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Reaction to the Scottish Budget 2024/2025

On Tuesday 19th December, the Deputy First Minister (DFM), Shona Robinson, published the Scottish Budget 2024/2025. As stated in our pre-budget briefing, we knew that this budget was coming at a time of increased pressure on public finances due to an estimated funding gap of over £1billion for the next financial year (Fraser of Allander, 2023). The Autumn Statement did not help ease budgetary pressures. Consequently, the Scottish Government had to make tough decisions to balance the books. What are these decisions and what do they mean for women and gender equality in Scotland?  

Here is our initial analysis of some budget portfolios. 

Social Justice 

Starting with the positives, the DFM announced the increase of all Scottish benefits in line with September’s 2023 CPI. This was a welcomed measure, and one we had advocated for as women are more likely to rely on social security and receive more of their individual and household income from the social security system than men (WBG, 2022). However, we were disappointed that the Scottish Child payment did not increase to £30 per week. Women’s poverty is inextricably tied to child poverty. Due to the high cost of essentials, particularly food for those on lower incomes, we argue that choosing not to increase the Scottish Child payment beyond inflation rates will have a detrimental impact on women and their children, worsening poverty rates.  

In addition, we were also disappointed to see standstill funding for the Scottish Welfare Fund despite increasing demand (Scottish Housing News, 2023) as well as cuts to the housing portfolio. Most importantly, there seems to be a lack of equalities’ analysis justifying these decisions, or providing detail as to how these decisions will affect people in Scotland, particularly women and girls.  

NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care 

This is a key area of the budget as it includes the revenue awards for Social Care Support and the delivery of the National Care Service. The percentage increase of this budget line is 29.1% in cash terms and includes funding for the pay uplift for adult social care staff to £12 per hour and additional investment in Free Personal Nursing Care.  

Based on our cost-modelling research to support the transformation of adult social care in Scotland, we consider the total amount allocated to this area insufficient if the Scottish Government is to address the current challenges of the sector. The pay uplift does not recognise the value of the workforce, doing little to tackle staff shortages. Equally important, and despite making a reference to ‘increasing capacity’, there is no mention within the budget of expanding the workforce to meet current demand in line with care needs. While technology and data could play a role in increasing capacity, the very nature of social care is labor-intensive. Therefore, without appropriate levels of investment, the Scottish Government risks realising its intention of delivering a NCS able to “future-proof the social care sector for generations to come - and for people coming into the profession” (Scottish Government, National Care Service, 2023).  

Education and Skills 

Within this budget portfolio, we are pleased to see a rise of 205.8% (in cash terms) for the expansion of Early Learning and Childcare (ELC), with a commitment to ‘supporting sector sustainability’. This change in funding levels aims to deliver the commitment to pay £12/hour to staff in the private, voluntary and independent sector who deliver funded ELC. This is an important step to support these providers in offering better, more competitive rates for their workforce. Yet, this increase may fall short when we consider the impact that increasing operating costs such as higher energy and food prices are having on childcare providers. Regrettably, the budget failed to address the cost of expanding funded childcare for 1- and 2-year-olds, which is having a detrimental impact on families, and particularly women, in Scotland (SWBG, 2023). 

In addition, while we welcome the 2.2% increase (in cash terms) in the budget line for ‘equalities, inclusion and additional support for learning’. Yet, this increase simply ensures the continuation of ‘statutory services affected by inflation rises’. Our Childcare Survey 2023 revealed the difficulties that mothers encounter when they try to access specialist services for children with learning support needs, and the personal and economic impacts that this has on them.   The budget does not address this issue, or the lack of wraparound care for children with additional support needs (SWBG, 2023) let alone the ‘growing need’ for specialist support services as indicated by the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC, 2023). We are unsure if this 2.2% increase will be enough to also cover the pay uplift promised for the sector.  Given the implications that that the lack of adequate childcare services has on women (SWBG, 2023), it is uncertain how this budget line will work towards the Scottish Government’s goals on gender equality and the Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement doesn’t provide relevant information on this  

Other budget portfolios 

The budget includes other changes which may potentially entrench inequalities. We are particularly concerned about the 11.2% decrease in support for bus services. Our Women’s Survey 2023 found that 37% of women respondents from minority ethnic communities and 27% of disabled women relied on buses, with 41% of disabled women struggling to manage transport costs and 53% of women from ethnic minority communities having to change their travel plans due to the cost of public transport. Considering that last year transport costs rose 15% across Scotland (BBC, 2023), the decision to decrease support could have a detrimental impact on women from these communities, who are also most vulnerable to the cost-of-living crisis (SWBG, 2023; SWBG and Poverty Alliance, 2022). And while the decision has been justified because of shrinking demand, we argue that withdrawing support could also lead to lower demand, and overreliance on less sustainable modes of transport, such as cars, despite the government’s commitment to reduce car kilometers by 20% by 2030 (Transport Scotland, 2022).  

The Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy budget portfolio has also been severely affected by changes in the budget. Within this portfolio, the Fair Work and Labour Strategy has seen a decrease of 51.4% compared to last year’s budget, resulting for example in the (planned) closure of the Workplace Equality Fund and the Disability Public Social Partnership. The reduction of the budget line for Fair Work is a disappointing decision from an equalities’ perspective. Further information in relation to this change and the impact of it on women and girls would have been helpful to understand how the Government intends to achieve greater equality in the labor market.  

Finally, we are concerned about standstill funding for the legal aid fund, which represents a real-terms cut to this budget line, with consequences for those in most need. According to the Law Society (The Law Society, 2023), cuts to legal aid in England and Wales have left people unable to get help with family, employment, housing and debt problems, or having to go to court without representation. Research by the UK Women’s Budget Group found that 85% of respondents from support services said vulnerable women are unable to access civil legal aid and 77% said a major consequence of the legal aid changes is ‘women reaching crisis point or problems escalating’ before they receive any legal help or advice (WBG, 2023). Therefore, the decision not to increase the legal aid fund could disproportionally affect women, particularly women reporting domestic abuse or discrimination, including maternity/pregnancy discrimination.  


We knew that this budget was going to be a challenging one given the estimated funding gap for the next financial year. While some spending commitments are welcomed, these are not ambitious enough to tackle inequality and to substantially improve the lives of women and girls in Scotland.  




Fraser of Allander Institute, 2023. Scotland’s Budget Report 2023. Last accessed 08/01/24:  

STV News, 2023. Warning over lack of support for children with additional needs. Last accessed 08/01/24:  

Transport Scotland, 2022. Reducing car use for a healthier, fairer and greener Scotland. Last accessed 08/01/24:   

BBS News, 2023. Soaring bus fares ‘devastating’ for passengers. Last accessed 08/01/24:   

The Law Society, 2023. A decade of cuts: Legal aid in tatters. Last accessed 08/01/24: https://  

Scottish Housing News, 2023. Statistics reveal 7% increase in demand for Scottish Welfare Fund. Last accessed 08/01/24:  

National Care Service, Scottish Government. Social Care policy. Last accessed 08/01/24:,and%20delivering%20social%20care%20support  

Scottish Women’s Budget Group, 2023. Women’s Survey 2023. Experiences of rising costs across Scotland. Last accessed: 08/01/24   

Scottish Women’s Budget Group, 2023. Policy Briefing: Childcare Survey 2023’. Last accessed 08/01/24:   

UK Women’s Budget Group. 2022. The gendered impact of the cost-of-living crisis. Last accessed/ 08/01/24: 

UK Women’s Budget Group, 2023. Gender Gaps in Access to Civil Legal Justice. Last accessed 08/01/24: 



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