Skip to main content

Language: English / Gàidhlig

Loading…

Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Meeting of the Parliament 21 March 2018

Agenda: Business Motion, United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Portfolio Question Time, UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3, UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill, Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time


Contents


United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-10173, in the name of Fulton MacGregor, on the United Nations international day for the elimination of racial discrimination. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises that 21 March 2018 is the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; understands that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set out therein without distinction to race, colour or national origin; notes that racial inequality and racial discrimination continue to be prevalent and, at times, accepted in society, despite the ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination nearly 53 years ago; condemns all forms of racism and racial discrimination in Scotland; notes that the UN has urged taking comprehensive measures to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances; welcomes the publication of the Scottish Government’s Race Equality Framework for Scotland 2016-2030 and the Race Equality Action Plan 2017-2021, and notes the calls for there to be regular updates on actions taken to fully eradicate racism and racial discrimination in Scotland.

13:16  

I thank colleagues from across the chamber for supporting the motion and allowing this important topic to be brought to the chamber today. It is worth putting on record my disappointment that the time for the debate has been brought forward. I know that needs must, given the impact of Brexit on everything, but I also know that the number of people who spoke to me about this debate prior to the change in the timing is not reflected by the number of people currently in the chamber.

I have had the pleasure of chairing the cross-party group in the Scottish Parliament on racial equality since it was reformed after the election in 2016. During that time, I have had the privilege of meeting and speaking with many people from around Scotland about the issues that are faced on a day-to-day basis by people from black and minority ethnic communities. I particularly thank the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights for its support for the cross-party group and for its help in pursuing and securing this debate. I am delighted to note that many representatives from the cross-party group are in the public gallery, but I think that the number there has been affected by the change in the debate’s timing. However, some have still managed to come along and witness the issue being discussed in Scotland’s Parliament.

Today marks the 52nd anniversary of the international day for the elimination of racial discrimination, which was established by the UN following the massacre of 69 people who were shot and killed by police at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against apartheid laws. Since the ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1965, the United Kingdom, among 87 nations, has signed up to and committed to recognising the human rights and personal freedoms of all people, regardless of race, nationality or ethnicity. Major steps have been taken in the fight against racial discrimination since then, but how sad is it that, more than 50 years later, the problem has not been eradicated from our streets and workplaces?

Despite good progress, there is still a huge amount of work to be done to rid ourselves completely of racism, particularly casual racism, which occurs even among senior public figures, including politicians. In 2016, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on Scotland to strengthen its commitments to those international ideals and recommended that the Scottish Government take steps to prevent hate crimes and racist bullying in schools; increase access to legal aid; improve the curriculum on the history of the British empire and colonialism, particularly with regard to slavery; and review stop-and-search powers in law enforcement. As a result, the Scottish Government recently published “A Fairer Scotland for All: Race Equality Action Plan 2017-21”, which outlines the steps that the Scottish Government intends to take to promote racial equality in Scotland in a wide range of areas, from employment to housing and community cohesion and safety, to name but a few. I was grateful to the cabinet secretary for coming along to the most recent meeting of the cross-party group to update members on the plan.

Recognising racism and establishing a national approach to eliminating it in our society is a momentous step that I am sure that we can all support, particularly at a time when Lord Bracadale is undertaking a review into hate crime legislation in Scotland. In recent weeks, we have seen significant coverage of the racism that is experienced by elected officials in Scotland, who call on us to consider the reality of racism in not only our political system but wider Scottish society. If that is the sort of racist abuse faced by elected members, what must other members of ethnic and cultural minority communities be facing? For example, a report from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service shows that racial crimes were the most commonly reported hate crime in the past year, with 3,349 charges reported. Although it would be easy to congratulate ourselves for having the lowest number of reported hate crimes in more than 10 years, that is 3,349 charges too many.

As elected representatives for a diverse range of people, it is important that we recognise that these issues are faced not only by members of minority ethnic communities. The CPG on racial equality in Scotland has focused its attention on matters such as poverty and the discrimination that is faced by Gypsy Travellers. Over recent weeks, there has been much discussion in the chamber about sectarianism in Scotland and how we should best tackle it.

There is much more to this picture. We need to look beyond to understand the inherent structures that perpetuate racism and prejudice in our society. A publication that examined the link between ethnicity and poverty in Scotland found that, overall, poverty is higher among ethnic minority groups than it is among the majority white population, and that there is a lack of inclusive services—including childcare—that take into account cultural and religious differences.

