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SP Paper 798

EO/S2/07/R5

5th Report, 2007 (Session 2)

Remit and Membership

Remit:

The remit of the Equal Opportunities Committee is to consider and report on matters relating to equal opportunities and upon the observance of equal opportunities within the Parliament.

(Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament, Rule 6.9)

Membership:

Cathy Peattie (Convener)
Marlyn Glen
Carolyn Leckie
Marilyn Livingstone
Mr Jamie McGrigor
Elaine Smith
Margaret Smith (Deputy Convener)
John Swinburne
Ms Sandra White

Committee Clerking Team:

Clerk to the Committee
Steve Farrell

Senior Assistant Clerk
Zoé Tough

Assistant Clerk
Roy McMahon

Support Manager
Sam Currie

Legacy Paper

The Committee reports to the Parliament as follows—

Introduction

1. The aim of this legacy paper is to identify issues that the Equal Opportunities Committee considers to be ongoing and to indicate new policy areas that the successor Equal Opportunities Committee may wish to consider as part of its future work programme.

2. However, the Committee wishes to emphasise that this paper is not intended to bind a successor Equal Opportunities Committee to undertaking any particular piece of work.

Activity in the second session

3. The Equal Opportunities Committee is one of eight mandatory committees of the Scottish Parliament.  Its remit is—

“to consider and report on matters relating to equal opportunities and upon the observance of equal opportunities within the Parliament.”

4. The Committee has carried out its remit in the second session of the Parliament by using many methods of working whilst aiming to purposefully engage with organisations and individuals who have the greatest interest in the issues under consideration.  The Committee’s work has included—

  • Inquiries;
  • Scrutinising primary legislation;
  • Consideration of subordination legislation;
  • Consideration of petitions;
  • Scrutinising the work of the Scottish Executive;
  • Scrutinising the work of the Scottish Parliament; and
  • Committee Reporters.

Looking forward to the third session

5. The following is a list of issues, both new and continuing, that the Committee wishes the successor Equal Opportunities Committee to consider including in its forward work programme.

Age Taking Stock
6. In conjunction with the Committee’s Age Reporter, the Committee conducted a taking stock exercise on age early in 2006.  The Committee asked people of all ages where they felt they faced discrimination because of their age.  In total, the Committee received 38 written responses and 1 DVD response.

7. The issues people raised included the negative attitudes of other people, a lack of employment opportunities and disparities in service provision.  The Committee published a summary of the responses and agreed to use the issues raised in the responses to inform any future work on age.  The successor Committee is invited to continue using the responses in any future work that it carries out on age.

Ageing Population Strategy
8. The Scottish Executive published All Our Futures: Planning for a Scotland with an ageing population, in March 2007.  The Committee heard evidence from the Minister for Communities on the strategy and the successor Committee is invited to consider how it will monitor the implementation of the strategy.

Census 2011
9. The next census will be in 2011.  In October 2005, the Committee held an evidence session with the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) to hear an update on preparations for the 2011 Census.  The Committee took particular interest in how the GROS is working with hard-to-reach groups to increase participation in the census and in the development of questions with an equalities impact.  The successor Committee is invited to continue scrutinising the equalities aspects of Census 2011.

Commission for Racial Equality’s (CRE) Review into Policing and Race Relations
10. In July 2005, the CRE published An Independent Review into Policing and Race Relations in Scotland.  The CRE generally welcomed the review which it said provided an “encouraging picture” of policing and race relations in Scotland.  In November 2005, the Committee heard evidence from the CRE on the review.  The successor Committee is invited to continue scrutinising the police’s work in this area and also to consider extending such work to cover the police’s work in all equalities areas.

Disability Inquiry - Removing Barriers and Creating Opportunities
11. The Disability Inquiry was the major piece of work carried out by the Committee this session.  Its remit was to consider the barriers that disabled people faced accessing work, further and higher education and leisure.  From February to July 2005, the Committee hosted eight consultation events across Scotland from Ayr to Kirkwall hearing directly from disabled people on the barriers they faced accessing services.

12. The Committee heard evidence over 17 meetings from service providers, local authorities, government agencies and the Scottish Executive on how they could improve their service provision.  The Committee published Removing Barriers and Creating Opportunities in November 2006 which made 156 recommendations for change to remove the barriers faced by disabled people.

