A new study has suggested that Scotland is a fairer place for many people than it was five years ago, while warning that others “are at risk of being left behind”.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report has revealed that, although significant improvements have been made in recent years, more work needs to be done to facilitate equality for key minority groups.
The report, entitled Is Scotland Fairer?, is the result of a consideration of evidence obtained from various sources that has been used to appraise progress in relation to action on health inequality, education, employment and access to justice.
In relation to LGBTI issues, the report recognised the impact of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act in providing for “the rights of individuals to marry and to maintain and form relationships of their own choosing”. It also pointed to the fact that the same legislation has “enabled transgender people who are married to change their legal gender without first ending their marriage”.
However, it also found that LGBTI people were disproportionately likely to experience problems accessing healthcare services and were also more likely to experience mental ill health and encounter stigmatising attitudes. Is Scotland Fairer? also found that young LGBTI people were particularly affected by bullying, and that hate crime on the basis of sexual orientation has increased and remains “an ongoing challenge”.
Among the report’s concerns was the fact that pupils from poorer background, children from the travelling community and disabled people were particularly prone to educational exclusion or non-attainment. It also found that while women were more likely to hold a degree than men, men were almost twice as likely to be in work or to hold a senior positions in employment
The report also highlighted how young people and disabled people are currently disproportionately affected by unemployment, and that those from ethnic minorities and people with disabilities were most likely to be living in poverty.
Is Scotland Fairer? underlined the link between social deprivation and lower life expectancy, suicide and general standards of health. It found that older women from Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds also reported poorer general health than that of the rest of the population.
Following publication of the report, the EHRC has called for improvements in a number of areas, including addressing the attainment gap in Scottish schools, in creating fairer recruitment processes encouraging fair recruitment and in challenging hate crime and other forms of abuse.
Scotland director of the EHRC, Alastair Pringle, said: “Today’s report indicates for many people society is getting fairer.
“However, for some – women, young people and disabled Scots in particular – the report highlights several concerning factors which will need action at a Scotland or GB level.
“While attitudes towards some groups have clearly improved, for example, for Scotland’s lesbian, gay and bisexual communities, stigma and negative attitudes persist towards people with mental health problems and gypsy/travellers.
“There has been good progress made but there is work still to do. We all have a part to play in making Scotland fairer and the EHRC look forward to doing our bit.”
Social justice secretary Alex Neil said: “EHRC’s findings are a welcome contribution to our overall understanding of both equality and human rights and we are pleased that the report demonstrates why we are right to focus our efforts on tackling inequality, and why we are right to oppose the abolition of the Human Rights Act.
“Promoting equality and tackling inequality runs through our Programme for Government. Equality is a key element in growing the economy in an inclusive and sustainable way, enhancing public services and improving outcomes for the people of Scotland.
“We are removing barriers faced by vulnerable groups to employment and recent statistics on youth and women’s employment have been encouraging.”