A report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that

“if you are born into an ethnic minority household today, you are nearly four times more likely to be in a household that is overcrowded and up to twice as likely to be living in poverty and experiencing unemployment.”

Not only that, but people from ethnic minority communities with qualifications equal to their majority white counterparts face greater barriers to finding work that matches their qualifications. That is a waste of talent and completely unfair on the individuals concerned. Those inherent biases and injustices do nothing but hurt our society. As I have mentioned in the chamber previously, I am dealing with a constituency case that involves some of those problems.

At the end of the day, we are all Scottish people with various cultural and racial backgrounds. We are part of the grand tapestry of Scotland. Everyone is part of our inclusive national identity. We are all equal citizens who are united through our shared national identity. As members of Parliament, we must use our privilege as the voice of our constituents in towns, villages, cities and communities in Scotland to champion our nation as an international leader in challenging racial discrimination and progressing racial equality.

Scotland has a proud history of challenging racial discrimination and we must share the responsibility of carrying that work forward. The Scottish Parliament should strive to be a leading international voice in reinforcing the support of our institutions for a world that is founded in justice, equality and human rights. I am pleased that we are taking steps to do that through the bold policies and legislation of the Government and through the formation of various cross-party groups, including the newly formed cross-party group on tackling Islamophobia, which is chaired by Anas Sarwar MSP.

One of my main hopes in life is that the generations that follow us, when looking at these matters during discussions on history, such as those that my children will have at school, will wonder why we ever thought that this was an issue. However, policies, legislation and cross-party groups on their own will never be enough to make that dream a reality. We all need to do our bit in an ever-changing world in which world leaders run campaigns about building barriers and walls, and in which Brexit threatens migration to our country.

I finish with the motto of BEMIS, which is one that I believe that we should all adopt: there is only one race, the human race, diverse in its glorious nature.

13:23  

I thank Fulton MacGregor for bringing this important topic to the chamber. I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the UN international day for the elimination of racial discrimination. Looking at this year’s theme of promoting tolerance, unity and respect for diversity, I echo the sentiments of Fulton MacGregor by insisting that we must continue to fight for true racial equality.

Around one in eight people in this country are from Scotland’s ethnic and cultural minority communities. Despite the fact that they are part and parcel of the country’s make-up, gross inequalities still exist. For example, politically, just 1.2 per cent of our councillors are from an ethnic minority community and, economically, we know that the people from those communities remain clustered in lower-paid, part-time jobs.

Culturally, as we have seen from recent high-profile cases, Scotland is not immune from the everyday racism that we so desperately need to stamp out—from personal attacks online to the ignorant comments that are made in everyday conversation. In addressing those inequalities, I suggest that we must go back to basics. First and foremost, we must understand exactly where we are in terms of racial equality.

In December last year, I spoke in the debate on the Scottish Government’s racial equality action plan, during which I highlighted the need for vastly improved data collection in Scotland. Currently, we are behind the curve with gaps across the board. Due to time, I am not able to name them all, but examples include: voter registration figures by ethnicity, ethnicity of homicide victims, nationwide data on racist incidents in school, ethnicity pay gap figures and data on the uptake of mental health services based on ethnicity.

If Scotland is not to take part in the UK race disparity audit, I renew my call for a robust approach to improved Scotland-specific data and call on the Scottish Government to issue regular updates on how its equality evidence finder is progressing. Knowing the statistics and being honest about our current stalemate will shine a light on the disparities that exist, and will drive progress.

Racial discrimination transcends the bread-and-butter issues of life—education, employment and justice. That is why societal and cultural attitudes also require our undivided attention. Discrimination can be embedded in our language, through throwaway comments passed off as jokes and through as simple a thing as who we see on the big screen.

As the wording of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination shows, the definition of racial discrimination extends to include restriction, distinction and exclusion from the cultural and social spheres, which creates an abundance of scenarios in which racial discrimination can be missed. I will give a brief idea of the areas on which we could focus.

Education is key to creating a positive example of how children can embrace an inclusive national identity from an early age. I am pleased that BEMIS is working with Education Scotland to embed race equality resources in the curriculum. As the organisation has highlighted, it is important that that approach extends beyond schools that have large ethnic and cultural minority communities.

