The duty is to be introduced in Scotland only using the equalities powers obtained via the Scotland Act 2016 and will come into force on 1 April 2018. It will mean public bodies - such as councils and the NHS - will have to set out how their plans will help in the reduction of poverty. It is intended that the duty will focus on how strategic decisions - such as those relating to annual budgets setting out spending priorities or economic development strategies - can help tackle social inequality. Public bodies will need to be able to show that they understand the key socio-economic inequality gaps that exist and that they have taken them into account in their decision making process.
An eight week consultation took place last year seeking views on how the duty should be implemented, asking questions such as which public authorities should it apply to and how would those authorities demonstrate they are meeting the duty. One of the issues identified by the consultation was that "socio economic inequality duty" was an unnecessarily complicated title, hence the term "Fairer Scotland duty" is to be used going forward.
The public bodies "eligible" to be covered by the duty must have similar or equivalent functions to one of the English public bodies set out in the Equality Act 2010, so the number and type of authority to be included are restricted. The consultation document identified the Scottish Ministers (including the Scottish Government, Accountant in Bankruptcy, Disclosure Scotland, Education Scotland, Scottish Prison Service, Scottish Public Pensions Agency, Student Awards Agency for Scotland, Transport Scotland and the Scottish Social Security Agency), Local Authorities, NHS Health Scotland, Integration Joint Boards, Regional Health Boards, The Scottish Police Authority, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise as being appropriate to be included in the duty.
In their response to the consultation the Scottish Government have undertaken to add other public bodies to the list "where we can". However they did not go as far as to commit to using new legislation to broaden the scope of the duty or to add on public authorities that are not similar to the English authorities listed in the Equality Act 2010. How the duty operates in practice is to be monitored by the Scottish Government over the next three years, in conjunction with the Equality and Human Rights Commission which is the regulator of the new duty.