When elections come around it’s hard to escape the bombardment of broadcast media, debates, and leaflets through our letterboxes – so far door knocking has not been permitted – but normal service will resume on that shortly. You have been warned!

To add to the debate this year, Equate Scotland put together our own 7 Manifesto Asks.   Election time is traditionally an opportunity seized by many organisations to state their case – to bang the drum for their cause and sometimes, even get listened to.

As part of the election campaign Equate Scotland joined with other organisations for a recent Equality Hustings Event – you can listen back here.  What was great to hear from an Equate Scotland’s perspective was the very positive words about our work by senior politicians at the event, including the First Minister. So, I guess we must be doing something right!

This year’s Scottish Parliament election is taking place against the backdrop of a global pandemic and at the time of writing we are still easing our way out of lockdown restrictions, the vaccine rollout is going well, and there is a creeping sense of normalcy coming back into our lives.

But, the big questions about what happens post-COVID-19 are still up for debate.  There is much talk about recovery plans for key sectors, but just a short way down the road is the tide of redundancies and business closures that will result from the end of the furlough scheme.  Not so much build back better, but whether in some cases the jobs and businesses will be there at all.

In the mix, we also have climate change.  With November’s COP26 still likely in Glasgow and the US now re-entering as an active participant on the world stage, are we likely to see this translate mobilised into green aspiration and policy change, and how will that green drive play into the delivery of these strategies.  Which, when you break them down, have STEM skills at their heart, and critical to their successful execution. So, where are these skills going to come from given the existing imbalance and gaps in the STEM pipeline? Thoughts on that on another day.

We know these issues are going to happen.  We are already prioritising significant and eye watering investment amounts – some of which is already being spent, and also new amounts, yet to be fully determined, why not take this time to take a different approach?

Covey’s 7 Habits, in this context, habit No 2 – says “Begin with the end in mind.”  Recovery is committing us all to the spending of eye-watering amounts of much public money.  Why would we not take this opportunity to ensure that the greater good of our economy and society is served, rather than returning benefits for the usual beneficiaries?  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_7_Habits_of_Highly_Effective_People).

If the end in mind, that we say we want, is a more equal society, then we need to take more equal measure of that in our initial decision making. The economic and recovery strategies we are putting in place now set out not just the economic bricks and mortar of this recovery, but a message about what we value.   Given the scale of investment should these strategies also not reflect the societal elements of recovery that would lay the right foundations in the long term to truly build back better?

Our No1 Manifesto Ask was at the very heart of that premise.  How hard can be to assess and quantify the equality impact of these strategies at the outset?  How hard can it be to look at the intersectional impact of these strategies?  And why, when we are so keen to measure so many other things, are we not so keen to measure these things?  In this pandemic we have heard repeatedly, “follow the data, be led by the science”, the same is true here. We say they are important and that they matter.  If they matter, then measure them.

We are committing billions of pounds to strategies that will shape our economic and societal landscape for years to come – surely we would want to get that right?  To seize the opportunity to do the things we all say are important. If delivering equality is our aim, would we not want to be complete in our “working out”, ensuring that this time the return on all this investment really did achieve what we say we wanted?