Language, too, is paramount. That is why, in preparation for the debate, I have reflected on my own use of terms such as BME and questioned whether such abstract groupings can inadvertently create the impression of distance and otherness.

It is important that we have such discussions and think more broadly about how we go about creating an inclusive national identity that genuinely embraces everyone’s cultural characteristics—from language to music—to create a positive picture of diversity. In doing so, we will shine a light on hidden discrimination and, I hope, bring about real societal change. I wholeheartedly wish us to work together as MSPs and parties to achieve that and I again thank Fulton MacGregor for bringing the debate to the Parliament.

13:28  

I thank my colleague Fulton MacGregor for securing the debate and echo his frustration that we were not able to have it in the evening. However, it is important that it goes ahead.

As Fulton MacGregor outlined, the history of why we have the UN international day for the elimination of racial discrimination is well known: 21 March 1960 was, of course, the Sharpeville massacre—a massacre of people who were protesting against the egregious and horrific pass laws that were fundamental to the apartheid system in South Africa. It is appropriate that we are having this debate because 2018 is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is also the centenary year of the birth of Nelson Mandela and, indeed, the 25th anniversary of his visit to Glasgow.

I add my support to the Nelson Mandela Scottish Memorial Foundation, which is campaigning under the auspices of the legendary Brian Filling, our honorary consul for South Africa and a giant of the Scottish anti-apartheid movement. I lend my support to that campaign because it is incredibly important that we recognise Mandela’s contribution. One of the great actions that we took in Scotland to challenge apartheid was to change the name of St George’s Place to Nelson Mandela Place—of course, the South African consulate was located there.

That speaks to the broader issue of the structures of racism, which Fulton MacGregor mentioned. There are still literal, physical structures. Anyone who walks through Glasgow will see structures named Buchanan after Andrew Buchanan and Glassford after John Glassford. The magnificent properties that we see were financed by slavery, the most egregious form of exploitation and the most racist system that has ever existed. We must take cognisance of that. We must recognise Scotland’s colonial history. We can sometimes be rather prone to slapping ourselves on the back and saying that we are all Jock Tamson’s bairns, but the legacy is hard-wired into our architecture and history.

In my constituency of Renfrewshire South, Milliken Park is named after James Millliken, and there are places named after the McDowalls of Castle Semple in Lochwinnoch and the Houston family, all of whom have prominent connections to the slave trade. We need to address the lack of awareness of Scotland’s history and connections among many people.

I want to pick up the point in the motion about the race equality action plan. Section 3 of that plan refers to health, which is important. It refers specifically to improving the uptake of HIV testing, especially in the African community. As co-convener of the cross-party group on sexual health and blood-borne viruses, I have met community workers and representatives of the African community who are doing tremendous work on that.

I highlight the importance of hepatitis C testing, which is a particular issue for our south Asian community. The Hepatitis C Trust suggests that the prevalence of hepatitis C in the south Asian community in the UK is 2 to 4 per cent, which is four to eight times higher than the figure for the rest of the population. That is an important issue to take into consideration, and I will highlight it in a members’ business debate on the hepatitis C virus that I will have later this year.

Having considered Scotland’s past in relation to colonialism and racism, we have to realise that this is a present-day issue. My colleague Humza Yousaf and Anas Sarwar have been subjected to horrific abuse, slurs and statements. I stand united with Anas Sarwar, Humza Yousaf and everyone else in opposing and deploring such actions and words.

In an age of vitriolic populism right across the globe in which we are seeing many communities, including migrant communities being targeted and being blamed for economic inequality, we must redouble our efforts to eliminate racism and its root causes.

13:32  

I congratulate Fulton MacGregor on securing the debate, and I thank him for his work with the cross-party group on racial equality. I look forward to continuing that work with him through that CPG and through the CPG on tackling Islamophobia.

I take this opportunity to send a message of solidarity to all our diverse communities, here in Scotland and right across the world, who are victims of everyday prejudice, bias or abuse. The reality is that if we accept that everyday sexism and everyday homophobia exist in our country—which they do—we must also accept that everyday racism, everyday anti-semitism and everyday Islamophobia are real, too. In the vast majority of cases, that is not something criminal—it is not something that we can report to the police or something that someone can be charged with—but it still impacts on life chances, life opportunities and life outcomes. That is why we have to look at ourselves, our own individual behaviour and our Parliaments, local authorities and institutions to see what more we can do to challenge everyday prejudice in all its forms.

