On Thursday 6/12/18 the Scottish Parliament Equalities and Human Rights Committee met with Christina McKelvie MSP , the Minister for Older People and Equalities for an ask-the-Minister session. In the week or so leading up to this session the Committee had taken the move to ask members of the public via Twitter and Facebook for their questions and concerns, a selection of which were put to the minister. I took this opportunity to ask some questions of my own and was lucky enough to have a few selected. I’ll create a separate post for each category and will include those questions from others which were within the same topic as my own.
It is worth noting that many of my questions relate directly to the work of this Committee during the time period when Christina McKelvie was Convener, who has only recently been elevated to ministerial office in June 2018.
I will copy and paste the questions that were asked during this session along with the Minister’s responses to them. I was fortunate that my own question on the Public Sector Equality Duty was put to the Minister.
“The public sector equality duty requires public authorities in Scotland to consider equality between protected characteristics groups and potential impacts on them. This question was asked on social media by @Scottish_Women:
“As the Scottish Government undertakes its review of the Public Sector Equality Duty regulations, will the Minister consider what recourse members of the public might have when public authorities fail to have due regard to those with relevant protected characteristics?” ” – Mary Fee MSP
As you will know, the Scottish Government recently started to look at the public sector equality duty, what more we can do with it and whether it needs to be updated. A bit of work is being done on that right now. I managed to take most of last summer to meet all the stakeholders across my portfolio, and a lot of them who have an interest in the review asked for additional time. We were looking at quite a tight timescale to do that work and they asked for the review to be stretched a bit. We agreed to that because we want to hear from people and we want them to realise that we are listening and acting on their wishes.
The provisional timetable for the review will be over 2019, with possible amending regulations on the basis of the feedback that we get from stakeholders coming into force in 2020. Obviously, we do not want to stop groups from getting involved and we would encourage them to do so. However, you will understand that the Equality Act 2010 is reserved to Westminster and the duties under it are a matter for the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
We know that it is not a statutory requirement to do the review, but we decided to review elements of the regulations in relation to devolved matters. As I say, stakeholders have asked us for more time and we are about to give them that.
You might also know that, although we would quite like to have them, Scottish ministers have no powers to enforce either the public sector equality duty generally or the specific duties in particular. The compliance process is set out and I can ensure that the committee is given the link to the compliance process so that you can inform your questioner where they can go to get that information. At this point in time, we do not hold power over that aspect. That is held by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and we would direct your questioner and possibly the committee to the commission.
Ummm ….. so a review is ongoing but will not be available until 2020? But, just now its up to members of the public to take it up with the Equality and Human Rights Commission when public authorities fail in their duties to perform Equality Impact Assessments? For example, the Scottish Prison Service policy that failed to consult with ANY women, either prisoners or staff and was written by a trans lobby group stating male transwomen should be placed into Women’s Prisons. Or, the LGBT guidance issued to every school in Scotland where girls are no longer able to exert their own personal boundaries. This Guidance permits male trans pupils to use girls PE changing rooms, compete against them at sports and share accommodation on trips, and the parents of teenage girls are NOT to be informed. This is an obvious safeguarding concern!! There are very good REASONS why we separate male and female pupils, and this absolutely should always apply regardless of how a pupil identifies.
Is the Minister really saying that the Government have no power to correct these gross errors and that it is up to prisoners, prison staff or parents to take it up individually with the EHRC? Have I correctly understood this answer?