has taken a range of actions to help support marginalised groups and individuals.

Since 2013-14 the Scottish Government has invested over £350 million to mitigate UK Government welfare reform and support low income families, including fully mitigating the “bedroom tax” - ensuring more than 70,000 households save around £650 per year on average and are able to stay in their own home - and helping over 254,000 individual households - a third of which include children - through the Scottish Welfare Fund ( SWF).

Discretionary Housing Payments ( DHP) were devolved from April 2017. In addition to fully mitigating the bedroom tax, £10.9 million is available to local authorities to help support those worst affected by UK Government welfare reform to maintain their tenancies and avoid housing crisis. The Scottish Government will continue to work with partners in local government to ensure that DHPs remain an effective means of support to those who most require it. Forthcoming guidance will also ensure that the Scottish Government commitment to equality and support for protected groups is at the heart of the delivery of DHPs.

As part of measures to tackle poverty, the Scottish Government has invested over £1 billion in the Council Tax Reduction Scheme ( CTRS) since 2013-14, assisting almost half a million households each year to meet their council tax.

The Scottish Government shares the concerns of stakeholders across Scotland regarding the impact of frozen benefits, especially Local Housing Allowance ( LHA), which is limiting the affordability of homes in the rental sector. The Scottish Government has commissioned research on the impact of the extension of LHA rates to the social sector.

The Scottish Government has also made clear its opposition to sanctions and stated its belief that sanctions should be under the control of the Scottish Parliament. A range of independent evidence has shown that the current system is disproportionate and not fit for purpose. For example, the UK Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee report, Benefit Sanctions (February 2017), [272] shows that there is no robust evidence on whether sanctions actually work, or even reliable data that shows what happens after people are sanctioned.

In 2017-18 the Scottish Government will spend around £454 million on measures that either directly mitigate the changes introduced by the Welfare Reform Act or are part of wider measures tackling poverty in Scotland.

The Scotland Act 2016 provided for a number of additional powers, including powers shared with the DWP over the housing element of Universal Credit ( UC). The Scottish Government continues to engage with the DWP on using these powers to abolish the bedroom tax at source, and is also committed to restoring housing support to 18-21 year olds.

Through the 2016 Act, the Scottish Government will receive flexibilities in relation to the administration of UC, including the splitting of UC payments between individual members of a couple. There is substantial support for this across the equalities sector in Scotland. The Scottish Government has been carrying out workshops with stakeholders to consider how split payment policy could be developed.

7.11 Tackling poverty and delivering social justice [273]

UPR recommendations [274]

  • With consideration of the disproportionate impact of austerity measures, ensure the welfare of all segments of society; tackle poverty and inequality and enhance social mobility, with policies targeted at disadvantaged families and their children.
  • Increase efforts to eliminate child poverty, including through a clear national strategy, and by undertaking an assessment of the impact of the welfare reform on children from disadvantaged families.

The Scottish Government’s work to mitigate the worst effects of the UK Government’s welfare cuts forms part of a broader strategy to tackle poverty and deliver social justice. The Fairer Scotland Action Plan [275] (October 2016) is built on five high-level ambitions for the period to 2030:

  • a fairer Scotland for all
  • ending child poverty
  • a strong start for all young people
  • fairer working lives
  • a thriving third age

The Plan contains 50 fairness actions for the current parliamentary session that will help meet these ambitions, ranging across the responsibilities of government, including commencing the socio-economic duty in section 1 of the Equality Act 2010 (see section 6.2); commitments to promote good flexible working; and a new £29 million fund (with £12.5 million of European money) to support communities and the third sector to develop new, innovative approaches to tackling poverty. It also features commitments from a range of organisations from across the UK who want to help build a fairer Scotland, and is the start of a long-term commitment to help shape a fairer Scotland.

The Plan sets out progress on meeting the recommendations of the first report of the Independent Advisor on Poverty and Inequality, Shifting the Curve - A Report to the First Minister, [276] which the Scottish Government has agreed to implement in full. Shifting the Curve recognises anti-poverty actions that have already been introduced, particularly around welfare reform, supporting social housing and promoting the Living Wage.

