Meeting date: Thursday, December 14, 2017
Meeting of the Parliament 14 December 2017
Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Bank Branch Closures, Draft Spending and Tax Plans 2018-19, Race Equality, Writers to the Signet Dependants’ Annuity Fund Amendment (Scotland) Bill: Final Stage, Decision Time
- General Question Time
- First Minister’s Question Time
- Bank Branch Closures
- Draft Spending and Tax Plans 2018-19
- Race Equality
- Writers to the Signet Dependants’ Annuity Fund Amendment (Scotland) Bill: Final Stage
- Decision Time
The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-09529, in the name of Angela Constance, on a fairer Scotland—delivering race equality.15:36
In March last year, we published the race equality framework, which set out this Government’s long-term ambitions to create a more inclusive, equal society for our minority ethnic communities.
Since then, the world has changed. In the months following the European Union referendum, we have seen a growth of racially motivated hate crime—predominantly south of the border, but here in Scotland, there is a growing sense of unease and uncertainty in some of our communities about the future. We have also seen an increase in racial tensions globally; people have been vilified because of their ethnicity and skin colour. Added to that, we have seen a trend in the promotion and growth of abhorrent ideologies peddled by right-wing groups that we thought were extinct. Who would have thought that, in 2017, we would see people giving Nazi salutes at rallies and demonstrations in the US and elsewhere—and doing so with impunity?
Recent events have taught us that long-term objectives are not enough to counter the forces that seek to sow discord and disharmony—what we need is action and change and that is what we will deliver. Last December, I appointed Ms Kaliani Lyle as our independent race equality adviser. In that role, she had free rein to look into the current state of race equality in Scotland. My ask of her was to scope out the landscape and report back to me on how we might really make a difference.
In her report, “Addressing Race Inequality in Scotland: The Way Forward”, which was published on Monday, Ms Lyle has identified a number of key areas in which she believes that we can make a positive impact on the lives of individuals from minority ethnic backgrounds and I agree with her assessment. I am very pleased that Ms Lyle is with us today, observing proceedings from the public gallery. I record my appreciation for the work that she has carried out.
As a result of Ms Lyle’s thorough and nuanced analysis, we now have a clear steer on where we ought to concentrate our efforts during this parliamentary session. The race equality action plan, which was also published on Monday, is our response to her challenge. The new action plan does not negate the work that a wide range of stakeholders in the sector currently have under way, and a lot of good work that is in progress will continue to receive our support. Rather, the new plan augments that work and seeks to build on the solid foundations that have been laid by organisations such as BEMIS—empowering Scotland’s ethnic and cultural minority communities, the Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisations, and the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights.
However, it is time for specific, concrete actions that will effect change now. Ms Lyle identified in her report a number of key areas to prioritise and I will touch briefly on some of them. Everyone in society should have equality of opportunity when it comes to earning a living or pursuing their preferred career, yet for many people from our minority ethnic communities, achieving that ambition remains elusive.
Frustratingly, despite having the highest level of educational attainment, people from minority ethnic communities are twice as likely to be unemployed compared with those from white communities; we need to understand why that is and take action to address it. In our new race equality action plan, we have set out a series of actions to do just that. We will review employment support measures to ensure that they are focused on achieving parity in employment. We will also work with organisations across the public sector to increase employment and the progression of people from minority ethnic backgrounds.
Last year, the Scottish Government provided £60,000 to the Grameen Scotland Foundation. Since it began lending in Scotland in 2014, the foundation has provided more than £600,000 in loans, with 56 per cent of recipients being women and 71 per cent of recipients coming from minority ethnic communities. Today, I am delighted to announce that we will provide a further £70,000 to strengthen the foundation’s existing activity and to support its expansion into new communities in Dundee and North Ayrshire, helping more than 100 new entrepreneurs to access affordable microcredit.
Addressing the employment issues will not yield results overnight, but it is right that we prioritise that area for decisive action, given the significant, lasting and transformative impact that that will have.
I turn to housing. Statistics show that people from minority ethnic communities are four times more likely to live in overcrowded homes than their white counterparts. They are also far more likely to live in housing in the private sector, often in poorer-quality housing stock. It is of fundamental importance that everyone has a safe and secure place in which to live and thrive.
Among a number of actions, we will reaffirm our expectation that local authorities fully consider the requirement for larger accommodation, including for minority ethnic families, and seek to address any identified need. We will ensure that the joint housing policy and delivery group has a renewed focus on the needs of minority ethnic communities.
When people are forced into low-paid work, or face continued spells of unemployment, that is not only a drain on the economy but a waste of potential, and it can seem impossible for them to escape the poverty trap. Tackling those issues will be a key consideration for our poverty and inequality commission, but we can take actions now to address the needs of our minority ethnic communities.
In our race equality action plan, we are committed to introducing the new financial health checks service for families who have children, or who are expecting, and we will ensure that ethnicity is a consideration in the development of the child poverty delivery plan. We will also work with minority ethnic volunteers on experience panels to help to shape our new social security system.
With the exception of Gypsy Traveller children, minority ethnic pupils in Scotland achieve higher levels of educational attainment, but a number of areas need to be addressed. Anecdotal evidence tells us that some teachers lack the skills and the support structures to support and to promote anti-racist education. In addition, the diversity of the profession has contracted, and teachers from minority ethnic backgrounds account for only 1.3 per cent of the total.
