What does the Programme for Government mean for women's equality?
With everything else happening at the moment, you might be forgiven if the Programme for Government has slipped your mind. But as the main document which sets out the actions the Scottish Government will take, and the legislative programme for the next parliamentary year, it’s worth paying attention to.
This year’s programme for Government looks a little different than usual, as it has been cut from around 160 pages to just 38 by Ministers. This is in order to focus on the cost of living crisis, which as we all know is highly gendered and is set to have a huge impact both on women as individuals, and on women’s equality in Scotland as a whole.
While the Programme for Government is released annually by the Scottish Government, the document doesn't exist in isolation and, coming on the same day as Liz Truss became the new Prime Minister of the UK, any commitments in the Programme for Government might be subject to change following the UK Emergency Budget and the Scottish Government Emergency Budget which will follow this. The UK’s Emergency Budget was due to be published this week but is now delayed due to the official period of mourning for the Queen. Whenever it appears, it will likely have serious ramifications for women’s equality, and Engender will be scrutinising it closely.
The other context in which the Programme for Government appears is in the midst of the local government pay dispute – another issue which disproportionately impacts on women who make up the biggest proportion of the lowest paid local government workforce. John Swinney MSP, who is currently acting as the Finance Secretary, made a statement linked to the Programme for Government where he set out where the Scottish Government will be finding funding from to make up their contribution to increased pay for workers. £500m of pre-allocated spend will be diverted from across portfolios including social justice, housing, and local government, and you can see the full details here.
As we know, in times of crisis (and boy do we seem to be going through a lot of them), it is more important than ever that equality is embedded in decision making. The forthcoming emergency budget review must be subject to robust gender budget analysis, which is as intersectional as possible.
What does the Programme for Government say about women?
Our gender edit compiles all references to women, gender and core issues with implications for gender equality which appear in the document, but here are some of the things of particular significance for women’s equality in Scotland.
The Programme for Government expresses support for Gillian Mackay MSP’s ‘buffer zones’ Bill, as well as considering what further actions Scottish Government needs to take to embed women’s rights to safe access to healthcare in the future. Find out more about this issue and see our response to consultation online here.
Ending Not Proven
We finally got confirmation in the Programme for Government that the ‘not proven’ verdict will be abolished in the forthcoming Criminal Justice Reform Bill, although this will still need to be passed by Parliament. Find out why Rape Crisis Scotland say the 'not proven' verdict needs to go here.
A much-anticipated rent freeze was announced. This will disproportionately benefit women who are far less likely to be home owners, and in the private rented sector spend 55% of their income on average on rent compared with 36% for men.
We saw welcome confirmation of social security uplifts including increasing the Scottish Child Payment to £25 from November and widening access to include 5-16 year olds. However, with spiraling inflation rates and the growing cost of living crisis, these increases already fall far below what is actually needed. Similarly, we saw an uprating of eight Scottish Social Security payments by 6% which will actually amount to a real-term cut in the months ahead.
Our latest parliamentary briefing on the cost of living crisis sets out additional, urgent, asks for the Scottish Government around women’s access to financial resources, including calls around support for women experiencing domestic abuse, increased childcare provision, and a living wage for unpaid carers. Our main, immediate call is for Scottish Government to apply robust budget gender analysis to the forthcoming Emergency Budget Review. Engender will of course be producing a gender edit of this Emergency Budget, which may help us determine how well, if at all, this has been done.
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Engender Parliamentary Briefing: Debate on the Gender Sensitive Audit of the Scottish Parliament This is a briefing for MSPs ahead of the Scottish Parliament's debate on the Gender Sensitive Audit of the Scottish Parliament on 15th June 2023.
Gender Edit Of The Scottish Government Budget 2023-24 This gender edit of the Scottish Budget 2023 - 2024 compiles all references to women, gender and issues with implications for gender equality which appear in the document.
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