The Scottish Government has already made significant progress in delivering these actions and will publish a progress report annually setting out updates on progress on the 50 actions, and on research and strategy actions that were set out alongside. The first of these updates was published on 23 November 2017. [277]

Child poverty

The Plan also describes a range of actions the Scottish Government will take in the current parliamentary session to tackle child poverty, including a new Best Start Grant to support low income parents in the early years of their children’s lives; a baby box of essential items for all children born in Scotland; and a substantial increase in early learning and childcare provision. The Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill [278] was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 9 February 2017. If passed, it will establish ambitious statutory income-based targets for reducing child poverty by 2030 (in line with SDG 1 [279] ), and put in place a robust framework for measuring, monitoring and reporting on child poverty at a national and local level.

Fuel poverty

Recognising the importance of tackling fuel poverty, the Scottish Government designated energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority. The cornerstone of this will be Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme ( SEEP), [280] which will commence in 2018 for a 15-20 year period. In Autumn 2017 the Scottish Government will consult on a new fuel poverty strategy, including a fuel poverty target, and has committed to introduce a Warm Homes Bill in 2018 to help tackle fuel poverty.

The Scottish Government is delivering the 2016-17 PfG commitment to make half a billion pounds available over the next four years and, by the end of 2021, will have allocated over £1 billion pounds since 2009 on tackling fuel poverty and improving energy efficiency. This money will help install energy efficiency measures in thousands of homes across Scotland and build on the more than one million measures already delivered through a range of programmes to over one million Scottish households since 2008, helping to make homes and buildings warmer and cheaper to heat.

7.12 Social security [281]

UPR recommendations [282]

  • With consideration of the disproportionate impact of austerity measures, ensure the welfare of all segments of society; tackle poverty and inequality and enhance social mobility, with policies targeted at disadvantaged families and their children.

Foundational principles

Over the course of the current parliamentary session, responsibility for 11 forms of social security assistance, representing 15% of total welfare spend in Scotland will be devolved from the UK to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government will use this important opportunity to promote fairness and equality in Scotland by taking a different approach to social security and building a new, distinctly Scottish system founded on fairness, dignity, respect and human rights. [283]

All aspects of the design and development of this new system will be defined by adherence to the following seven key legislative principles, established in Section 1 of the Social Security (Scotland) Bill [284] introduced on 20 June 2017:

  • social security is a human right, essential to the realisation of other human rights
  • respect for the dignity of individuals is to be at the heart of the Scottish social security system
  • the Scottish social security system is to be designed with the people of Scotland on the basis of evidence
  • Scottish Ministers have a role in ensuring that individuals are given what they are eligible to be given under the Scottish social security system
  • our processes and services will be evidence based and designed with the people of Scotland
  • opportunities are to be sought to continuously improve the Scottish social security system in ways which put the needs of those who require assistance first
  • the Scottish social security system is to be efficient and deliver value for money

These principles deliberately correspond to fundamental aspects of the right to social security as outlined in key human rights instruments. The Scottish Government is determined that the new system will avoid the stigmatisation, complexity and adversarial nature of the UK Government’s approach, which was strongly criticised in a consultation with the people of Scotland. [285] The principles are established on the face of the Bill, in line with strong stakeholder and public support, with the intention of embedding the more positive, supportive ethos of the Scottish system from the very outset. The Scottish Government has committed to working with the people of Scotland and the Scottish Parliament to develop and improve the principles as the Bill progresses.

The principle that “Scottish Ministers have a role in ensuring that individuals are given what they are eligible to be given under the Scottish social security system” reflects the Scottish Government’s commitment to help maximise people’s incomes and to ensure that those who are eligible, but who are not currently making claims, receive the benefits to which they are entitled. The Scottish Government is already delivering a programme of activity to raise awareness of social security benefits. There will be a benefit take up campaign to help ensure people maximise their incomes, and the Scottish Government is committed to exploring whether such campaigns should specifically target particular groups where there is evidence that those groups are less likely to access their entitlement. This accords with General Comment 19 of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. [286] There will also be a new Financial Health Check service for people on low incomes.

