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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid)

Meeting date: Wednesday, September 7, 2022


Institutional Racism in Sport

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Liam McArthur)

The final item of business is a member’s business debate on motion S6M-05615, in the name of Kaukab Stewart, on changing the boundaries—ending institutional racism in sport. The debate will be concluded without any questions being put. I invite members who wish to participate to press their request to speak buttons now or as soon as possible.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes with concern that the report, Changing the Boundaries: The Plan4Sport Independent Review into Racism in Scottish Cricket, found Cricket Scotland to be institutionally racist; understands that the review identified 448 examples demonstrating institutional racism; further notes Sir William Macpherson’s definition of institutional racism contained in the 1999 report of the public inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence, as “the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin”; acknowledges that institutional racism in sport may not be restricted to Cricket Scotland; recognises what it sees as the detrimental effect of institutional racism on an individual’s potential, achievement, health and wellbeing; notes the hope that the implementation of the immediate and long-term recommendations of the independent review will deliver substantial improvements in the experience of people of colour in all sports; further notes the recommendation to improve the diversity of the Cricket Scotland board, and the view that this recommendation, coupled with steps to review diversity at all levels of decision making, can be of great importance in delivering diversity in boards and at all levels of decision making across all sports; notes the view that effective equalities and anti-racist strategies are important in organisations that are in receipt of government funding; welcomes the assessment framework set out in the report; notes the view that this could be used as a conditional part of funding criteria for all funding of sport in Scotland; highlights that ethnically diverse communities are a priority group for sportscotland’s 2021-25 Equality Outcomes published in 2022; believes that there are many examples of clubs and individuals delivering local programmes that engage with diverse communities, including in the Glasgow Kelvin constituency; appreciates what it sees as the important work being done by groups including, but not limited to, Show Racism the Red Card, Kick it Out, Running Out Racism; notes the calls for partnership working to eradicate any forms of racism in sport, and looks forward to the day when zero tolerance for any processes, attitudes and behaviour that amount to racial discrimination, through the exclusion of minority ethnic people from participation and talent development opportunities, becomes a reality in Scottish sport.


Kaukab Stewart (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)

First, I offer a warm welcome to the visitors in the public gallery. They include many individuals and representatives of organisations, including colleagues from Running Out Racism, Show Racism the Red Card, Active Life Club and the Scottish Trades Union Congress, among others, that work tirelessly to eradicate racism in all its forms, including in sport. I acknowledge the overwhelming cross-party support for the motion—we are all grateful for that.

This is an uncomfortable topic. Recognising the existence of institutional racism is to admit to years of apathy as people suffered around us, and to accept that processes and structures that were designed without all voices present have caused harm and affected the achievements of so many people. If there is one clear message that we should take away from the debate, it is that we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, for it is in that discomfort that true change can take place.

Today, we reflect on the findings of “Changing the Boundaries: The Plan4Sport Independent Review into Racism in Scottish Cricket”. I commend sportscotland for commissioning the review. It is never easy for anyone to come forward, and those who do often suffer negative impacts on their career, family or mental health. However, it is because of people’s bravery that we now have a chance to reflect and move forward in the true spirit of sporting endeavour. Maya Angelou said:

“when you know better, do better.”

This is our chance to do better.

Woven throughout the damning report of the review are themes of an absence of leadership, a lack of accountability and transparency and an overall loss of confidence in the incident report handling processes. Four hundred and forty-eight examples of institutional racism were identified against the national governing body, Cricket Scotland.

Sir William Macpherson, in his 1999 report of the public inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence, defined institutional racism as

“The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin”.

That is the definition that is referred to by the authors of the review. From participants, we heard that there were “too many close friendships” in Cricket Scotland for confidentiality requirements to be upheld. We heard that people who had previously raised concerns were victimised as a result and that the familiar old adage of, “It’s just banter,” was invoked as a means of silencing those who spoke out. At board level, there was no overall vision or strategy for tackling racism and there was a total lack of diversity in workforce and governance structures.

Although the findings of the report are certainly alarming, it is vital that we not only consider the consequences of our inertia but seize this opportunity to learn. I am grateful to Aneela McKenna, an experienced diversity officer, for informing my thoughts on the subject.

I acknowledge the examples of excellent practice that are clearly evident, especially at grass-roots club and association level. We can learn from the good and, with a collective will and responsibility, we can improve across all sporting disciplines, not just in cricket.

As a starting point, the review includes many practical and deliverable recommendations. I acknowledge the work that is already under way by sportscotland and urge it to proceed in partnership with organisations that have expertise and experience to offer. That may well help to rebuild trust and confidence. I welcome Cricket Scotland’s commitment to have a new board in place by the end of this month.

