Tackle inequality the subject of Holyrood report and government response to Social Renewal Advisory Board report

Ruth Maguire MSP

Issues faced by protected and disadvantaged groups should be proactively addressed as the country navigates its post-Covid recovery to ensure that nobody is left behind, according to a report from the equalities and human rights committee.

MSPs on the committee are calling on their successor committee in the next Parliament to prioritise these issues to ensure that existing inequalities are not further exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.

Committee convener Ruth Maguire MSP said: “As the country navigates its way out of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s vital that those who are already disadvantaged, should not face any further inequality.

“As this parliamentary term comes to a close, we need to ensure that these issues are given the utmost priority as we move forward to creating a more equal country after Covid.

“We need a strengthened approach that puts equalities and human rights at the core of what we do and urge our successor committee to play a key role in this by actively progressing the key issues highlighted in this report.”

In the report, the committee also called on all Scottish Parliament committees to prioritise equalities and human rights from the outset and to actively pursue and encourage participation from those least likely to engage to ensure their voices are heard.

The Holyrood report comes as the Scottish Government issued its initial response to the Social Renewal Advisory Board’s report ‘If not now, when?’that calls for tackling poverty and inequality to be central to the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Outlining work already underway in areas such as housing, fair work, supporting parents and young people into employment, and investing in communities, the government said investment of £25 million will help take forward a number of actions informed by the Board. This includes £13.5m to help the Third Sector recover from the impact of the pandemic and build on the support given to communities, as well as a further £6.7m to tackle fuel insecurity.

While the Scottish Government response recognises there is insufficient time remaining in this parliamentary term to take forward the recommended actions, it indicates what steps will be taken depending on the outcome of the election.

Subject to the outcome of the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary elections, the government said it intends to take forward a range of recommendations to build a fairer, more equal country.

Equalities secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “We have acted quickly to support people and communities during the coronavirus pandemic and we know that further substantive action can be taken. The Social Renewal Advisory Board report offers a route map to address structural inequalities.

“Work which is planned to be taken forward includes initiating a full review of the Scottish Welfare Fund, increasing work to automate benefit entitlements, and investigating the possibility of a Minimum Income Guarantee.

“We have also written to the UK Government to highlight where they must take action, or devolve powers in response to the recommendations, including in employment, reserved social security, and migrants’ rights.

“We are determined to ensure that as we rebuild post-pandemic we do so with equality and social justice at the heart.”

Communities secretary Aileen Campbell said: “Our response also highlights new commitments to delivering 100,000 more affordable homes by 2032, increasing parental employment support, and increasing the world-leading Connecting Scotland programme to now reach 60,000 people and get them online by the end of this year.

“We have already invested £1 billion over the course of the pandemic to support our communities and I am pleased we will now invest an additional £25m to help take forward actions informed by the Board. This includes £13.5m to help the Third Sector and a further £6.7m to tackle fuel insecurity.”