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Scottish Executive Consultation Paper

Towards an Equality Strategy

UNISON Scotland Response

 

Foreword

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 Tolerance is also something that can be withdrawn.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

Issue 1

 

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 discriminated groups.

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 appointments.

    The criteria for public appointment will need to be re-appraised to enable wider representation.

Issue 2

     

    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 social exclusion.

    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 issues.

    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 staff development).

    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 opportunities.

    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.

Issue 3

     

    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 anti-discrimination issues.

    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 Scotland.

    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)
matt.smith@unison.co.uk

 

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