Of particular importance is the principle that social security is a human right, essential to the realisation of other human rights. A rights based approach is the cornerstone of the new system; from policy development and service design, through to the delivery of assistance and the interaction between agency staff and the people who use the new service. This principle is focused on ending the stigma associated with accessing assistance, which has been driven and encouraged by UK Government statements. In contrast, the new system in Scotland will support and encourage people to exercise their right to social security to the fullest possible extent.

The Scottish Government is working closely with the EHRC and the SHRC to ensure that the new system meets these very high standards in all of its processes and practices, and embeds dignity and respect in public services.

The forms of assistance being devolved represent just 15% of total welfare spend in Scotland, meaning it is not possible for the new system to completely eradicate the unfairness associated with the UK system. However, even with these political and financial constraints, the Scottish Government has continually looked for ways to extend the adequacy of assistance by increasing payment levels, widen eligibility and provide a more human, positive experience for people who will rely on the new system for support:

  • commitment to increase Carer’s Allowance to the level of Job Seeker’s Allowance, including early introduction through an interim, supplementary payment
  • commitment to introduce a new Young Carer’s Allowance
  • commitment to increasing Carer’s Allowance for carers looking after more than one disabled child
  • substantial increase in support offered by Best Start Grant ( BSG) in comparison with the UK’s Sure Start Maternity Grant - for a family with two children, the BSG will provide £1,900 of support over the early years period, compared to the £500 currently available from the UK Government
  • commitment to ending unnecessary re-assessments for the disability benefits and to reducing, as far as possible, the need for face to face assessments
  • to ensure that, where assessments are required, they are not carried out by the private sector - instead being conducted by trained professionals with expertise of the conditions they are tasked with assessing. Profit will never be put before people.
  • introducing a Job Grant to support young people aged 16-24 years to meet the costs of returning to work after a period of 6 months’ unemployment
  • recruitment of over 2,300 people with direct experience of the current system to help design, build and refine a new and better social security model for Scotland
  • the agency will also provide locally accessible face-to-face pre-claims advice and support co-located, where possible, in places people already visit
  • commitment to ensure agency staff are trained in a way that is consistent with the principles and Charter, to see people as individuals with specific needs and to be responsive to the help and support that each person requires

The Scottish Government has also committed to a statutory requirement on the Scottish Ministers to produce a publicly accessible Charter that will convert the legislative principles from ambitious objectives to tangible commitments to deliver specific outcomes. It will also communicate, in the clearest possible terms, what people are entitled to expect from the system and will drive the culture and positive ethos of the new Scottish social security agency. Ministers will have a legal duty to report annually on progress against the commitments in the Charter, which will help hold the Scottish Government to account for the successful delivery of a fairer, more supportive system. In this way, the Charter can be seen as an accord or compact between the service and the people who use it, creating an additional mechanism for scrutiny, enhanced accountability and driving improvement.

Co-design

Every aspect of the new system will be developed in partnership with people who have direct personal experience of the current UK system. Over 2,400 people with direct experience of the current system have been recruited in Experience Panels to help design, build and refine a new and better model for Scotland. The first piece of research, About Your Benefits and You, involves a survey and focus groups to learn more about the panel members, what they think works in the current system and where there is room for improvement. Sessions will be held in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Glenrothes, Dumfries, Hawick, Ayr, Perth, East Kilbride, Airdrie, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness, and work is ongoing to ensure that equalities groups and those with protected characteristics are strongly and fairly represented in the Experience Panels. The research will inform a work plan for the Panels.

This co-design goes much deeper than simply seeking feedback: people with direct experience are already helping to test and pilot some of the new technology and processes that are needed to make the system a success. Early examples include work on application processes and communications, including important details such as stopping the use of intimidating brown envelopes, eliminating jargon and large blocks of complex text, and using clearer, more positive language in correspondence. This co-design approach is intended to empower those who rely on social security, giving them an active and direct role in designing and developing the new system, ensuring that it meets their specific needs from the outset.