Let us be clear: racism exists everywhere in society. What makes an organisation institutionally racist is not that it has racism. The issue is whether an organisation prioritises tackling racism and being actively anti-racist in its policies, procedures and culture, or remains passive and content with a never-ending cycle of deny, defend and deflect, on repeat. Even if we never truly understand the experiences of others, it is important to strive to be an ally. Paul Reddish OBE, who is here today, talks of allyship as

“standing up for those when they are not in the room and handing the microphone back when they are present”.

I am minded of the words of Nelson Mandela, who said:

“Sport has the power to the change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.”

In allyship, we must strive to share the pitches, the tracks and the boardrooms as equals.

Looking forward, there is a need for on-going proactive oversight and scrutiny of sporting bodies and organisations, and to include critical expert voices in the process. One option may be to link into the Government’s on-going work on a national anti-racist infrastructure, led by Dr Ima Jackson. A key recommendation of that work is to establish a more effective accountability and governance infrastructure in Scotland. The terms of reference state:

“Too often recommendations have been made on racism and minority ethnic ‘issues’ that have subsequently been forgotten and not implemented. They may then be raised again by other groups without reference to what has been asked before. This absence of institutional memory within the current system and structures is frustrating, disempowering and can be understood as a mechanism by which systemic discrimination occurs.”

I believe that governance structures and polices that adhere to and deliver on the Macpherson definition of institutional racism should become a statutory obligation for bodies in receipt of government funding. That should be able to be applied robustly across different groups, with support from the national agency, while recognising the varying size and demographics of sporting bodies.

Let us ensure that another generation do not suffer from racism, with nowhere to go and no hope of redress or apology, but are instead embraced by the sport that they love. We must rebuild trust among our sportsmen and women of colour and ensure that we are not discussing the same issues yet again in the next parliamentary session.

I would like to thank Qasim Sheikh and Majid Haq for their enormous bravery, and I note that Majid is in the gallery today. However, we cannot continue to rely on the bravery of individuals to raise these issues.

There is momentum for positive change. Scotland has given us great sporting successes. Imagine the increased scope of that success if the potential of all of Scotland’s sportspeople was set free from the shackles of discrimination. This is truly a leadership moment. I urge everyone, including those in authority, from Government to sportscotland to clubs and associations, to embrace the facts—uncomfortable though they may be and might make us—and deliver the necessary policies to change them.

I will finish with the words of James Baldwin, who said:

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”


The Deputy Presiding Officer

Thank you, Ms Stewart.

I know that this is an issue about which people quite rightly feel passionate, and it may seem counterintuitive, but I encourage those in the public gallery not to participate, and that includes applauding. As I say, I appreciate that it may be difficult, but that is one of the protocols that we ask the public to observe here.


Pam Gosal (West Scotland) (Con)

I, too, give a warm welcome to everybody in the gallery. I am honoured to open today’s important debate on ending institutional racism in sport on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives, and I thank Kaukab Stewart for bringing the debate to the chamber. I extend my thanks to sportscotland for commissioning “Changing the Boundaries”, Plan4Sport for conducting the review and producing the report, and Running Out Racism for its hard work in condemning institutional racism within sport, and for taking active steps to reform the way that sporting bodies conduct themselves.

Along with Kaukab Stewart, I am one of the first women of colour to become a Member of the Scottish Parliament. I am also the first Indian Sikh in the Scottish Parliament. It has taken a long time for ethnic minorities to gain a voice, but we have one now. It is strange that we hear talk of a fair and inclusive Scotland, because as the report reveals, as yet it is an empty phrase and merely a tick-box exercise.

Sport brings out many emotions, such as competitiveness, joy and pride, but, unfortunately, it has also been known to bring out anger, bitterness and hate—the ugly side. When we think of racial discrimination in sport, we often think of it as abuse from the opponents’ fan club but rarely as coming from within the sporting bodies themselves.

“Changing the Boundaries” is a damning indictment of institutional racism, which still permeates our institutions. The review recorded a shocking 448 examples of institutional racism with 31 allegations of racism against 15 different people, two clubs, and a regional association. The definition of racism that is used in the report highlights what is often forgotten, which is that there is no process whereby individuals can report discrimination, so there is no opportunity for redress. Without proper reporting mechanisms, how can any organisation know about the extent of the racism that it is presiding over? In the absence of awareness or of willingness to implement anti-racist infrastructure sporting bodies are, in effect, enabling racism to go unchecked.

Cricket is an internationally acclaimed sport and top teams come from all over the world—from countries such as India, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, the West Indies and many more—so to see such institutional racism and lack of inclusion in Cricket Scotland is shameful. I am hopeful that the changes that are to be made at Cricket Scotland, with a new board and the collaborative working between Cricket Scotland, sportscotland, Plan4sport and Running Out Racism, will see an overhaul of the previous lack of oversight and scrutiny.

