Is Scotland Fairer? is the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Scottish standalone supplement to the statutory five-yearly report on equality and human rights progress across the UK, Is Britain Fairer?.

It looks at trends in equality (i.e. 5 year periods) and details where progress has been made as well pointing out challenges. It applies to Scotland and to the UK as a whole, however for some themes, Local Authority level data is also available. Most of the core quantitative data used in this report covers the period from 2008 to 2013 and draws from major surveys and administrative data compiled by public bodies.

Key points:

The report sets out seven key equality and human rights challenges for Scotland that would require action taken at Scotland or UK level. The order below does not indicate any level of priority and the list is not exhaustive:

  1. Improve the evidence and the ability to assess how fair society is.
  2. Raise standards and close attainment gaps in education.
  3. Encourage fair recruitment, development and reward in employment.
  4. Support improved living conditions in cohesive communities.
  5. Encourage democratic participation and ensure access to justice.
  6. Ensure that all people can access the health services they need.
  7. Tackle harassment and abuse of people who share particular protected characteristics.

Those action points were drawn up from evidence collected across a range of themes including Education and learning; Work, income and the economy; Health and care; Justice, security and the right to life; The individual and society. The areas of progress as well as equality issues and challenges are summarised below:

Education and learning

Areas of progress over the review period include:

  • Educational attainment in schools improved.
  • Exclusions from school fell.
  • The percentages of men and women with no qualifications (of any kind) fell.
  • The percentage of people aged 25 and over with a degree increased.

Challenges include:

  • The level of improvement in attainment differed for individuals withp articular protected characteristics, and attainment gaps persist.
  • Gypsy/Traveller pupils continued to have the lowest educational attainment rates.
  • Children from poorer backgrounds performed less well than their peers.
  • The attainment of looked after children was well below that of other pupils. The gap
    narrowed but remained large.
  • Exclusion rates remained high for some groups, including Gypsy/Travellers, boys, and pupils with additional support needs (ASN).
  • The proportion of young people not in education, employment, and training (NEET) has not changed over time.
  • Bullying is a particular issue for some children and young people who share
    particular protected characteristics –including disabled, and lesbian, gay and
    bisexual (LGB) children and young people.
  • Women and disabled people remained more likely to have no qualifications

Work, income and the economy

Areas of progress over the review period include:

  • There was increasing recognition of the human rights violations that arise as a result of trafficking, forced labour, servitude and exploitation.
  • There was a fall in the proportion of households that did not meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standard, and a fall in the proportion of children living in households that did not meet this standard.
  • Homelessness fell and there was a reduction in the number of households in temporary accommodation.

Challenges include:

  • The overall employment rate in 2013 was lower than in 2008.
  • Women were less likely to be in work than men, and those women who were in work were less likely to be in senior positions and more likely to be in part-time work.
  • Age-related employment gaps widened – young people were less likely to be in
    work and saw the greatest increase in unemployment between 2008 and 2013.
  • Unemployment rates increased more for disabled people than for non-disabled people between 2008 and 2013.
  • Unemployment rates were significantly higher for people from some ethnic minorities compared with White people.
  • Modern Apprenticeships show clear gender segregation and low levels of access for
    ethnic minorities and disabled people.
  • Average hourly pay declined in Scotland between 2008 and 2013. The steepest declines were for younger workers.
  • In 2013, children living in households headed by someone from an ethnic minority were more likely to live in relative poverty after housing costs compared with those in households headed by a White person.
  • Material deprivation for working age disabled people was higher than for non‑disabled people. The gap did not change between 2008 and 2013.

Health and care

Areas of progress over the review period

  • The gap in life expectancy between men and women narrowed between 2007–09
    and 2011–13. Scotland saw a greater decrease in this gap than England and Wales.
  • The suicide rate decreased between 2008 and 2013.
  • Although higher proportions of adults from ethnic minorities were at risk of poor mental health in 2008, this was not the case in 2012.
  • The proportion of young people (aged 13 and 15) drinking once a week fell between 2008 and 2013. The proportion of young people smoking also reduced between 2008 and 2013.

Challenges include:

  • Life expectancy is lower for both men and women in the most deprived areas of Scotland than in the least deprived areas.
  • There is little evidence about life expectancy for those who share protected characteristics other than gender.
  • Increasing proportions of adults described their health as bad or very bad between 2008 and 2012, driven by the increase in women describing their health as bad or very bad.
  • Self-reported health status for people with some protected characteristics was worse (in the 2011 Census), including Gypsy/Travellers (compared with the general population) and older Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women (compared with men
    in these ethnic groups).
  • Between 2008 and 2012, there was an increase in the proportion of adults aged 25 to 34 at risk of poor mental health.
  • The suicide rate is higher for men and for people living in deprivation.

Justice, security and the right to life

Areas of progress over the review period include:

  • There was a fall in the homicide rate, specifically for male victims and victims aged 16 to 50.
  • There was a fall in the proportion of adults reporting they are victims of violent crime, sexual violence and domestic violence.
  • There was a fall in the proportion of people who feel unsafe being alone at home at night, or walking alone in the local area after dark.
  • Confidence in the criminal justice system increased.
  • Police use of stop and search has been reviewed and is under reform.
  • There was a drop in both serious and minor assaults between prisoners in prisons.

Challenges include:

  • Police-recorded hate crime in relation to disability and sexual orientation increased.
  • Some people – women, disabled people, older people and people who had never worked or were long-term unemployed –being more likely to report feeling unsafe.
  • Confidence in the criminal justice system was lower for disabled people (compared
    with non-disabled people) and older people (compared with other age groups).
  • Concerns were voiced by regulators about overcrowding in prisons.

The individual and society

Areas of progress over the review period include:

  • Legislation enabling same-sex couples to marry was introduced.
  • Public acceptance of people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual continued to rise.
  • Most people felt they could rely on the support of family, friends and neighbours.
  • There were small improvements to the gender balance of our elected representatives.
  • There was increased political participation (including of young people) and an increased proportion of people perceiving that they can influence local decisions.
  • British Sign Language was recognised as a language in 2011 and the British Sign
    Language (Scotland) Act was passed in 2015.

Challenges include:

  • There were gaps in evidence in relation to:
    • the prevalence of forced marriage
    • whether people feel able to practise their religion or belief freely
    • stigma, discrimination and harassment in relation to transgender people, and
    • Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.
  • There was little improvement in public attitudes to mental ill health.
  • Stigma remained towards Gypsy/Travellers and Roma people.
  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people and ethnic minorities experienced harassment.
  • The notification period for peaceful assembly remained long.


Further information

For more information on this report or and general enquiries contact  about the EHRC Commission in Scotland by:

Telephone: 0141 228 5910, or

BSL users can also contact via contactSCOTLAND-BSL, the on-line British Sign Language interpreting service. Find out more on the contactSCOTLAND website.