The Agency

It is crucial that the core principles are also strongly reflected in the operation of the new agency that will administer devolved benefits in Scotland. During the process of selecting the preferred operating model for the agency, one of the key tests applied was to place people at the heart of the system, exploring how it would feel for someone to interact with each of the different options. This led to a number of conclusions:

  • the importance of a local presence for the new agency in locations people already commonly frequent
  • the value of face-to-face contact between those in receipt of assistance and agency employees
  • cash as opposed to in-kind provision is generally seen as the best option to allow people choice and flexibility
  • medical assessments must be fair and undertaken by professionals with expertise in the conditions of the people they are assessing

An example of how the agency will improve the experience of those interacting with the new system is through the intended approach to staff training. The agency will work closely with Experience Panels and partner organisations to develop a training programme that fully reflects the core principles and the commitments that will be made in the Charter. This will include ensuring that staff are trained to understand the diverse needs of those interacting with the system and that they are able to tailor their approach to meet those needs.

A core element of this will be to emphasise the importance of listening. Agency staff will be trained to see people as individuals and to be responsive to the specific help and support that each person requires. The goal is to ensure that the system is not adversarial and that people are respected and fully supported through the entire process. This provides reassurance that people will be dealing with professionals, trained to tailor their approach to the specific needs and characteristics of the individual.

Access to remedy

The new system will also make provision for people to complain, challenge and appeal decisions, including the right to access the services of a First-tier Tribunal (for appeals) and the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (for complaints), as well as onward to further judicial review if required.

The agency’s complaints and appeals procedures will be strongly reflective of the values and standards set out in the Charter, again strengthening the nature of the redress that is available to individuals. Ministers will have a statutory duty to report to Parliament on the extent to which the commitments made in the Charter have been delivered. In this way, the Charter can act as a mechanism to support the Scottish Government and Parliament to assess what is not working and where improvements require to be made.

The Scottish Government is also strongly committed to ensuring that meaningful redress is available to individuals where it is felt that some element of the system is failing to live up to the rights set out in the Charter. It is expected that identifying the best model will be considered during the co-design process. However, the Scottish Government does intend that there will be a new, independent body, convened to provide advice on, and scrutiny of, devolved Scottish social security matters.

7.13 Adequate food [287]

Food insecurity

The Scottish Government provided £1 million of funding over 2014-16 as part of the Emergency Food Action Plan. In October 2015, an Independent Short-Life Working Group on Food Poverty was established to identify the issues that lead people into food poverty and make recommendations on how they can be addressed. In November 2016 the Scottish Government published its response [288] to the Working Group’s report, Dignity: Ending Hunger Together in Scotland [289] (30 June 2016). Notably, the Scottish Government made a commitment to explore with stakeholders how the right to food could be enshrined within Scots Law.

In 2016-17, the Scottish Government established the £1 million a year Fair Food Fund, which is intended to support projects that will deliver dignified and sustainable responses to food poverty and reduce the need for emergency food aid.

Diet and obesity

Tackling obesity is a top priority for the Scottish Government and it will consult on a new diet and obesity strategy in 2017. This will include taking into account the views of a wide range of stakeholders and interested parties, and examining what further effective actions can be taken within the Scottish Government’s powers.

The Scottish Government’s vision for the diet and obesity strategy is of a Scotland where people eat healthily, have a healthy weight, and enjoy the same healthy life expectancy no matter where they live, as part of the full and equal enjoyment of economic and social rights, such as the right to health and food. The overall aim is a sustained reduction in obesity levels across the whole population, including women and children, where the disparities are the greatest.

The Scottish Government welcomes the UK Government’s decision to introduce a soft drinks levy, although it cannot in isolation address the levels of obesity in the country. Through Food Standards Scotland, the Scottish Government is engaged in the reformulation programme led by Public Health England.

The Scottish Government has supported a national community food support network since 1996 and remains committed to tackling health inequalities and barriers to healthy, affordable food. It is supplementing national support with funding for regional networks to ensure local initiatives working with the most vulnerable in society are able to carry out their core functions.

Advertising

Broadcast advertising is reserved to the UK Government. Restrictions on advertising of food high in fat, salt and sugar around children’s programming do not go far enough. The Scottish Government continues to lobby UK Ministers to extend these restrictions to 9pm, as this would significantly reduce children’s exposure to the marketing of unhealthy foods and ensure measures like the soft drinks levy do not operate in isolation. Similar restrictions for non-broadcast media were brought in by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority in July 2017. The Scottish Government will in due course consider the efficacy of these new restrictions and reserves the right to propose a strengthening of the regulations where required.