However, this is only the beginning. “Changing the Boundaries” has highlighted what is missing from many sporting bodies across the country and provided recommendations that I hope will be eye-opening for many. It is essential that black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals feel valued, have a sense of belonging, and feel confident that the club has their interests at heart and will condemn racism and take action.

I hope that we will not wait another lifetime before we see transformation take place. First, boards must be diverse. Only when the boards are representative will BAME people have a voice in the operational processes. Secondly, the Scottish Parliament must take more responsibility for the development and implementation of anti-racist infrastructure. Finally, we must incentivise sporting bodies to reassess their operations both structurally and culturally.


Pam Duncan-Glancy (Glasgow) (Lab)

I congratulate Kaukab Stewart on securing this important debate and thank members for their excellent speeches.

The report has shocked not just Scottish cricket but the wider sporting community and people across Scotland—not just because of its clear and undeniable conclusion but because of the veracity of the allegation of institutional racism, the force with which it has been proved, and the scale at which it is rife within the sport. The publication is devastating and is a stark reminder that we must intensify our efforts to overcome racism and prejudice.

The report identified an astounding 448 examples of institutional racism, with the failure of 29 out of 31 indicators coming to light. One study conducted as part of the inquiry found that 62 per cent of respondents had experienced, seen or reported incidents of racism or discrimination, with 34 per cent having experienced it personally. That is unacceptable in sport and in our society.

I thank the two former international players, Qasim Sheikh and Majid Haq—Majid is in the gallery today—for being brave enough to share their experiences in Scotland, which ultimately led to the inquiry and the report. That was not the first time that they had spoken out—I know that they felt that complaints that they had made previously during their playing careers had little impact.

We know that Scottish cricket’s governing body is now in special measures, with oversight from sportscotland, and we hope that it will be closely monitored to ensure that it demonstrates an anti-racist approach. However, we must acknowledge the fact that the problem was allowed to get so bad in the first place. Real change is needed and so, too, is scrutiny. To move forward we must see oversight of the issues and of the governing bodies, and for the governing bodies—which are often volunteer run, overloaded with vital responsibilities and lacking the expertise that they need to deal with them—to be supported to end racism and all forms of bigotry and discrimination.

As my colleagues have said, anti-racist expertise and lived experience must be central in shaping what comes next. I am not sure that the organisations themselves have that experience yet, so the Government must do what it can to support them. A key part of that must be for both governing bodies and sportscotland to take strides to improve their internal diversity. We want a Scotland in which all societies are actively anti-racist. Sport plays a central role in that, as it does in our everyday lives. That is why it is so important that the anti-racist infrastructure to oversee public bodies that has already been agreed to will be used to scrutinise sport.

Last summer brought a rightful outcry when England football players, Sancho, Saka and Rashford, faced a torrent of online racial abuse following their missed penalties at the final of Euro 2020. We know that it is an issue that is not in only one sport. Cove Rangers player Shay Logan has regularly spoken about the racist abuse he has faced throughout his playing career, and still does—he has often shared abusive messages from opposition fans. It is simply unacceptable that this is still going on.

I was pleased to see the Scottish Football Association step up following the shocking cricket report, by writing to all clubs and making it clear that any player or official found guilty will have a 10-match ban. However, the solution cannot simply be punishment or piecemeal, it is going to have be systemic and structural to tackle the root causes of the problem and to prevent it in the future.

Sport is an area on which we must focus such anti-racist activity, partly because of the report, but also because we can harness sport as a source of community and solidarity—a source of good—which is vital if we are to address bigotry and discrimination.

On that note, I pay tribute to Partick Thistle Football Club and its community trust whose hard work to promote inclusion is the kind of example that we need to see replicated across the Scottish Professional Football League and beyond. The trust’s “Accepting Activity” programme, which is run from Petershill Park in Springburn, brings together people with a range of challenges in their life—people who are homeless, asylum seekers and refugees, and people facing recovery from addiction—to play football. Over 50 adults regularly attend every Monday and Thursday and around 75 per cent of them are from a black and minority ethnic background. They are able to play football for free, and training gear and football boots are provided for free, too. When the game is over, the players are all provided with food. The community trust tells me the programme has participants from all over the world: Ghana, Gambia, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Vietnam, Iraq—the list goes on. Many of them have now joined local grassroots clubs, including Petershill, Summerston and Knightswood.

Also thanks to the excellent fundraising work of Jags for Good, some of these players are now able to access Partick Thistle home games through a free season tickets group. Not only is that a gold standard example of using football for good and bringing communities together, but it encourages diversity from the outset.

Sport is a force for good and it should be open to everyone. When we come together and face the uncomfortable truth that my colleague Kaukab Stewart spoke about, we can begin to tackle injustice. This is a fight for all of us and I believe that all of us in the Parliament are ready to take up that fight for the good of the people we represent.


