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Scotland Act 1998


There is no current statutory definition of “equal opportunities”.  For the purposes of this reservation, the interpretation provision at the end of the Section states that “equal opportunities” means the prevention, elimination or regulation of discrimination between persons on grounds of sex or marital status, on racial grounds, or on grounds of disability, age, sexual orientation, language or social origin or of other personal attributes, including beliefs or opinions, such as religious beliefs or political opinions.

Current legislation makes provision in relation to the prevention or elimination of discrimination on grounds of sex, marital status, race or disability. There is no current domestic legislation dealing with discrimination on grounds such as age or sexual orientation. All these matters are, however, reserved.

The reservation refers to equal opportunities, including the subject-matter of:


the Equal Pay Act 1970.  This makes provision for the elimination of discrimination on the grounds of sex in relation to the terms and conditions of employment, including pay;


the Sex Discrimination Act 1975.  This makes provision for the prevention or elimination of discrimination on the grounds of sex or marital status.  It covers sex discrimination against women, sex discrimination against men and also sex discrimination against transsexuals in relation to employment, training, education and the provision of goods, facilities, or services to the public or a sector of the public.  The Act established the Equal Opportunities Commission which is charged with working towards the elimination of discrimination, the promotion of equality of opportunity between men and women generally, and the enforcement of its provisions.  It is also required to keep under review the workings of the 1970 Act and the 1975 Act;


the Race Relations Act 1976.  This makes provision for the elimination of discrimination on racial grounds. It made provision in relation to administration and enforcement similar to that provided in relation to sex discrimination by the 1975 Act.  The 1976 Act also established the Commission for Racial Equality which has duties similar to those of the Equal Opportunities Commission; and


the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.  This makes provision for the elimination of discrimination against disabled persons in connection with employment and the provision of goods, facilities and services and the disposal or management of premises. Part V of this Act, the subject-matter of which is expressly reserved under Section E5, is about standards for public passenger transport of disabled people. The Act covers persons suffering either physical or mental disability.  The 1995 Act also established the National Disability Council which advised the Secretary of State on matters relevant to the elimination of discrimination against disabled persons. The NDC has now been replaced by the Disability Rights Commission, which was established by the Disability Rights Commission Act 1999.

The reservation of the subject matter of these enactments also includes the bodies established by them, namely the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality and the Disability Rights Commission.  However, in view of the existence of the exceptions to the equal opportunities reservation, it may be questionable whether or to what extent the Scottish Parliament might have been able to legislate with respect to them, such a to confer functions upon them, Paragraph 3(2)(c) of Part III of Schedule 5 also provides that these 3 bodies are included among the “reserved bodies” for the purposes of paragraph 3(1) of Part III of Schedule 5. That paragraph makes it clear that the Scottish Parliament cannot legislate about the constitution of such bodies or to confer functions on it or functions which are specifically exercisable in relation to them.

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