13. In February 2007, the Scottish Executive published its response to the report and in March 2007 the Committee heard evidence from the Minister for Communities on how the Scottish Executive is implementing the recommendations it is responsible for.

14. The successor Committee is strongly recommended to continue monitoring the implementing of the report’s recommendations and a suggested approach is to invite evidence from the individual organisations named in the report on how they are taking the recommendations forward.  In addition, the successor Committee could also invite evidence from appropriate portfolio Ministers on the Scottish Executive’s implementation of the recommendations.

Discrimination Law Review
15. The Discrimination Law Review is being undertaken by the Department for Communities and Local Government.  The aim of the review is to develop a simpler, fairer legal framework on anti-discrimination.  Currently, each equality strand is regulated by separate legislation and the aim of the review is to bring all anti-discrimination legislation together into a Single Equality Bill.

16. The Green Paper on the Single Equality Bill is expected to be published in spring 2007 and the successor Committee is invited to consider how it will participate and engage with key stakeholder organisations in order to feed back any concerns or issues to the UK Government on the proposed legislation.

Equalities in Scotland: A Review of Progress
17. In February 2007, the Committee hosted a participation event in the Chamber of the Scottish Parliament.  The purpose of the event was to consider the progress achieved against the equalities agenda since 1999, identify areas where there had been insufficient progress and develop a list of priorities for the Scottish Parliament in the next session.  The event was attended by representatives from 72 equalities organisations in Scotland.

18. The event identified the following priorities for the successor Equal Opportunities Committee in the third session of the Parliament—

  • Raising awareness and changing attitudes including education, media, positive representation and training;
  • Taking forward strand-specific issues including particular inequalities, rural issues and issues for more marginalised groups;
  • Continuing to develop and build a strategic approach to equalities;
  • Developing a rights-based approach to equality;
  • Ensuring funding;
  • Developing impact assessments, data and research to allow monitoring and scrutiny;
  • Continuing to develop the mainstreaming agenda; and
  • Providing leadership and commitment to the equalities agenda.

19. The Committee strongly recommends that the successor Committee considers how it will take these issues forward as part of its future work programme.

European Year of Equal Opportunities for All (EYEOA) 2007
20. The EYEOA 2007 was launched in Berlin in January 2007.  The aims of the Year are to—

  • make people more aware of their rights to enjoy equal treatment and a life free of discrimination – irrespective of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation;
  • promote equal opportunities for all; and
  • launch a major debate on the benefits of diversity both for European societies and individuals.

21. The launch of the Year in Berlin was attended by the Convener of the Committee.  In March 2007, the Executive launched the Year in Scotland outlining the actions it will take as part of the Year.  Planned activities include a large scale event in the summer and a closing event at the end of the Year.  The Executive will also be encouraging local community events to be held as part of the Year.

22. The successor Committee is invited to consider how it will enagage in events for the remainder of the Year and identify opportunities for participation and further work under the key themes identified by the Year.

Gypsy/Travellers – Review of Progress
23. In September 2003, the Committee agreed to review the Scottish Executive’s progress in implementing the recommendations of the Committee’s 2001 Report Inquiry into Gypsy Travellers and Public Sector Policies.  Between April and June 2005, the Committee heard evidence from Gypsy/Travellers, service providers and the Scottish Executive on how the report’s recommendations had been taken forward.

24. During an evidence session with the Committee in June 2005, the Deputy Minister for Communities announced the establishment of short-life strategic group on Gypsy/Travellers.  The Committee agreed to await the outcomes of this group before producing a final report and recommendations and published its Preliminary Findings on Gypsy/Travellers - Review of Progress in October 2005.  This report gave an indication of the Committee’s view of progress to date and was also aimed at informing the work of the Scottish Executive’s short-life strategic group on Gypsy/Travellers.

25. In February 2007, the Committee received a letter from the Minister for Communities explaining the Minister’s decision to postpone publication of the National Strategy and Action Plan on Race Equality, which will incorporate the findings of the strategic group on Gypsy/Travellers, until the next parliamentary session.  Due to this delay in publication, the Committee was unable to complete a final report on its review of progress before dissolution.  The Committee wrote to the Minister to express its concern and disappointment at the delay in publication of the National Strategy and its likely impact on Scotland’s Gypsy/Travellers.

