Scottish Executive Consultation Paper
Towards an Equality Strategy
UNISON Scotland Response
UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to comment on the consultation
paper 'Towards an Equality Strategy'.
This consultation paper is an important first step towards developing
an action plan for tackling inequalities in Scotland and we also look
forward to working with the Scottish Executive in formulating and
implementing such an action plan in the future.
In the foreword by the Deputy Minister for Communities a reference
is made to seeking a "more tolerant" society and whilst
no-one would wish to see a less tolerant society this glosses over
a serious issue. Speaking of tolerance suggests that people are not
all equal and that some people are better than others. Tolerance is
also something that can be withdrawn. We tolerate noise and we tolerate
unruly children but we should not simply seek tolerance for minorities.
We should be looking for a more equal and understanding society that
respects all citizens and this should be made clear from the outset
in any revised introduction.
UNISON Scotland's Response to Specific Questions
Q1 UNISON Scotland believes that the commitment needs
to start with the Scottish Executive itself and be at the heart
of its entire work. We welcome the setting up of an Equality Unit
but this must be properly staffed and resourced if it is to put
mainstreaming of equalities into practice.
It can also be achieved by continuing the open dialogue that
has already developed between the Scottish Executive and Scottish
Parliament Equal Opportunities Committee and representatives of
Bullet point 4 - We believe the Scottish Executive should
also take action to redress the under-representation of lesbians
and gay men in the senior civil service.
Q2 UNISON Scotland believes that the key partners who
should be involved in contributing to the Equality Strategy are
trade unions, communities of interest, local communities and disadvantaged
communities. Other groups such as the CRE, EOC, and SCVO should
also be included.
Another key group of partners in developing the strategy are
the range of bodies that constitute Scotland's public services
(local authorities, NHS, further and higher education institutions,
quangos, police, fire and ambulance services, etc). Implementing
such a strategy will not work if the commitment of these bodies
is not forthcoming. As the principal funder of Scotland's public
services the Scottish Executive is in a powerful position to ensure
equalities is put higher up their agenda.
Q3 Partnership working is only ever effective if the process
is transparent and if the key partners are truly representative
of those who they claim to represent and if those who they are
representing directly inform their views. Often, the views of
those being represented are ignored. Perhaps the Scottish Executive
should be looking at a more localised structure, which allows
grassroots discussion and local participation. The results of
these discussions could then be considered by Executive. There
also needs to be adequate publicity by these key partners to ensure
that as many of those that they represent are able to lend their
voice to the issues being raised.
Q4 Before we can widen representation on public appointments
the Scottish Executive needs to look at the reasons for under
representation of frequently excluded groups. These people are
already underrepresented in the groups from which these appointments
are often made, such as business people.
UNISON Scotland believes that positive action and a nurturing
culture would assist those groups currently under represented
Positive action could include using the principles of proportionality
and fair representation. In terms of gender we believe that women
and men should be equally represented on public bodies. In terms
of black people, disabled people and lesbian and gay people we
believe there are powerful arguments for these groups to have
reserved seats in certain public bodies to ensure their voice
is heard. This is not an ideal solution but it would be progress
on what we have at the moment and would be a step towards ensuring
more representative public bodies.
We believe that better monitoring of both successful and unsuccessful
applicants is essential.
Appointment panels themselves must also be representative of
the wider community for this process to be effective.
The venues where publicly appointed committees meet should be
held in accessible venues. The social model of disability should
be adopted. Times of meeting should be varied to encourage maximum
participation and child care/carers expenses should be available
prior to meetings taking place. Adverts for Public Appointment
should be advertised as widely as possible in various community
languages as well as being made available in alternative formats.
Community of interest papers and magazines should also be used
for example Scots Gay. Making use of current structures may also
encourage wider representation i.e. The Women's Consultative Forum
that was established by the Scottish Office.
There also needs to be briefing awareness sessions to help these
groups to understand and therefore be empowered to pursue public
The criteria for public appointment will need to be re-appraised
to enable wider representation.
Q4 Bullet point 1 - We welcome the development a training
and development strategy across the Scottish Executive and with
public bodies more widely and hope that this will be properly
resourced and prioritised. We believe that this is key to tackling
Bullet point 4 - The list of groups and commissions should
be widened to include trade unions and groups such as Outright
Scotland, Equality Network, Stonewall, Engender, Rape Crisis Centres,
Zero Tolerance, Women's Aid, One Parent Families Scotland and
Age Concern. Widening the consultees would ensure that all equality
issues would be covered and would include groups who are discriminated
against who have no legislation to protect them.
Q5 The Scottish Executive could hold discussion meeting
relating to specific topics. This could prevent any misinformation
from occurring and may help to defuse any potential difficulties
that may arise during the consultation process.
