One of the things that Engender does that we're nerdily excited by, is to provide support to the Scottish Women's Budget Group. Some of our staff and members are long-time members of the budget group, and it's always a pleasure to get together with them to talk about Scotland's budget.
The draft Scottish budget for 2015-16 was published on October 9th, and the SWBG convened an open meeting to discuss it that took place on Tuesday. Participants heard from Leaza McSorley on Scotland's economy, Emily Thomson on feminist economics, and Angela O'Hagan on gender budgeting, before digging in to the budget itself.
We don't expect you to have read the whole draft budget, or even the equality budget statement that accompanies it, so Engender's Policy Manager, Jill Wood, has compiled a gender edit of the draft budget that pulls out all of the statements most relevant to women's equality.
We also have five watchpoints for this year's budget:
- This year's budget is the third of three that falls under the period covered by the comprehensive spending review published in 2013. The annual budgets broadly align with the spending review, which means there are few enormous surprises about spending plans within them. We'll be contributing to SWBG thinking about calls for changes to process for the next spending review.
- However locked down this year's budget has been, there is still room for changes to spending that are of critical interest to women's organisations. We will be watching, for example, to see how the £1m that Skills Development Scotland have been allocated in additional spend on equalities work will be used. We would hope to see a proportion of this used to reduce occupational segregation in the modern apprenticeship programme.
- Chapter 1 of the budget describes a strengthening labour market, and record female labour market participation with "1.3 million women now in employment." There are assurances that work on the gender pay gap will be funded. We'll be keen to see how.
- The budget was trailed as being "welfare accented". There's an increase in narrative about welfare, and a small amount of additional spending, but we will want to see links between spending plans and the evidence about women's income inequality and different needs.
- Women's enterprise is mentioned, but it's not clear how the high-level spend relates to programmes like those for which Women's Enterprise Scotland advocates.
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