Jackie Dunbar (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP)

As deputy convener of the Parliament’s cross-party group on rugby development in Scotland, I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak in this important debate, and I thank my colleague and friend Kaukab Stewart for securing it.

It is regrettable that we have the need for the debate, but it is crucial that we, collectively as a Parliament, send a clear and loud message to all in the sports community that racism has no place in sport or in Scottish society and that racism should be addressed and called out at every level.

I begin by paying tribute to Majid Haq and Qasim Sheikh, who had the courage to raise their heads above the parapet and expose the level of racism that has been seen in Scottish cricket. I also thank everyone who was part of the report process. Their contribution, in a difficult situation, has been invaluable, and my thanks and admiration go to all involved. Their work will, I hope, be instrumental in bringing about a new era, not just in Scottish cricket but across sport in Scotland more generally.

The “Changing The Boundaries” report makes for grim reading. The investigations will be concluded in due course, and it is important that, as a Parliament, we allow that to happen in the proper way. The report makes several high-level recommendations and sub-recommendations for immediate action in order to address institutional racism in Scottish cricket. The recommendations are crucial and, although I welcome the commitment from the Scottish Government and sportscotland to implement them, I would welcome an update from the minister on the timescales for completion.

It has been highlighted that, presently, sportscotland has limited powers to address issues within governing bodies, which are often run by volunteers and are charged with vital responsibilities, such as safeguarding against discrimination, but I call on sportscotland to use its powers to their full extent. I support the calls for safeguards to be built into sports governance to allow for scrutiny and oversight of boards’ activity and to ensure that all discrimination is addressed.

Although the report on cricket raises significant issues, it is important that we also look to the future and consider the positive work that the sport community in Scotland has undertaken to tackle racism and discrimination. Indeed, as the managing director of Plan4Sport stated,

“whilst the governance and leadership practices of the organisation have been institutionally racist, the same should not be said for cricket in Scotland. There are many outstanding clubs and individuals delivering local programmes which truly engage with diverse communities.”

I welcome the Scottish Government’s funding and support for sportscotland’s equality, diversity and inclusion approach—sport for life. The approach provides meaningful internal action and leadership to Scotland’s sporting community to tackle racism and all other forms of discrimination.

Scottish Rugby has picked up the approach particularly well, and I congratulate it on winning the sports equality award for the work that it does across clubs to celebrate diversity and to cut out discrimination. I ask the minister for a commitment that such work will continue and that the Government will redouble its efforts to tackle racism.

In conclusion, as Martin Luther King Jnr said,

“I look to the day when people will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.”


Brian Whittle (South Scotland) (Con)

I thank Kaukab Stewart for bringing the debate to the chamber. In her speech, she quoted Nelson Mandela, who said:

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”

Members who had to endure my stumbling speech last term in the Black Lives Matter debate might recognise that quote, because I used it then. I think that it is extraordinarily powerful.

Sport can be such a force for good. It is the tip of the spear when we are tackling inequality, whether it relates to colour, creed, religion, sex or gender. Sport is about viewing something through the prism of performance and excellence. Sport is about what we have in common with one another, not what divides us. Sport provides a way for society to accept differences. In the end, the only difference that sportsmen and sportswomen are interested in is in their ability to perform, as they recognise the dedication and effort that is needed to deliver in the arena.

As members might know, this is a very personal debate for me, having witnessed friends of mine suffer racial discrimination over the past four decades or so. That puts the current situation in a whole different light. Forty years ago, the world was very different. I ran against the first two black men I met. Both of them were heroes of mine at the time, and they are now, I am glad to say, lifelong friends.

Scotland was not the diverse country that it is now becoming. I have coached athletes from India, French Guiana—which really tested my schoolboy French—Poland and Iraq, just to name a few. That was unheard of 40 years ago, and I am always delighted to see athletes from such diverse backgrounds at my local athletics club.

These days, the younger generation are much more integrated and informed than we ever were at that age. Back in the early 1980s, many black and ethnic minority sportsmen and sportswomen suffered in silence for fear of being excluded from teams. It was extraordinarily hard to witness. In society back then, television programmes were full of casual racism. It was the norm to have words and phrases dropped into conversations that would make us recoil these days.

I suspect—and I really hope—that the current situation is a case of unintended casual racism, which has had to be endured and has, thankfully, eventually been called out. That is, of course, what we must continue to do whenever it rears its head.

That is an education issue and, to be honest, I think that it is a generational issue to a certain extent. We must guard against the fact that racism is a learned trait, so we must continue to tackle that. Let us not fall into the trap, though, of thinking that racism is a thing of the past. We should consider, as Pam Duncan-Glancy said, the appalling treatment of the young black English footballers who missed penalties at the European championship.