26. The Committee strongly recommends that the successor Committee completes the review of progress on Gypsy/Travellers once the Scottish Executive publishes its National Strategy and Action Plan on Race Equality.

Hearts and Minds
27. The Scottish Executive is currently providing support to the LGBT Hearts and Minds Group which aims to produce an action plan for tackling prejudice and discrimination.  The Group has five working groups—

  • Education and family;
  • Media and leadership;
  • Citizenship and society;
  • Workplace; and
  • Religion and belief.

28. The Group hopes to report in Autumn 2007 and the successor Committee is invited to consider hearing evidence from the Group on its report once it has been published.

Impact of Pornography
29. This session, the Committee considered PE752 calling on the Scottish Parliament to make pornography an incitement to sexual hatred.  In September 2006, the Committee agreed to take no further action in respect of the petition and invited the petitioner to contribute to the National Group to Address Violence Against Women’s consultation on a draft strategic framework on violence against women.  The draft framework states that pornography is violence against women.  The consultation on the draft framework concluded in December 2006.

30. In February 2007, the Committee held a round-table discussion on the impact of pornography.  The Committee heard from academics and experts about the potential work required in Scotland to reduce the impact of pornography on Scottish society.

31. The successor Committee is invited to consider whether it wishes to continue work in relation to the impact of pornography.

Language Strategy
32. In January 2007, the Scottish Executive published A Strategy for Scotland’s Languages for consultation.  The draft strategy sets out to develop language provision in Scotland, including British Sign Language, Scots and other minority/community languages.  The consultation concluded in March 2007 and the successor Committee is invited to consider whether it wishes to monitor the equalities implications of the implementation of the final strategy.

Mainstreaming Equalities in the work of Scottish Parliamentary Committees
33. Early in the second session of the Parliament, the Committee endorsed the recommendations made by its successor Committee on mainstreaming equality in the work of committees in the Parliament.  The Committee continued to work to mainstream equalities throughout the second session of the Parliament and gained agreement from the Convener’s Group that committees should, by way of a report to the Equal Opportunities Committee, report to Parliament reviewing the equalities work undertaken by each committee each session.

34. The successor Committee is invited to continue work on mainstreaming equalities in the work of committees of the Parliament.

National Strategy and Action Plan on Race Equality
35. In December 2005, the Committee heard evidence from the Minister for Communities on the continuing race equality work being undertaken by the Scottish Executive.  The Minister outlined that four strategic working groups had been established to inform the forthcoming race equality strategy and action plan—

  • Gypsies/Travellers;
  • Asylum Seekers and Refugees;
  • Race equality in rural areas; and
  • Participation in the labour market, including issues around in-migration and migrant labour.

36. In February 2007, the Committee considered correspondence from the Minister for Communities outlining that the race equality strategy and action plan will be published later in 2007 and the successor Committee is invited to consider whether it wishes to invite the Minister to give evidence on the development and implementation of the final strategy once it is published.

Public Sector Duties
37. In the next session of the Parliament, the Scottish Ministers will report on the work arising and the Scottish Executive’s performance on the implementation of the public sector duties on race, disability and gender.  The successor Committee is invited to consider taking evidence on these reports and the Scottish Executive’s performance in meeting its targets from stakeholder organisations and the Scottish Ministers.

Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005
38. The Committee was designated as lead committee in consideration of this Bill the aim of which was to re-enact the provisions of the Female Circumcision Act 1985 and give those provisions extra-territorial effect.  In addition, the Bill also increased the maximum penalty under it from 5 to 14 years imprisonment.

39. Since the Act came into force, the Committee has corresponded with the Scottish Executive about the measures it is putting in place to support capacity for education, training and guidance across the voluntary sector and health, education, police and social work professionals to enable the effective implementation of the Act.  The successor Committee is invited to consider how it wishes to continue monitoring the implementation of this Act.

40. During this session, the Committee took a keen interest in a number of pieces of legislation, including the Prostitution (Public Places) (Scotland) Bill, and would welcome further opportunities to consider primary legislation as lead committee in appropriate circumstances.