The Executive should not be afraid to speak out against extremist
views and should do more to promote the stance they take on specific
Q6 No. There should be an initial Equality Audit to determine
which information is collected by (a) Scottish Executive (b) Local
Authorities and (c) other public bodies (especially Health Boards
and NHS Trusts).
The Executive also needs to identify where they are gaps. Data
must be adequate enough to inform access to service, service provision
and employment (incl. recruitment, selection, and retention and
Q7 We note that the Scottish Executive is preparing an
annual report on equalities and we would urge the Scottish Executive
to require public bodies to prepare similar annual reports which
would contain standardised data and information on equal opportunities.
Although there must be vast amounts of information on equal opportunities
collected such information does not seem to be readily available
or widely published. It may be useful to consider ways to collate
all equality monitoring information and develop methods to ensure
it is effectively distributed.
There are issues of confidentiality around collecting statistical
data on lesbians and gay men in employment and we are not in favour
of seeking to collect such data from the workforce but there are
other ways of measuring, monitoring and target setting.
Q8 The Scottish Executive should lead by example by ensuring
that all positions within the Executive and Parliament, including
staff, are reflective of society as a whole. The Executive should
promote at all times the importance in the participation of under
represented groups. The Executive should consider developing legislation
to ensure that Local Authorities and other publicly funded organisations
have an obligation to train all their staff on the widest range
of equality issues. The Executive also needs to ensure that all
public bodies are held accountable for their policies in equal
Q9 We would cite three examples of best practice:
- Firstly, we believe that UNISON has a successful and robust
structure for dealing with equality issues, though we recognise
that it may not be a suitable model for other organisations to
follow. The attached booklets detail our approach to proportionality,
self-organisation and fair representation.
- Secondly, we would urge the Scottish Executive to learn from
the experience in Northern Ireland in terms of work relating to
policy appraisal and fair treatment arising from the Good Friday
Agreement. This includes imposing a positive duty on public services
to promote equality as opposed to the negative duty to not discriminate.
- Thirdly, we would draw the Scottish Executive's attention to
the publication `Auditing for Equality' produced by the Commission
for Racial Equality with assistance from Hammersmith and Fulham
Council and edited by Stella Dadzie. This audited councils' performance
against CRE standards for local government.
Q10 UNISON Self Organised Groups (Lesbian and Gay members,
Black members, Disabled members and Women members) at Scottish
and UK level, the STUC networks (women, black workers, LGBT, disabled
workers), Equality Network, Stonewall, Rape Crisis Centres, One
Parent Families Scotland, Women's Aid, Engender, Scottish Lesbian
Mothers Network, Glasgow Anti-Racist Alliance, Black and Ethnic
Minority Voluntary Sector Network, West of Scotland Community
Relations Council, Multi-Agency Racial Incident Monitoring group
etc. These are only some of the many national and local networks
UNISON members are involved with at a Scottish and local level.
Q11 Not always. We continue to find that many organisations
continue to be dominated by men. The Executive must recognise
that even groups with the best intentions cannot always represent
the values and view points of whole sections of society. Therefore
it is crucial that as wide a range of individuals and organisations
are consulted to enable as many viewpoints as possible to be considered.
We believe that the networks' ability to consult widely with
those who they represent can often be limited due to limited resources.
Q12 We believe that the executive could improve its consultation
methods by ensuring consultation is at a local level and not just
at a Scottish level, ensuring that organisations have sufficient
time to respond to consultations and by taking steps to increase
the awareness that consultation are taking place. It is also important
for the executive to ensure that consultation documents are made
available in alternative formats and in community languages.
Q13 In addition to the measures listed at Q8, the Executive
should develop consultation processes that encourage as wide a
diversity of views to be gathered as possible whilst ensuring
that particular value is given to the views of the people who
are being discriminated against. In addition, the Executive must
take the lead in educating the general public on equality and
We believe that it is vital for groups and individuals to be
consulted before policies are developed. Consultation fatigue
can emerge when communities are consulted once policies are decided.
The communities have a lot of skills; experience and understanding
and this should be utilised.
Q14 The Executive should continue to pursue a just and
fair society within Scotland for all its citizens. Although The
Executive have taken the first step to address the discrimination
of lesbian women and gay men by committing themselves to the repeal
of section 2a this in itself is not enough.
Gay men and lesbians continue to be discriminated against in
the law as parents, partners and employees. We would therefore
urge the Scottish Executive to reaffirm its commitment to eradicating
all discriminatory laws and practises towards lesbian women and
gay men and would ask that the Scottish Executive draft a consultative
document outlining what legislative action the Scottish Parliament
could take to ensure equality for lesbian women and gay men in
Among the other key issues needing to be addressed are
· Age discrimination
· Access for all including disabled people
· Violence against women
For further information please contact
- Matt Smith
- Scottish Secretary
- UNISON Scotland,
- UNISON House
- 14 West Campbell Street
- Glasgow G2 6R
- 0141 442 0006 (phone)
- 0141 331 1203 (fax)