At the start of my speech, I said that sport can help to change the world. I am thinking of real pioneers in sport—people such as Jesse Owens, who competed back in 1936 in front of Adolf Hitler; Cassius Clay, who won Olympic boxing gold and then went back to segregation in his country; Arthur Ashe, in tennis, who now has a stadium named after him; and Tiger Woods, in golf, who won at the masters, where only a few years previously black men had not been allowed to play. They shone brightly and are remembered because of their sporting prowess.

That does not mean that we do not have more work to do. After this year’s European championship, I was approached by a complete stranger in the street who indignantly inquired, “Are white men not allowed in the team anymore?” I have to say that I used language that I would not repeat in the chamber. However, that serves as a reminder that we have so much more work to do.

I thank Kaukab Stewart for bringing the debate to the chamber to remind us, once again, that racism still pervades our society, despite the huge steps that I have seen over the past 40 years in the sporting arena. Let us continue to use sport—and music and art, incidentally—to highlight what binds us and what connects us, because, ultimately, we should respect and celebrate individuality. The things that we should be judged on are our actions and performances. Sport is such a great leveller. It is why I am so passionate about investing in it and promoting it. It is not about teaching our children to do sport; it is more about teaching our children through sport.


Paul McLennan (East Lothian) (SNP)

I thank Kaukab Stewart for bringing this debate to the chamber. Her passionate speech really moved me, so I thank her for that.

I am sad to be speaking in the debate. We should not be debating racism in cricket because it should not be happening, but the sad fact is that racism has been institutionalised in cricket for many years.

In preparing for the debate, I attended a briefing on the issue from sportscotland, which I will touch on shortly. We were also briefed on the issue by Running Out Racism, which describes itself as follows:

“A group of cricket lovers—players, administrators and fans—that want the current coverage on cricket in Scotland to lead to changes in the way our institutions are run, so that racism of all forms in cricket can be eradicated. We want to be part of the solution, and to have our say in what happens next.”

It is fantastic to see so many people in the gallery tonight. I thank all of them for raising the issue and for their bravery in doing so.

The sportscotland briefing highlighted the following important points. All of this has happened with Cricket Scotland winning various diversity awards and with budgets and oversight continually signed off. That demonstrates that there are issues with the oversight and governance of governing bodies. Cricket Scotland lacked both diversity and expertise to take things forward, and it is critical that anti-racism expertise and the voices of lived experience are involved in action planning.

Safeguards also need to be built in that can provide scrutiny and oversight in relation to such issues. At the moment, sportscotland has limited powers to address issues in governing bodies, which are often volunteer run and charged with vital responsibilities for issues such as racism, discrimination, safeguarding and the like.

Anti-racist infrastructure to oversee and support public bodies’ approaches, with the aim of ensuring that Scotland can become an anti-racist society, has already been agreed, and there are plans to use that to provide scrutiny in sport. That infrastructure is focused on ensuring that it is for all policy development and implementation in health, education and housing, and that it equally applies to sport and culture, given the current profile and challenges in the sector.

Members have talked about other sports, which need to learn from the review of racism. I coached football for more than 25 years, spending 15 years in the professional game. Over that period, I saw several racist incidents. As a football fan—I am a Hibs season ticket holder; I am sorry to mention that—I have heard racist abuse being directed at players. One of those players was a guy called Kevin Harper. Kevin was one of the first black players in Scotland, and one of the first black players for Hibs. I have talked to him in person about a lot of these issues and they still affect him now, all these years later.

Last year, I was contacted by two constituents, a week apart, about racist incidents in two amateur football games. My constituents were frustrated by the lack of action by the Scottish football authorities. I arranged three round tables, involving the sports minister, Maree Todd, and all the football governing bodies: the Scottish Football Association, the Scottish Youth Football Association, the Scottish Junior Football Association, the Scottish Amateur Football Association and Scottish Women’s Football. I also involved a couple of the senior clubs—Hibs and Hearts—in the area.

At the round tables, I discovered that the SFA employs only one person to look at diversity and racism issues, including policy, incident reporting and liaison with clubs. However, the SFA also has an equalities and diversity board, which meets quarterly and is keen to get a wider understanding of the different areas of the work that is carried out.

In comparison, in England—and I understand and appreciate that there is more money in English football—all premier league and championship teams must have full-time diversity officers, who look at issues of racism, misogyny and homophobia. That approach will be extended to league 1 clubs this season and to league 2 clubs next season.

The Scottish football authorities need to learn from the experience of Scottish cricket in dealing with these issues and from how sportscotland dealt with the situation, and they need to do more to tackle racism, sectarianism, transphobia, homophobia and misogyny in our sport.

I commend sportscotland for its work. Other sports—particularly football—need to do more.


