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Mainstreaming Equality into the activities of committees of the Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee Consultation Paper

The UNISON Scotland Response

EVIDENCE FROM UNISON

Introduction:

UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to this inquiry.

We are the largest trade union in Scotland and represent over 140,000 members. Since its inception, UNISON has enshrined within its rule book the principle of self organisation. Self Organisation is a key element of UNISON's strategy for achieving equality. It plays a vital role in enabling members who face discrimination to participate in the union. Successful implementation of the union's policies on equality depends on the fullest possible involvement of women, black members, disabled members and lesbian and gay members who have traditionally been under represented at all levels of the union. It has also allowed us to develop specialist knowledge in all areas of equality.

UNISON has long believed that a mainstreaming approach to equalities ensures that equality issues are not marginalised. It does not, however, mean the phasing out of specialist knowledge.

Part of the problem associated with mainstreaming is that many people either don't understand the concept or place different interpretations on it.

It is therefore essential that the Parliament itself is clear by what it means by mainstreaming. A truly definitive meaning will undoubtedly not manifest itself for some considerable time which is why the Parliament - and indeed all organisations associated with equality issues - need to continually re-visit and re-appraise the definition and focus on experiences of mainstreaming.

UNISON Response:

Whilst UNISON welcomes the Committee's decision to consult on this important issue, we believe it raises more questions than answers.

We would therefore make the following points:

The first point we would make is that there is a long way to go to successful mainstreaming of equalities in the Parliament. Whilst the high priority given to equality matters to date is commendable, we believe the definition proposed at paragraph 6 is flawed, and could be problematic to the successful implementation of genuine mainstreaming.

In paragraph 6 it is stated that mainstreaming equality:

"..entails rethinking mainstream provision to accommodate gender, race, disability and other dimensions of discrimination and disadvantage, including, class, sexuality and religion" (our italics)

This definition instantly sets up a hierarchy of discrimination with those currently legislated for being given prominence. There is no awareness here of the upcoming legislation on Directive 12 from the EU which should, hopefully, banish a great deal of this hierarchy of discrimination.

If a hierarchy develops in a supposedly mainstreamed system there will be a very clear focus on ensuring the top three are dealt with and lip service will be paid to the rest. The Executive needs to ensure that as a bare minimum, their ‘Equality proofing' will require mainstreaming to be defined as having equal regard to all forms of discrimination.

When assessing direct service provision it is of course the case that they are likely to have primary regard to current legislation but again, the implementation of Directive 12 should change this. They will have to consider very carefully all forms of discrimination and have appropriate systems in place to ensure the correct attention is paid to all potentially discriminatory material/outcomes. There is a real danger that their mainstreaming could become tickboxing.

Other areas that need further examination are:-

  • Will the Equality Unit provide a monitoring or supportive role in this area;
  • Will mainstreaming look at the role of positive action or not.

Conclusion:

We hope the committee will give serious consideration to this submission and we would be happy to give further evidence if so required.

For further information please contact:

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
UNISON Scotland
UNISON House
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX

Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835

e-mail matt.smith@unison.co.uk

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