6 February 2018
There is universal agreement that more needs to be done to equality proof the budget.
We have been talking about that for years, ever since the Parliament first sat, but we appear to be no further forward.
Mary Fee pointed out that the happiest countries are those that promote human rights and equalities and that, therefore, we all gain by having an equal society. We need to start creating that equal society through the budget.
Human rights is a theme that has run through the debate this afternoon but, with declining resources, the services that help to deliver human rights are the services that are being cut.
People with disabilities need assistance to access the things that we all take for granted and enjoy, but the charges for services are increasing faster than inflation due to cuts in council budgets.
That raises issues for people’s dignity.
Elaine Smith’s intervention about the fact that new homes should all be accessible helps us to see how we can build equality into our everyday work and planning.
Women are, for the most part, service users and service providers, and they have caring responsibilities.
As Patrick Harvie pointed out, we may need to place a greater value on that unpaid work and, indeed, interrogate the value of it. As charges increase, services are being cut, and that is having an impact on women as well.
The women who provide services are often in low-paid jobs.
For example, two thirds of the local government workforce is made up of women, and they are the ones who have experienced redundancies and long-term pay freezes, which have had a big impact on their income.
We previously heard reports that disabled people are the new council tax payers because, due to their dependence on services, they are now paying more.
Therefore, the cuts to council budgets are detrimental to equalities and create a much more unequal society.
We need to address that.
We also need to address race inequality.
There is a race equality framework, and an action plan was published at the end of last year.
However, it is not clear what the outcomes of that action plan will be and how they will be measured.
What will success look like for that action plan?
We talk about developing tools to assess all of those things, but we have been talking about that for a long time and those tools are desperately required now.
Angela Constance talked about inequalities analysis and the issue of deprivation with regard to place.
I have been exercised about that issue for a long time, because the indicators that we use to identify deprivation often ignore rural deprivation.
For example, car ownership is seen as a measure of wealth even though it is a necessity in rural areas.
James Kelly talked about the need for procurement to provide services that promote equality, but it should also be used to ensure that jobs are available for those with protected characteristics, who also tend to be those who have less access to the workforce.
If we use procurement for that purpose, we could go a long way towards our aims.
Mary Fee said that we need to track inputs through to outputs.
That is important, because mainstreaming equalities through the budget process is desirable but needs to be measurable, and we need the tools to interrogate it. No real progress has been made on that, and we need action now.