Gillian Mackay (Central Scotland) (Green)

I thank Kaukab Stewart for bringing this important debate to the chamber and for her passionate speech. The “Changing the Boundaries” report is damning in its conclusions; as other members have said, the wealth of evidence was undeniable. It is worth noting that Plan4Sport, which produced the report, had almost 1,000 interactions with people to hear about their experiences. I would like to thank each and every one of the people who came forward and shared their stories about the impact that Scottish cricket has had on their lives.

The report found the leadership practices and governance of Cricket Scotland to be institutionally racist. It also found 448 instances that demonstrated institutional racism. Like so many colleagues across the chamber, I express my deep concern at the findings and my solidarity with those who experienced that institutional abuse. No one should be made to feel unsafe, unwelcome or abused in sport. We must ensure that those who have experienced or witnessed racist incidents have the confidence that their reports will be taken seriously and, crucially, acted on when they come forward.

That Cricket Scotland has won various awards for diversity is a further cause for concern and demonstrates that we cannot be complacent about the perceived progress that we have made on equalities in Scotland. We cannot be content with any progress that we have made while racism still thrives.

It is essential that the safeguards that we build in to provide the additional scrutiny and oversight that are needed in Scottish sport take account of the limited powers of institutions such as sportscotland to effectively explore and address racism across different governing bodies. Where vital responsibilities are discharged over areas such as safeguarding, racism and bullying in governing bodies, it is essential that institutions that lack expertise on their boards, which are often small or reliant on volunteers to function, are fully supported in those endeavours.

The Scottish Greens share the view that genuinely impactful equalities and anti-racist strategies should be central to organisations that receive Government funding. Further to that, I welcome the assessment framework that is set out in the report. I share the view that is noted in Kaukab Stewart’s motion that that could be used as a condition in the funding criteria for all funding of sports in Scotland.

I look forward to the response of the Scottish Government on the proposed anti-racist infrastructure model, which we understand is being considered and which will potentially be published next year. The report will inform the work on oversight and how to support public bodies to ensure Scotland can become an anti-racist society.

I am pleased that some measures are already being taken to provide oversight of Cricket Scotland until October 2023. Cricket Scotland is undertaking an immediate recruitment process for new board members and for additional staff to ensure the effective operation of new equalities measures and the undertaking of a governance review. It is vital that the voices of those with lived experience are part of that process.

We must also remember that cricket will not be the only sport in which such things happen. The situation should be a wake-up call to all governing bodies and taken as an opportunity for them to stand together and say that racism will not be allowed in our sports teams. Although I have spoken about the structures and teams involved, we should all remember the impact that there will have been on individual players, their lives, their families and their love of their sport. I hope that all those who have come forward are getting the support that they deserve.

I also thank Running Out Racism and other organisations, such as Show Racism the Red Card and Kick It Out, for their campaigning efforts to give this important issue the public attention that it deserves, and I thank all the people who joined the rally outside Holyrood to make their voices heard—that racism has no place in Scotland.

As parliamentarians, we must tackle these challenges, which are prevalent in all areas of public life. We must continue to be vigilant in the face of discrimination and address any form of inequality head on. Sport should be a welcoming place for everyone. Racism and all other forms of bigotry and discrimination have no place in Scottish sport and no place in Scotland.


Foysol Choudhury (Lothian) (Lab)

I thank Kaukab Stewart for bringing this very important matter to the chamber.

Here we go again. Another investigation, another organisation found to be institutionally racist, and a long list of actions to be taken. In 1999, the Macpherson report noted that institutional racism is

“The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin.”

Since then, positive steps towards equality have been taken. I applaud the work of campaigns, including Show Racism the Red Card and Kick it Out, which encourage the end of racism within sport. Twenty-three years after the 1999 Macpherson report, however, racism is still present across society.

Recently, we have seen stark inequalities laid bare in the Scottish Government’s equality impact assessment of its “Scottish Government Race Recruitment and Retention Action Plan”. Now, institutional racism in sport, most recently within Cricket Scotland, has been brought to light.

Institutions that receive Government funding must be held to account and must promote anti-racist equality practice. Institutions and their boards must not be given awards while failing to uphold standards of fairness, equality and accountability for those whom they serve. It is unacceptable that Cricket Scotland was winning diversity awards while 448 cases of institutional racism were happening.

The report detailed allegations of favouritism within Cricket Scotland towards white children from public schools. I commend those who shared their lived experiences of racism within the sport, including former Scotland internationals Majid Haq and Qasim Sheikh. Their doing so has helped to expose the realities that racism does still exist in Scotland and that something needs to be done now. I hope that, in the future, it will be easier for other victims of racism to share their experiences and be supported in doing so.

