The Equality and Human Rights Commission said that attempts by the Scottish Government to create new duties promoting social and economic equality in legislation had had little measurable impact.
These new socio-economic equality clauses were introduced between 2014 and 2016 into legislation about young people, education and community empowerment. Public bodies including councils, police and the NHS must consider the impact of their actions on disadvantaged people.
Dr Lesley Sawers, the EHRC Scotland Commissioner, said:
‘Whilst these new duties were positive in their intent, because of a lack of clarity about who was responsible for implementing them or how they might be scrutinised or enforced, they have had little impact. The lack of accountability is, I think, a critical factor. Because no one was actually checking on whether or not local authorities were doing what they were meant to do, and because there was no Parliamentary scrutiny or regulation, there really has been little incentive for local authorities to do better.
‘However, local authorities did tell us that they thought that the duties placed on them weren’t particularly helpful. All local authorities in Scotland have socio-economic objectives and these new duties didn’t really dovetail with their existing approaches. This, combined with a lack of guidance or assistance from government, meant that the duties were effectively wishful thinking.’
However, more recently, Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010 (the Socio-economic or ‘Fairer Scotland Duty’) has been introduced into Scotland. Scotland is the only part of Great Britain to have introduced the socio-economic duty.
Dr Sawers continued:
‘The big difference between these existing duties and the new Fairer Scotland Duty is that the latter has a clearer purpose, explicit guidance, and a regulatory framework which allows public bodies to be held to account.
‘Whilst it remains early days – the Fairer Scotland Duty only came into force in April 2018 – I believe that the new duty is far more likely to result in meaningful change.’
You can read the EHRC report here.
Image credit: Craig Chew-Moulding CC by 2.0, Flickr