The Scottish Government has an established social marketing programme, Eat Better, Feel Better, [290] through which it supports families to make healthier choices. Importantly, this is run in collaboration with a range of partners, including retailers and community groups who work at a local level, in order to maximise reach and engagement.

Maternal and infant nutrition

The Scottish Government is committed to promoting, supporting and maintaining breastfeeding throughout Scotland in the early days and beyond. Improving Maternal and Infant Nutrition: A Framework for Action [291] outlines the measures that should be taken by all organisations working with families to ensure that every parent is supported to give their baby the very best nutritional start in life. The Scottish Government provides funding of around £2.3 million per year to NHS health boards to implement the Framework’s Action Plan, which includes a range of breastfeeding support activities and interventions. Smaller funding grants and allocations of around £388,000 have been made to support the National Breastfeeding Helpline, some of the breastfeeding voluntary organisations, and to support the charity that picks up and delivers donor breast milk for premature and sick infants in neonatal units across Scotland.

The Scottish Government also funds UNICEF to deliver Baby Friendly Initiative ( BFI) accreditation assessments in maternity hospitals, in neonatal units, in community settings and universities that provide midwife and health visitor courses in Scotland. The BFI implementation is at an advanced stage and, this year, Scotland is celebrating the most progress in the UK in achieving the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly best practice standards.

The Scottish Government is carrying out the first Scotland-only Maternal and Infant Nutrition Survey. The information collected in this survey is not currently collected through universal data sources and will provide valuable insight into maternal nutrition, breastfeeding, infant feeding and wider health behaviours. The report is scheduled to be published in early 2018.

Nutrition in schools

The Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007 [292] makes health promotion a central purpose of schooling. A school is health promoting if it provides activities and an environment which promotes the physical, social, mental and emotional health and wellbeing of pupils in attendance at the school.

The 2007 Act is accompanied by the Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2008, [293] which set high nutritional standards that all food and drink served in schools must meet. The duties under the Act and Regulations are monitored by Education Scotland Health and Nutrition Inspectors.

Free school lunches are available to all pupils in primaries 1 to 3 at all publicly funded schools in Scotland. This policy helps save families an average of £380 per child per year, helps children develop healthy eating habits, and educates them about leading a healthy lifestyle. After primary 3, children are still entitled to free school meals where their parents (or guardians) are in receipt of specific qualifying benefits. [294] Older pupils who receive any of those benefits in their own right can also claim free school lunches.

Schools are required by statute to promote school lunches and in particular free school lunches, [295] and the Scottish Government expects all local authorities to undertake measures aimed at maximising the uptake of free school lunches among eligible people. One such example is Glasgow City Council, which will be introducing an automated registration system. The Scottish Government will be liaising with Glasgow City Council to monitor what impact this measure has.

These policies demonstrate the Scottish Government’s commitment to children accessing balanced and nutritious food and contribute to the realisation of children’s right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes nutritious food and knowledge of nutrition. Children and young people are also taught about health and wellbeing in schools, including food and health skills.

Scotland’s model of school food provision and food education is regularly used as an exemplar, including during a USA Senate hearing in 2014.

7.14 Housing [296]

Housing supply

The Scottish Government is determined to increase and accelerate housing supply across all tenures, and support the building industry and local authorities to deliver their housing priorities with quality homes in mixed communities that fit local needs.

Over the last parliamentary session, the Scottish Government exceeded its target of delivering 30,000 affordable homes by more than 10%. A total of 33,490 affordable homes were delivered, including 22,523 for social rent, well above the target of 20,000. Over the current parliamentary session, the Scottish Government is investing over £3 billion to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes, 35,000 of which will be for social rent.

Most of these homes will be delivered by housing associations and councils, and will be sufficiently flexible to meet people’s varying needs. Since 2012-13, funding through the Scottish Government’s Affordable Housing Supply Programme ( AHSP) has been allocated to local authorities in the form of Resource Planning Assumptions, giving each council the flexibility to apply resources to its own strategic priorities. The number and type of affordable homes delivered within each local authority area is dependent upon the priorities of local authorities, as identified in their HNDAs, LHS and Strategic Housing Investment Plans.

