First Focus of Scrutiny

The NACWG have just concluded their First Focus of Scrutiny.

Nine recommendations (full details below) were scrutinised which all had a focus on the internal structures and processes within Scottish Government.

These recommendations were selected for this first focus because of their potential to create the necessary foundations for change that will improve the lives of women and girls for generations to come.

The NACWG engaged with Scottish Government officials responsible for implementing these nine recommendations over the course of five months, gathering evidence and information on implementation activity.

An Accountability Event was then held on 11 January 2023 in which officials and senior leaders within Scottish Government met to discuss the progress of the implementation of these recommendations. You can see the meeting note from that event here.

Key points from NACWG’s First Focus of Scrutiny:

The NACWG reviewed nine recommendations and their implementation.

The purpose of this accountability work is to ensure that recommendations are being implemented in a way that makes a tangible difference to the way policy and strategy is developed, so that they create better outcomes for women and girls in Scotland.

Below are some key points which NACWG have shared with the First Minister and are supporting progress on:

  • There is clear enthusiasm and interest from officials to embed gender equality and an intersectional analysis competently in Scottish Government policy-making. However, prioritisation of resources including staffing, time, and funding is needed to make this happen.
  • A programme needs to be developed to enable civil servants from across directorates to build knowledge and skills on gender mainstreaming and intersectional analysis.
  • Improved, accessible accountability mechanisms are needed for both internal and external scrutiny of the extent to which Scottish Government is delivering on its ambitions and commitments.
  • Whilst there are pockets of good practice on the inclusion of lived experience expertise in policy and service development, there is not a coherent approach across Scottish Government. This should be developed to ensure lived experience input is ethical, meaningful and genuinely power-redistributive.

This first focus of scrutiny culminated with a debrief session with senior leaders and NACWG Co-Chairs to discuss the actions that were agreed at the Accountability Event.

A meeting was then held with the First Minister in which the NACWG shared their observations and findings from the First Focus of Scrutiny. An Interim Report was submitted to the First Minister, providing specific feedback on recommendation implementation progress.

Next Steps

The second focus of the first year of Phase Two activity will be thematic, and will focus on the gendered dimensions of the cost-of-living crisis. It is important to the NACWG that the accountability and scrutiny work is wider than Council members. Therefore, a panel of marginalised women with lived expertise of poverty and inequality will be convened to play a key role. Once established, the panel will help to shape the elements that we will focus on, and will contribute to the NACWG’s wider accountability work.

Throughout Phase Two the NACWG are looking to the Circle to take inspiration from the recommendations delivered in Phase One and asking members to make change within their own organisations, communities, and networks. The Circle is made up of individuals and representatives of organisations and in Phase One this was the main channel of participation. The NACWG will showcase action taken by Circle members and an event will be hosted later in 2023 to celebrate achievements and share learning.

A final report of all activity over the first year of Phase Two will be published in Autumn 2023.

Nine recommendations in the First Focus of Scrutiny

1. Embed gender sensitive approaches in all work relating to programmes developed through the new Scottish Government ‘Scottish Approach to Service Design’ model.

2. As well as establishing and delivering a successful operating working model, 2018 has also been significant for the NACWG with our proposal for inclusion in the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government (PfG) 2019 being accepted, with a commitment that the Scottish Government would put in place a robust system to ensure that the next and PfGs going forward are gender sensitive. Put simply, this means that gender will be considered in the conception of policy, prior to the Equality Impact Assessment considerations as policy is developed.

3. To integrate an intersectional gendered approach into policy making the Scottish Government needs to substantially scale up its mainstreaming work. To provide the necessary levers to lead the change required, we recommend that the current Equality Unit should be scaled up to a standalone Directorate. To support and embed this wider focus on mainstreaming we would also like to see the establishment of a parallel programme on mainstreaming gender equality that will have “Centres of Expertise” created in all Scottish Government Directorates, on intersectional gender competence, responsible for leading and ensuring minimum levels of knowledge and analytical capability on gender in their Directorates, and therefore across all civil servants, in what can sometimes be a transient workforce. The intended outcome of these three key aspects will be the advancement of equality and reduction of discrimination for all women and girls in all areas across the government (including transport, justice, environment, employment, health or education policy, etc.).

4. We recommend the creation of a senior officials and leaders group with the express purpose of ensuring intersectional gender competent policy coherence across Scottish Government’s policy development and have a role in ensuring the consistent application of EQIAs across policy-making by also acting as a review panel, should the competence of an EQIA be questioned. Our preference would be for this group to include external members. This will ensure that policy development does not inadvertently undermine equality between women and men, or boys and girls, while pursuing other positive outcomes. This group will look to any learnings and follow a similar model to the recently established Scottish Government Directors’ Child Poverty Group.

5. We recommend the creation of “Policy-makers National Standards” to support quality standards and accountability on intersectional gender competence in policy-making, with a requirement that all policy and analytical staff will adhere to it. The National Standards will include a level of knowledge and skill that will enable officials to carry out intersectional gender analysis as part of policy development. Gender competence should be integrated into the performance management framework of civil servants, and annual reviews should discuss how individuals have taken a gendered approach to their work. There will be an expectation that staff will then have continuing professional development in this area to enable them to continually design policy (regardless of the policy portfolio being worked on) which improves the lives of women and girls; in particular those women and girls furthest away from access to opportunity and influence.

6. People powered policy-making: We recommend adequate resourcing to enable the collection and analysis of robust intersectional data.

7. Scrutiny of gender competent policy-making: a) We recognise the importance of the Scottish Parliament and its committees in scrutinising law and policy-making. We recommend Scottish Ministers deliver an Annual Statement, followed by a debate, on Gender Policy Coherence to the Scottish Parliament. This annual report would cover the work that Scottish Government is undertaking to:

  • Deliver its change programme on intersectional gender mainstreaming;
  • Demonstrate how work on gender equality is being aligned with the budget process for Scotland;
  • Incorporate appropriate engagement with different groups of women and girls into key pieces of policy-making;
  • Develop/implement “The Policy-makers National Standards” and the activity of the senior leaders’ group on gender policy mainstreaming and coherence; and
  • Develop gender equality efforts in the business community, including but not restricted to, an update on the impact and progress of the Business Pledge, improvements to tackle the gender pay gap and what engagement is taking place with business/industry representative bodies to embed gender equality in a more strategic and coherent way.

8. We call on the Scottish Government as part of the current review of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) regulations in Scotland to place additional specific duties on listed Public Bodies to:

  • Gather and use intersectional data, including employment and service user data, to advance equality between protected groups, including men and women;
  • Integrate intersectional gender budget analysis into their budget setting

We believe this recommendation would support the creation of a systemic intersectional gender architecture by enhancing the gender mainstreaming impact of the PSED with all public bodies in Scotland. We also call on COSLA to consider its role in relation to this recommendation and how it might constructively facilitate deeper engagement across all spheres of government and local policymaking relating to the scrutiny of ensuring that the rights of all women and girls  in Scotland are realised. Local implementation and the necessary conditions are vital  to deliver increased equality for diverse women, e.g. disabled women and those in social care.

9.We call on the Scottish Government to integrate intersectional gender budget analysis into the Scottish Budget process, and to give this a statutory footing.