Dr Lesley Sawers, Scotland Commissioner for Equalities & Human Rights
The Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is the statutory regulator for equality in Scotland but our role is about much more than just holding people and organisations to account. We also play a key leadership role in helping to develop socio-economic policies and programmes that will deliver a fairer and more equal Scotland. In this role we passionately believe that inclusive economic growth has the potential to remedy some of Scotland’s most intractable social problems. Today in Scotland disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed, even in our leading industry sectors women are too often concentrated in junior or middle management posts or low paying roles, and ethnic minorities are twice as like to be unemployed and living in poverty.
Because we see the huge potential of inclusive growth, the EHRC has been working with the Scottish Government and City Deal Partnerships to focus their efforts on economic and social inclusion. Over the last 12 months, working with Johanna Boyd, the ex-leader of Stirling Council, we have been supporting Scotland’s City Regions to develop equality outcomes which will guide their work – for example the Glasgow region deal could create 29, 000 new jobs. Our challenge to the partnerships is for them to state how many of these jobs will go to ethnic minorities, women and disabled people. And to work with them to put in place impact and outcome measures that will monitor progress and change over the lifetime of the capital investment programmes.
Our aim is to make inclusive growth truly inclusive. Scotland has a huge untapped workforce of talented and skilled people, who are currently sitting idle. Discrimination – whether conscious or unconscious – acts as a barrier to their progression. For some disabled people, the issue may not be anything to do with their skills but everything to do with an inaccessible transport system which fails to get them to work, or being trapped in a house which is unsuited to their needs.
We don’t believe that Scottish public bodies or agencies go out of their way to discriminate but we do believe that not enough see social inclusion as a core operating or investment principle.
Procurement is a key example of how in Scotland we can use economic levers to drive social change. The law allows public sector contractors to place equality award criteria and contractual conditions on tenders. Simply asking the question “How many women do you employ now and how many will you be employing at the end of the contract” sets a clear expectation that equality is a key deliverable. But too few currently do it. It’s our ambition to make this common practice. It makes sense for the public purse, for society and for the economy.
By working together we believe we can deliver a fairer and more equitable Scotland, where inclusive growth works for everyone and success is measured in terms of enhanced lifetime opportunities and community transformation.