Scrutiny of Scottish Executive Budget
41. The Committee has played an important role in scrutinising the Scottish Executive’s budget documentation for effective equalities reporting.  Working with finance experts and the key equality stakeholder organisations, the Committee has pushed for more comparable and effective reporting of policy spend with equalities implications.  The Committee has agreed to step back its equalities scrutiny of the budget to concentrate on scrutinising the overall presentation and content of the budget documentation for equalities impact in spending review years.

42. The Committee strongly recommends that the successor Committee continue work on the presentation and content of the budget documentation in terms of equalities issues.

Widening Access to Council Membership Progress Group
43. In 2004, the Committee took evidence on the Widening Access to Council Membership Progress Group’s Report Renewing Local Democracy.  The Committee agreed to monitor whether the Scottish Ministers reconvened the Group in 2006 to see progress made and whether the Local Government and Transport Committee took evidence from political parties on widening access.

44. In September 2006, the Committee wrote to the Scottish Executive and the Local Government and Transport Committee to see if any of these points had been actioned.  Both responses were that action had yet to be taken, therefore, the successor Committee is invited to consider whether it wishes to continue to monitor this work.

Additional issues

Relationship with equalities organisations
45. The Committee has established a very constructive and effective working relationship with the key equalities organisations in Scotland.  The Committee has considered this relationship vital in securing support for and progressing equalities issues in Scotland over the last four years.  The Committee urges its successor Committee to meet the key equalities organisations early in the next session in order to continue this very productive relationship.

Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR)
46. The CEHR will be established in October 2007.  In March 2007, the Committee considered correspondence from the Equalities Co-ordinating Group which raised concerns about the potential management structure of the CEHR in Scotland and the Committee agreed to raise those concerns with the CEHR and the Minister for Communities.  The Committee also met with the Chair of the CEHR to discuss how the CEHR will function in Scotland.

47. The Committee hopes that the successor Committee will establish an equally constructive relationship with the CEHR as it has enjoyed with the existing commissions.  As well as working with the CEHR, the successor Committee could have a more formal role in scrutinising the work of the CEHR through its annual report on the performance of its functions.  This report will include the Commission’s activities in Scotland and a copy of the report will be sent to the Scottish Parliament.  The successor Committee is invited to consider how it can achieve early engagement with the new CEHR.

Reporter system
48. The Committee operates a reporter system where individual MSPs act as a key link between the Committee and the equalities sector, feeding back relevant issues for the Committee’s consideration.  At the end of the second session, the Committee Reporters were—

  • Age – Ms Sandra White MSP
  • Disability - Marilyn Livingstone MSP
  • Gender - Elaine Smith MSP
  • Race - Marlyn Glen MSP
  • Religion/belief - Mr Jamie McGrigor MSP
  • Sexual Orientation - Margaret Smith MSP

49. Activities undertaken by reporters this session included attending meetings with stakeholder organisations and specific meetings in relation to work being carried out by the Committee, for example, the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005 and the disability inquiry.

50. The successor Committee is invited to consider the utility of the reporter system and whether, and in what form, it wishes to continue with the equality strand based reporter system in light of the establishment of the CEHR.

Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB)
51. The Committee takes an active role in scrutinising the work of the SPCB.  The SPCB is responsible for ensuring that the Parliament is provided with the property, staff and services it requires.  The SPCB publishes an annual equalities report, equal opportunities audits, and equal pay audits.  The SPCB has also published a race equality scheme and a disability equality scheme.

52. The Committee invites the successor Committee to continue to take an active interest in the work of the SPCB.

Welsh Assembly Equality of Opportunity Committee
53. In October 2006, the Committee held an informal meeting with its colleagues on the Welsh Assembly Equality of Opportunity Committee, the Scottish Equalities Co-ordinating Group and the Welsh Equality Reference Group.  Issues discussed included the forthcoming CEHR and how both committees work to mainstream equalities into their work.

54.  It was agreed that such meetings should take place on a regular basis with the Northern Ireland Assembly being invited to participate.  The successor Committee is invited to consider how it will continue its dialogue with the other devolved administrations.

Acknowledgements

55. Finally, the Committee would like to place on the record its thanks to all those individuals and organisations who have participated in, and engaged with, the work of the Committee over the last four years.