In January 2016, the Scottish Government increased housing subsidies by up to £14,000 for social and affordable homes for rent being delivered by councils and Registered Social Landlords ( RSL). Flexibility also exists within the grant subsidy regime to accommodate the provision of more specialist housing where this is identified by local authorities as a priority.

During the current funding year (2017-18), over £590 million is available to increase the supply of affordable homes across Scotland, £18 million more than the previous year. For the first time, the Scottish Government has committed to year-on-year increases in funding for affordable homes, to be shared by local authorities over the next three years. As a result, more than £1.75 billion is being allocated to councils across Scotland.

The review of the planning system has highlighted a number of areas that could be improved to assist in the planning for new housing. The Scottish Government is working to find ways to provide greater certainty in the identification of housing requirements in plans, and is looking to streamline development plan preparation processes, which should assist in ensuring there is a plentiful and deliverable supply of land provided for new housing development.

The Scottish Government wants disabled people in Scotland to live life to the full in homes built or adapted to enable them to participate as full and equal citizens. It has placed requirements on local authorities to ensure their housing plans include a realistic target for wheelchair accessible housing to meet the needs of local communities.

The Scottish Government has been working with local authorities and their partners in five locations across the country to test fundamental changes to the delivery and funding arrangements for housing adaptations. An independent evaluation of this work was published in September 2017. [297] Work is now underway to consider the recommendations and to work with stakeholders to think about and agree next steps.

Additionally, the Scottish Ministers committed to working with key stakeholders to develop guidance for housing and care providers on timescales for installing adaptations. This work is being taken forward as part of an overall approach to improve how adaptations are provided in Scotland.

Additionally, the Scottish Ministers have committed to working with key stakeholders to develop guidance for housing and care providers on timescales for installing adaptations. This work will start in 2017-18.

Scotland’s National Dementia Strategy 2017-2020 states that the Scottish Government will work with local and national stakeholders to develop the next phase of the housing strategy for older people, Age, Home and Community: a strategy for housing for Scotland’s older people 2012-21, [298] and consider the potential of testing models of specialised dementia housing.

In Scotland, social landlords (local authorities and housing associations) are responsible for the allocation and management of social housing. Social housing allocations are based on an objective and non-discriminatory assessment of need. The Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 [299] sets out groups of people who must be given reasonable preference (priority) for housing. This includes people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness and people living in unsatisfactory housing conditions.

Home ownership

Since 2007, Scottish Government shared equity schemes have supported over 23,000 households to buy a home.

The Scottish Government Low Cost Initiative for First Time Buyers ( LIFT) is made up of the Open Market Shared Equity ( OMSE) [300] and New Supply Shared Equity ( NSSE) [301] schemes.

OMSE aims to help first time buyers on low to moderate incomes to buy homes that are for sale on the open market. Eligible applicants must contribute between 60 and 90 per cent of the purchase price through mortgage and deposit.

NSSE aims to help people on low to moderate incomes to purchase new build homes. Eligible applicants must contribute between 60 and 80 per cent of the purchase price through mortgage and deposit.

Priority access to the LIFT schemes is given to social renters, disabled people, serving members of the armed forces, armed forces veterans, and widows, widowers and other partners of service personnel.

The Help to Buy (Scotland) Affordable New Build [302] scheme aims to help first time buyers and existing home owners to purchase a new build home from participating builders. Eligible applicants must contribute at least 85% of the purchase price through mortgage and deposit.

Housing standards

The ‘Tolerable Standard’ is a statutory minimum standard for housing in Scotland and any housing which falls below it is unfit for human habitation. Scottish local authorities are required to prepare local housing strategies which include ensuring compliance with their duty to close, demolish or improve houses that do not meet the tolerable standard. Local authorities have a range of enforcement powers to require owners of property to carry out work on substandard housing and, if necessary, to do the work themselves and recover costs from the owners. Local authorities also have discretionary powers to provide financial and practical assistance to owners.

