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