As others have said, we cannot leave that fight to individual communities. We cannot leave the fight for gender equality to women, and we cannot leave the fight on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights to the LGBT community. In just the same way, we cannot leave the fight against anti-semitism, racism or Islamophobia to those individual communities. We have to see this as a collective fight for all of us if we are genuinely to eradicate it from our communities.

I have mentioned the impact in terms of criminality, but there is more of an impact in terms of access to education and educational outcomes, access to employment and the ability to pursue a career pathway and gain promotion, and access to public services. That is why, in setting up the cross-party group on tackling Islamophobia and after speaking about some of my own experiences, I have sent detailed proposals to the First Minister. I look forward to receiving a response to them.

This issue goes way beyond party politics. It is not an issue on which we are going to pick a fight with one another about our party colours, but one on which we have to be united as one, and we have to speak out against it. I want to raise an issue that has come up in the past 24 hours, because it is important that we say directly to all our institutions across Scotland, including political parties—my own and every other—national and local government, public services and other organisations, “Wake up! Everyday racism is real.” It is impacting people every day and none of us is immune to it.

In the past 24 hours, we have seen reports about a Clyde Football Club player who made racial comments against an Annan Athletic footballer at the beginning of January. Clyde has now put out a statement detailing what that player’s punishment will be. I want to repeat what he said—I apologise for the language that I am about to use.

Please do not swear. You can metaphorically bleep.

I will metaphorically bleep, then. At the start of the match, Ally Love, the Clyde FC footballer, said to Rabin Omar, a Dutch-born Iraqi Kurdish footballer, “Are you black or white?” During the game, he called Omar a P B—members can probably guess what I am referring to—and when he was challenged during the match, he replied, “Will it just be you, or are you going to bring your P pals?”

The referee and other players heard those comments and the incident was included in the match report. An investigation took place and the Scottish Football Association suspended Ally Love for five games. Managers get suspended for five games when they argue with the referee, and they are sent to the stand. This was a much more severe incident and warranted a greater punishment than suspension for five games, but in the past 24 hours Clyde FC has said that it conducted its own investigation and the punishment that it decided on was to send Ally Love on diversity training.

I am sick to death of hearing of the use of diversity training as some kind of excuse or punishment. Diversity training should be mainstream for every one of us. Ally Love should be suspended by his club, if not expelled altogether. We have to send a message—particularly to our young people, who see footballers as role models—that the time is up for the expression of hateful views in the open and, indeed, in private. The time is up for all those people with hateful views. I look to my children to make sure that they do not grow up in a Scotland where racism exists, but we need to look to all our children to create a Scotland free from any form of hate or prejudice.

13:38  

I commend the speech that we have just heard from Anas Sarwar. As well as the powerful later part of his speech, he began by saying that we should express our solidarity and good wishes to the diverse communities of Scotland. As today is Newroz, the Kurdish new year, I offer special good wishes to Scotland’s Kurdish community. I also commend Fulton MacGregor for bringing the debate to the chamber, gaining cross-party support for it and giving us the opportunity to have a debate on the topic.

I acknowledge the work that is happening. The motion mentions the work that the Government is doing—the action plan, the framework and so on—and the minister will no doubt speak about that. Work is also being done on a cross-party basis through the CPG group on racial equality, and Anas Sarwar mentioned the CPG on Islamophobia that he has just initiated—a welcome addition to the cross-party work that happens.

Several of us in the chamber are also members of the cross-party group on Govanhill. It is worth reflecting on the level of community activism in places such as Govanhill—for example, the celebration of the Roma community both annually and throughout the year.

It is absolutely vital that communities get involved through vibrant community activism. This is not just about the response of politics, Government and public services. Local community leadership needs to be part of the response to the rising tide of racism and intolerance in our society—and it is a rising tide, regrettably.

Fulton MacGregor mentioned that Brexit impacts on everything that we do these days. This does not apply to everybody who voted leave, because there are some who are delusional enough to think that there is an economic argument in favour of the Brexit project, but it is worth saying very clearly that, for others, the project has fundamentally been a racist one, predicated on hostility to immigrants—or to people they perceive to be immigrants, even if they were born here—and intolerance towards migrant labour, asylum seekers and refugees. It has come on the back of years of racist rhetoric in parts of our press on those issues and against those people.