There are additional standards which apply to private rented housing, social rented housing and houses in multiple occupation. In 2014, the Scottish Government set up the Common Housing Quality Standard Forum ( CHQSF) [303] to look at housing standards across all tenures and to make recommendations for improving and harmonising standards. Proposals in the Forum’s report take account of the SHRC recommendation that the tolerable standard should be reviewed to ensure that it complies with the standard of habitability as set out by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its General Comment no. 4 on the right to adequate housing (Article 11 ICESCR). [304]

A public consultation was carried out from April to June 2017 on changes to the minimum standard in private rented housing. The results of this consultation are currently being analysed by consultants. The Scottish Government intends to carry out a further consultation on fire and smoke alarms across tenures in September to December 2017; a further consultation on condition standards in owner occupied housing in 2018; and to review standards in social rented housing following the current review of the Energy Efficiency Standard in Social Housing, which is due to finish in Summer 2018. The Scottish Government will consider the results of these consultations and reviews with a view to changes to legislation and guidance to improve housing standards.

Private rented sector

The Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 [305] will introduce a new modernised, open-ended tenancy for all future private rented sector ( PRS) lets in Scotland. Expected to commence in December 2017, the new private residential tenancy will enhance the rights and protections for tenants by providing additional security, stability, and predictability.

A robust framework for the regulation of letting agents will be introduced in early 2018, and this will help to improve standards within the PRS through a mandatory register of letting agents and a statutory Code of Practice. The framework will give consumers and Ministers the ability to challenge poor practice by agents and make it easier for landlords and tenants to assert their rights.

Tenancy deposit schemes were introduced in 2012 to deal with the problem of landlords and letting agents who unfairly withhold deposits from tenants. Tenants can access a free adjudication service where there is a dispute with the landlord over the return of the deposit and can apply to the court for sanctions against irresponsible landlords who fail to safeguard deposits. Financial penalties of up to three times the amount of the deposit may be ordered by the sheriff if there is evidence of non-compliance.

Local authorities are responsible for the administration and enforcement of landlord registration. The Scottish Government recently published revised statutory landlord registration guidance, [306] which places a greater emphasis on effective enforcement, promotes good practice and encourages information sharing in order to raise standards across the sector.

In December 2015, local authorities gained new powers of property inspection and the ability to make an application to the First-tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber to enforce the repairing standard on behalf of vulnerable tenants. From 1 December 2017, the Chamber will assume jurisdiction from the sheriff courts for civil cases relating to the PRS (criminal cases will remain with the sheriff courts). It will also hear cases related to new private residential tenancies and the new letting agents regime. In addition, an Enhanced Enforcement Areas Scheme ( EEAS) has been introduced, which enables councils to apply for additional discretionary powers so they can target specific areas with particularly poor conditions for tenants. To date, two EEASs are in operation, both based in Govanhill in South West Glasgow.

7.15 Homelessness [307]

Since 2012, all those assessed by local authorities as being homeless through no fault of their own have been entitled to settled accommodation. Anyone threatened with or experiencing homelessness is legally entitled to a minimum of temporary accommodation, advice and assistance from their local authority. The Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 progressively introduced a fully justiciable right to housing. According to the UN factsheet on ICESCR this Scottish law has become a model for other States since 2003. [308]

The Scottish Government has focused on the holistic and person-centred ‘Housing Options’ approach to homelessness prevention, which features early intervention and explores all possible tenure options going beyond just the housing needs of an individual. The focus on housing options has included funding and supporting five regional local authority led Housing Options Hubs across Scotland, including all 32 local authorities, to share and develop practice in homelessness prevention.

The Scottish Government has announced its commitment to eradicate rough sleeping, recognising that it requires more than just the provision of housing and that every individual will have their own unique needs and challenges. A Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group will be established to lead change in this area and develop responses on the actions, services and legislative changes required to end rough sleeping and transform the use of temporary accommodation.

The Scottish Government is creating an Ending Homelessness Together Fund of £50 million over a five year period to support homelessness prevention initiatives and pilot solutions to drive faster change. This will involve engaging with people with lived experience of homelessness to understand their needs and what works.

Time spent in temporary accommodation should be as short as possible while consideration is given to the most appropriate housing option and appropriate settled accommodation is found. The Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2014 [309] outlines standards of accommodation which would be unsuitable for households with children and pregnant women unless there are exceptional circumstances. Where these conditions apply, households should only reside there for a limited period, which the Scottish Government has reduced to seven days. [310] Even if unsuitable accommodation is used, the ‘safety standard’ must always be met.


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