I welcome reports that many clubs support diversity and equality. However, more needs to be done so that the culture of equality is present within all clubs and, indeed, across all sports. Institutional change is needed to weed out institutional racism, so the introduction of diversity officer roles and independent complaints mechanisms within sport could be a good start.

The Plan4Sport report, while it is shocking and extremely disappointing, is a wake-up call to the reality of racism in sport in Scotland today. We need to use this opportunity to influence the future for Cricket Scotland and other sports bodies and institutions in Scotland. Now is the chance for the Scottish Government to prove that it takes institutional racism seriously and that, instead of offering piecemeal recommendations that do not go far enough, it is committed to overhauling racist institutions and practices throughout the nation and within its own institutions.

This is a time for us all to work together. I am committed to joining any discussions that the Scottish Government might have to influence meaningful action that could end institutional racism in Scotland and in Scottish sport.

I am a cricket lover and have played the game, myself. Sport should be an exciting, enjoyable pursuit for children and adults alike, and we should not be allowing a culture to exist in which people feel that they cannot succeed in, or enjoy, sport because of institutional barriers against their skin colour, religion, or cultural background. I want to see strict laws monitoring methods to ensure change.

Racism in Scotland has gone on long enough. Now is the time to deliver change.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Thank you very much, Mr Choudhury.

In order to allow the final speaker in the open debate to contribute, I am minded to accept a motion without notice under rule 8.14.3 to extend the debate by up to 30 minutes. I invite Kaukab Stewart to move such a motion.

Motion moved,

That, under Rule 8.14.3, the debate be extended by up to 30 minutes.—[Kaukab Stewart]

Motion agreed to.

That is not an invitation to take up to 30 minutes, Ms Mackay. Take around four minutes, please.


Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

I thank my friend and colleague Kaukab Stewart for bringing this hugely important debate to the chamber, and for her long-standing work on combating racism throughout society generally. I am delighted that her motion has received such amazing widespread cross-party support.

The fact that the debate is about ending institutional racism in sport is shocking. The fact that it has been proved that there is institutional racism in sport is shocking, and the fact that it took two international cricketing whistleblowers, Qasim Sheikh and Majid Haq, to speak out before it was acknowledged is beyond shocking.

Qasim Sheikh described the day that the report was published as he sat in front of a press conference as the most difficult of his life. He should not have had to do that. His complaints about racism had been ignored until they were endorsed by a sportscotland report. That speaks volumes. Cricket’s governing body, and even some fellow players, had turned the other way when complaints were raised. It was a case of “See no evil, hear no evil.”

As we have heard, the sportscotland report reveals 448 institutionally racist incidences. There were 448: let that sink in. It is shocking. There is no doubt that cultural change is required. Uncomfortable truths must be confronted, so we can only hope that this is the watershed moment that has been needed for so long. Cricket Scotland’s entire board resigned on the eve of the sportscotland report and the sport is now in special measures. It has until the end of the month to develop an action plan and will remain in special measures until at least September 2023, subject to its delivering outcomes that demonstrate an anti-racist approach.

The irony is that all that happened while Cricket Scotland was winning various diversity awards, as Gillian Mackay highlighted. That beggars belief and devalues the very purpose of the awards, which, in my opinion, would not even be needed in 2022 if we were a truly diverse population.

Sporting excellence has nothing to do with the colour of anyone’s skin, and outdated and racist attitudes have no place in Scotland—or anywhere else, for that matter. Those who perpetuate them should be called out at every opportunity.

Yesterday, I spoke in a members’ business debate that was brought to the chamber by Liz Smith, during which we celebrated the success of Team Scotland at the Commonwealth games. There was much to applaud. That is in stark contrast with today’s debate.

How do we move on from this sorry state of affairs? I do not pretend to know what goes on behind the scenes of sporting bodies. I can only comment on what has been made public; it seems to me that the two bodies have traditionally lacked diversity and expertise to take things forward. Of course, the voices of lived experience are, in my opinion, the most important to have at the heart of forward planning. Safeguards must be built in to provide independent scrutiny and oversight. I understand that sportscotland has limited powers to address issues within a governing body that appears to be all-powerful. That has to change, so I hope that the measures that are proposed will be effective.

We know that the problem of racism in sport does not exist just in Scotland or in cricket, but as a small nation that consistently punches above its weight in the sporting arena, we must address racism now and eradicate it for good.


The Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport (Maree Todd)

I thank Kaukab Stewart for lodging the motion about what is an important issue and a significant moment for sport in Scotland. The “Changing the Boundaries” report was more than uncomfortable to face. Frankly, it was distressing, it was shocking and it was utterly damning.

Tonight’s debate has covered a lot of ground. Although I am encouraged by some of the positive stories, I am under no illusion that there is long way to go to ensure that sport is truly inclusive and welcoming for all. Let me be absolutely clear: I firmly believe that there is no place for racism or discrimination of any kind in sport or in wider society.