We know that the referendum result itself provoked and triggered an increase in hate crime—in particular, racist hate crime. I fear that we have to acknowledge that the same thing is likely to happen when the Brexit project itself is completed, and again when the UK Government attempts to impose more hostile anti-immigrant policies at a UK level.

Although most of us would oppose that policy direction, we need to recognise what is happening and to gear ourselves up with the courage and commitment to oppose what is likely to be a very challenging time—a time in which we will continue to see that rising tide of racism and intolerance.

It is not only the Brexit crisis that has emboldened those who take such views and who wish to propagate racism; globally, the impact of the Trump presidency has emboldened them and given some form of perceived permission to those who want to propagate racism, white supremacy and intolerant attitudes and ideas. We see that not only in social media but—as has been quite clearly and correctly stated in the debate—in people’s communities and in people’s lives on a daily basis, and I fear that it will get worse in the years ahead.

I welcome the fact that the Bracadale review—the hate crime review that should have happened several years ago—is now under way. I hope that it is coming towards a conclusion and some recommendations. I have made the argument to Lord Bracadale that we should be open to the question whether far-right language and imagery themselves need to be recognised as hate crime.

I endorse Anas Sarwar’s comments about political parties as well as other institutions in our society. I know that there has been recent high-profile discussion about the Labour Party, but it is by no means an issue for only on one political party—it is an issue that reaches across the political spectrum. It reaches across our society and our political landscape, and every political party has a responsibility to take a zero tolerance attitude not only in reacting to specific incidents, but in ensuring, proactively, that we do not recruit as candidates people who need to be disciplined for what are basic matters of decency and civility.

13:43  

I thank Fulton MacGregor for securing today’s members’ business debate, which gives us the opportunity to properly mark the UN international day for the elimination of racial discrimination.

This is a well-timed debate. We only have to look at the recent high-profile case that we all have heard of, involving one of our colleagues, Humza Yousaf, who was faced with Islamophobic comments from an elected councillor, to realise that. Humza Yousaf and Anas Sarwar spoke powerfully on the BBC at the weekend about racism and Islamophobia and the threats and abuse that they receive as public figures due to their race and religion—injustices that no one should ever have to face today. It shows that we still have some distance to travel before we are finally able to say that Scotland is free from this despicable form of discrimination.

The UN international day for the elimination of racial discrimination has been marked since 1966, and the UN chose 21 March because it was on that day in 1960 that police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid laws, in Sharpeville, South Africa. Proclaiming the day in 1966, the United Nations general assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

It is appropriate that this day is still marked in South Africa as human rights day, which is a public holiday. I am sure that everyone in the Parliament offers our support to South Africans as they commemorate the lives that were sadly lost during their long struggle for democracy, freedom and equal human rights in their country during the apartheid regime.

Since then, the UN has adopted the Durban declaration and programme of action, to address and track instances of discrimination around the world. Under the programme, measures have been put in place for nations to report on the state of equality and be held accountable for addressing evident issues. In April 2009, the Durban review conference was held to look into the effectiveness of the programme’s performance. Individuals and organisations had the opportunity to speak about the state of racial and religious equality in their countries.

Examples of racial discrimination exist throughout the Commonwealth. During the conference, Khalid Hussain, a Bihari from Bangladesh, talked about the discrimination that he and his community face. The Bihari are not recognized by the public as citizens and face discrimination in the context of school and employment opportunities. They have been living in camps throughout Bangladesh since the partition of Pakistan in 1971.

Many Bihari people are denied entry to the public school system after primary school, which forces them to go to private school—something that most Bihari cannot afford to do. That was Hussain’s experience, and while he was at private school, he and his Bihari classmates were bullied and marginalised in the classroom. Nevertheless, he was lucky enough to get an education. Many of his peers were unable to do so, which has placed limits on the jobs that they can hold.

Although discrimination continues, there was new hope in 2003 when Bihari living in the camps were officially deemed Bangladeshi by the Bangladeshi High Court, which forced the Electoral Commission to give them voting rights.

That is just one of numerous accounts of the racial or religious discrimination that citizens of the Commonwealth face every day. Last week, we celebrated Commonwealth day and reflected on the progress that has been made, while recognising the progress that remains to be made. In the context of racial discrimination, we must continue to work towards a fairer society throughout Scotland, the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, including through the United Nations.

