Engender is Scotland’s feminist membership organisation. We have a vision for a Scotland in which women and men have equal opportunities in life, equal access to resources and power, and are equally safe and secure from harm. We are a membership organisation working on an anti-sexist agenda in Scotland and Europe to increase women’s power and influence and make visible the impact of sexism on women, men and society.

Since devolution in 1999, Scotland has made some progress towards gender-responsive budgeting, primarily in the form of the Equality and Budget Advisory Group and Equality Budget Statement (EBS), which is now the Equality and Fairer Scotland Statement. 

Published in parallel to the Draft Budget, the EBFS assesses the Ministerial Portfolios’ proposed spending plans for their impact on equality and socioeconomic inequality. It is currently the only process of its kind in the UK. 

However, at present, the EBFS is a list of gender and equalities-inflected spend, describing spending decisions that have already been made. It has limited impact on the budget process itself. 

The EBFS requires a clearer purpose and better timing to substantively inform development of the Scottish Draft Budget, and to be used more effectively by members of the Scottish Parliament and parliamentary committees in their budget scrutiny. 

Scottish Women’s Budget Group was founded almost at the same time as the Scottish Parliament, during the period from 1999 to 2000. Originally called ‘Engender Women’s Budget Group’ after the feminist policy advocacy organisation from which it emerged, it brought women activists, academics, and practitioners together who were active gender advocates. 

The Scottish Women’s Budget Group used the opportunity of the development of new institutions and processes post-devolution, along with a closely networked small polity, to advocate for gender budget analysis. 

As Angela O’Hagan has set out in her definitive work on gender budget analysis in Scotland, it embarked on a sustained programme of advocacy to inform and persuade parliamentarians, Scottish Government officials, and finance ministers.

“Gender budgeting is about making sure that public money is spent on the whole population, not just a few people, and that it actively promotes equality”

Through developing seminars on gender budgeting approaches with senior government officials working in finance, lobbying for pilot studies of gender budgeting within specific policy areas, and deft deployment of gender budgeting advocates as advisors to parliamentary committees providing budget scrutiny, it made the case for gendered analysis within budget processes.

Pilots included analysing the spend on programmes targeted at smoking cessation and sport. The Scottish Women’s Budget Group secured a significant campaigning aim when Scottish Government published the Equality Statement on the Draft Budget 2010-2011 in 2009.

Since 2009, the Scottish Women’s Budget Group has advocated for development of the equality budgets statement process into gender budget analysis.

The Equality Budgets Advisory Group, which was created in proto form in 2000, has also contributed to this work. Scottish Women’s Budget Group has always been a member of this group but gender budgeting expert Angela O’Hagan is now its independent chair.

This reflects the approach that the Scottish Women’s Budget Group has long taken, in applying pressure from outside the Scottish Government while maximising the space for action inside the government.

It has been challenging to make the case for a transition from a much lauded but flawed equality budget statement to an intersectional gender budget analysis. It has been difficult to advocate for a process focused on women and gender within a wider policy context that emphasises a broader, fuzzier ‘equalities mainstreaming’ approach that also includes socioeconomic inequality.

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