Nelson Mandela has been quoted by a number of colleagues and what he said bears repeating:

“Sport has the power to the change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”

I really believe that that can be the case. Sport can unite people and sport can be a leading light in tackling some of the ingrained inequality and unfairness that we have in our society. Being involved in sport and physical activity is so beneficial for people’s physical, mental and social health. It helps prevent heart disease, strokes, diabetes and a lot of cancers. It plays an important part in helping us maintain a healthy weight. It makes a positive contribution to good mental health, helps to reduce stress and improve self-esteem and self-efficacy, and helps to manage depression and anxiety. Sport also strengthens communities. That is why I believe that it is vitally important that everyone in Scotland feels welcome in sport and has the opportunity to be involved. Sport is a critical part of improving the health of the nation but also of creating a fair and just society.

I was saddened, angry and distressed to read about what many have experienced in Scottish cricket. Last week, I met the interim chief executive officer of Cricket Scotland and sportscotland to discuss the “Changing the Boundaries” report, the recommendations and the associated action plan. I was genuinely pleased to hear their progress so far and how they plan to proceed. The board recruitment process is under way for a chair and two non-executive directors. I know that they are promoting these roles widely to reach directly into as diverse an audience and communities as possible. The governance review will be commenced once board members are in place.

The action plan is being developed and an equality, diversity and inclusion task force is being established. The cabinet secretary and I have been clear that we expect to see that progress continue, and we will be undertaking regular meetings to hear about the progress.

We are also looking forward, along with the Minister for Equalities and Older People, to our forthcoming meeting with Running Out Racism. As others have said, that organisation was established after concerns were raised about racism in Yorkshire cricket and it has done a huge amount to support everyone who has experienced racism in cricket.

I give my heartfelt thanks to each and every person who spoke to the review and described their experience. I know that that cannot have been easy. Fundamental to our response to the report is the need to listen to those who have bravely spoken out and to ask them about the changes that they need to see take place in cricket and sport. I have confidence that sportscotland and Cricket Scotland understand the importance of this work. I know that they are willing and positive about working with others to bring about change.

I am also grateful to sportscotland for appointing Plan4Sport to undertake the independent review so quickly after allegations surfaced and for its commitment to this work.

Of course, as many have said, racism is not confined to cricket, just as racism is not confined to sport. Sportscotland is speaking to all Scottish governing bodies of sport about the issues that are raised in the report and is supporting them to consider what needs to happen in their own sport.

Will the minister take an intervention on that point?

Certainly, but let me just complete the point. My sense is that this will just have lifted the lid and that we are peering inside and will see a grim picture replicated throughout sport.

Brian Whittle

I have been listening to the debate today with great interest and I keep hearing the idea that sportscotland does not have the powers that it requires to tackle racism. I am thinking about my own sport. To be an affiliated club in track and field athletics, each club has to have a trained welfare officer. To be a coach in that club, we have to undergo an equalities course every time we renew our licence. Should we think about replicating that across the whole of Scottish sport?

Maree Todd

Certainly there are good pockets of work in many sports. We have heard about some of them today, but what we need to do is take a systematic approach to this right across the board and make sure that there is no sport and no place for institutional racism to thrive in, as it clearly has done in cricket.

We absolutely need sports to ensure that they are truly inclusive of the communities that they take place in. As many have said, that needs to be from the playing field right to the boardroom. We have to do more. It needs to include not just people who are involved in sport. It is not just they have to educate themselves about racism; they have to understand unconscious bias as well. We all need to be active in our intent to root out racism. Passive sympathy is just not enough.

I have to acknowledge that there is a lack of trust in the organisations and the processes. Given the level of institutional racism that has been exposed, that does not surprise me. I understand that. We have to work to rebuild that trust by listening to people with lived experience and acting to ensure system change. This is an important issue. It is important to everyone in the chamber and the communities that we serve. This report has made grim reading. It is a low point in Scottish sport, but let us hope that this low point can be a new beginning.

I am open to all ideas about how we might work together and collectively make a difference. I am more than happy to continue cross-party discussions and to update colleagues regularly. I am very keen to hear ideas on how we take this forward, to understand where gaps exist and strengthen structures where they need to be strengthened. We are listening. We are having more detailed conversations about the issue and engaging with stakeholders right across a range of issues from race to safeguarding.

Finally, I thank everyone who has contributed to the discussion tonight and again thank my colleague Kaukab Stewart for bringing the motion to the Parliament. I am also very grateful to the many people in the gallery and the many people watching at home who have shone a light on this issue, who made us all feel uncomfortable. I promise you that we will do better.

That concludes the debate and I close this meeting of Parliament.

Meeting closed at 18:22.