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Is Scotland Fairer?

The state of equality and human rights 2018

‘Is Scotland Fairer? 2018’ is the Scottish supplement to our state-of-the-nation report on equality and human rights covering England, Scotland and Wales, ‘Is Britain Fairer? 2018’.

This review sets out the direction of travel on equality and human rights issues made since our last review in 2015. It covers progress and regress in education, work, living standards, health, justice and personal security and participation. It is the most comprehensive round-up of how Scotland is performing in these areas, and the evidence it contains will help set the agenda for the Scotland of the future.

In ‘Is Scotland Fairer?’ the evidence suggests that despite efforts made by Scottish Government and many others, the same problems and concerns which have been highlighted in previous reviews are still apparent. Unless action is taken, the disadvantages that many people face risk becoming further entrenched for generations to come.

There is evidence of progress, but this progress is slow and not consistent or widespread. The stark reality of inequality in Scotland today is that too often people are unable to realise their full potential, are excluded from positions of influence, and experience prejudice and discrimination in daily life.

A lack of equalities data on some critical issues about people who have or share protected characteristics means that we do not have a complete picture. Without a strong evidence base we cannot identify the scale and nature of inequalities. Work must continue to address these evidence gaps.

The Scottish Government’s Programme for Government is committed to tackling inequality and creating a fairer and more equal Scotland. Uniquely in Britain, the Scottish Government has activated Section 1 of the Equality Act – the Fairer Scotland Duty – which requires public authorities to tackle socio-economic inequality.

They have legislated for Scotland’s new social security system and agency will be based on the principles of human rights, dignity and respect, and they have set out strategies to tackle race and disability inequality.

In addition, the 50:50 by 2020 programme will ensure that women’s voices are heard on the boards of our major institutions. The Scottish Government has articulated a vision of an inclusive economy where the benefits of national prosperity are shared more evenly. These are all welcome and progressive developments.

It is too easy to focus only on problems. It is our responsibility to be part of the solutions. To that end, we make a series of recommendations based on our findings to strengthen the legal and policy frameworks and to tackle gaps in evidence.