The promotion of tolerance, inclusion, unity and respect for diversity is the focus of this year’s international day for the elimination of racial discrimination. Globally, there is still much progress to be made. Despite the near-global ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, many individuals and communities still face systemic discrimination based on their race or religion.

If there is global co-operation and we share tactics that have worked in individual countries, making a true effort to end racial and religious discrimination, progress can be made.

13:48  

I thank all members for their considered and insightful speeches, and in particular I thank Fulton MacGregor for lodging the motion that we debate in the Parliament today. It is fitting that we are discussing these matters on the international day for the elimination of racial discrimination.

Like the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government is determined that Scotland should do all that it can to advance race equality, tackle racism and address the barriers that prevent people from minority ethnic communities from realising their fullest potential.

With that in mind, we published the race equality action plan in December, which restates our commitment to race equality and outlines the actions that we will take during this parliamentary session to realise the ambitions that are set out in the race equality framework for Scotland, which was published in March 2016. Following the recommendation of Kaliani Lyle, the independent race equality framework adviser, we are establishing a senior level programme board, which will meet quarterly, to oversee the action plan’s implementation.

This is, of course, the year of young people. A group of minority ethnic young people have been working with the Scottish Government since April 2017, supported by Young Scot, to co-design a fairer future for minority ethnic young people in Scotland. In November, they published their report, which is entitled “Creating a Fairer Future—Young people’s ideas for race equality in Scotland”. Most of the panel members have experienced some form of discrimination based on their ethnic background. In the midst of talking about Government policy, it is worth reflecting on the fact that the Government policy exists because of personal human experiences of unjustifiable discrimination—experiences that limit people’s opportunities in their lives in our country. All that has a terrible impact on people and families.

As Patrick Harvie observed, we live in a time when some people feel that casual racism has been given political permission from some quarters, here and in other countries. All of us as politicians and all parties need to tackle that head on. As we have heard, part of that involves examining our past, including examining the history of the British empire in a way that we perhaps do not often do, as well as the role of Scots in the slave trade, which Tom Arthur alluded to, even if that means merely looking about us and learning the story behind some of our street names.

As my colleague the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities announced earlier today, one of our partners in the work that we do, BEMIS, will deliver a programme of local and national events that are aimed at involving minority ethnic young people in the year of young people. BEMIS, which has delivered strongly on previous themed years, will receive around £70,000 for that project. That is in addition to the £2.6 million of funding that we provide to tackle racism and racial discrimination. We are also providing £500,000 for a new workplace equality fund, which will support innovative projects that are aimed at reducing barriers to employment for minority ethnic people, women, disabled people and older people.

The race equality adviser’s report “Addressing Race Inequality in Scotland: The Way Forward” highlighted that research shows that one community faces particular discrimination, and that is Scotland’s Gypsy Traveller community. That is why in December 2017 the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities announced the establishment of a ministerial working group specifically on Gypsy Travellers, which she chairs and which is attended by the Minister for Local Government and Housing, the Minister for Childcare and Early Years, the Minister for Employability and Training and the Minister for Public Health and Sport. The cabinet secretary and the ministers on the working group have been visiting Gypsy Traveller sites and meeting members of that community. Engagement with the community will continue over the lifespan of the working group, not simply to ask what the problems are—we have probably done that already—but to check out with them the viability of the solutions that the working group develops.

More generally, the actions that we need to eradicate racism are of course not just for the Scottish Government alone. As Anas Sarwar rightly said, every individual and organisation in Scotland needs to play their role in creating a fair and equal Scotland that protects and includes people from all backgrounds, whatever their ethnicity. As Annie Wells and others observed, we cannot be complacent just because we have not seen in Scotland some of the issues that have been evident in other parts of the UK. As recent incidents have shown, Scotland is not immune from the phenomenon of public figures in our communities saying moronic things. Members of the Parliament have been subjected to offensive comments and much worse because of their race or religion. Strong action needs to be taken against all offenders and all political parties and all of us in the Parliament need to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to examples of racist hate crime.

I will finish with a quote from the American writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde, who wrote:

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

We may look and sound different and live differently, but we are all people. As Fulton MacGregor said, we are all Scots—we all live in this community together and we all deserve the same opportunities and to be able to make the same contribution as anyone else.

13:54 Meeting suspended.  

14:00 On resuming—