We will fund a series of seminars for leaders of Scottish education services to develop their knowledge and capacity to lead, to manage and to deliver for race equality. Additionally, we will work with Education Scotland and the regional improvement collaboratives in the development of our new professional learning and leadership, and ensure that minority ethnic teachers are encouraged and supported to participate.
Furthermore, in 2018, we will introduce a new approach for local authorities and schools to record and monitor bullying and prejudiced-based bullying incidents.
I turn to Gypsy Travellers. We know that our Gypsy Traveller communities are among the most disenfranchised and discriminated against in Scotland. I acknowledge the work of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee and, indeed, its predecessors, and its unstinting championing of the rights of those communities. In order to address these complex issues, we need a more focused and co-ordinated approach across Government. Therefore, I have established a ministerial working group to drive change and to focus efforts to improve the lives of the most marginalised people in our society. I will chair the group, and we will start our work in the new year.
I have highlighted only some of the key points from the action plan, which I am sure that members have noted. I very much hope that, by working together, we can collectively seize the opportunity that is provided by the independent race equality adviser’s report and continue to make changes for the betterment of the lives of our minority ethnic communities. I am pleased to move the motion in my name.
That the Parliament believes that no one should be marginalised or discriminated against because of their race or background and that Scotland should be a place where everyone is equal; notes the publication of the report by the Independent Race Equality Adviser, Kaliani Lyle, Addressing Race Inequality in Scotland: The Way Forward, highlighting key priority areas for improvement, and acknowledges the actions being put in place through the Scottish Government’s Race Equality Action Plan to tackle racial discrimination and inequality in society; welcomes the creation of a Scottish Government ministerial working group to determine priorities for action and drive forward the changes required to improve the lives of Scotland’s Gypsy/Traveller communities; recognises that, to achieve race equality, all of society must play a role in removing barriers that stand in the way of people from an ethnic minority group reaching their full potential, and agrees that everyone must work together to create a fair and equal Scotland for all who live and work here.15:45
According to the 2011 census, the size of the black and minority ethnic population in Scotland is just over 200,000, equating to 4 per cent of Scotland’s total population. If we include all minority ethnic populations, including those who do not identify as white Scottish or British, the figure is even higher, at 8 per cent, equating to around one in every 12 people. Significant as that is, those from the minority ethnic population still face cultural and economic barriers that prevent them from reaching their potential simply because of their ethnicity.
People from minority ethnic groups are more likely to be in poverty and to live in overcrowded homes compared with those from the white Scottish and British population. They have lower employment rates—I will expand on that later—and when it comes to public life, people from minority ethnic populations are still vastly underrepresented. In this year’s Scottish council elections, for example, just 15 non-white minority ethnic councillors were elected out of a total of 1,227, which is a percentage of just 1.2 per cent.
We know that there is still a long way to go in ensuring true racial equality, which is why I welcome today’s debate and will support the Scottish Government’s motion. I am pleased that action is being taken through the publication of the racial equality action plan and the creation of the ministerial working group on Gypsy Travellers. I see that as an opportunity to speak honestly about the challenges that lie ahead and the frustrating pace at which certain areas are progressing.
In identifying the barriers that exist to prioritising resources, it is important that we continually seek to improve the data that is available to us; the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights raised that point with the Equalities and Human Rights Committee. The equality evidence strategy outlined the general approach to strengthening the evidence base, but it remains important, as CRER pointed out, that we seek to specify and define individual projects to fill the gaps. Some of the most important gaps identified are those in data from public sector bodies, and in data on the ethnicity pay gap, social security take-up, positive action schemes, racist incidents in schools, careers guidance and intersectional analysis on poverty and ethnicity and gender.
I would like the Scottish Government to create a strong plan on how that data will be gathered, with accompanying timescales; my amendment alludes to that. In doing that, we will ensure that resources are prioritised where they are needed and that accurate data is recorded so that we can see what needs to be done and in which specific areas. Where we know that there are vast disparities, as we have seen with employment—often seen as the route out of poverty—I would like concerted efforts to be made to bridge the gap between white Scots and ethnic minority groups. We know that ethnic minorities often outperform in education compared with white Scots, but when it comes to the labour market, things change drastically. BME people are often clustered into lower-grade, part-time jobs and although white Scots have an employment rate of 74.2 per cent, the figure plummets to 58.5 per cent for minority ethnic groups.
Discrimination still exists in both the private sector and the public sector. A CRER study evidenced that for local authority jobs, even after the interview stage, white candidates were almost twice as likely to be appointed as BME candidates; and a 2009 Department for Work and Pensions study found that despite submitting the same application, people with a BME name had to submit 16 job applications compared with the nine that those with a white name had to submit before receiving a positive response. That is unacceptable. We heard from 16-year-old Charlotte at the Equalities and Human Rights Committee last week that, as a Gypsy Traveller, she felt compelled to hide her ethnicity when starting work at a nursery. Evidently, more needs to be done and I am pleased that the plan sets out actions on that.
My final point is about the importance of being as proactive as we possibly can be when it comes to improving the lives of Scotland’s minority populations. During meetings in which I have sought to learn about promoting diversity in public life more broadly, the need to go into communities directly has been raised time and time again.
When I met Inspector Shakoor of Police Scotland, who specialises in encouraging members of minority groups to consider a career with the force, I was inspired by what he said about his efforts in relation to breaking boundaries and speaking to everyone in the community, including faith leaders and parents, as well as potential new recruits. I was inspired by the passion of Inspector Shakoor, who showed me that encouraging diversity in employment and public representation is about getting into those communities and showing that we care.
Again, I thank the Scottish Government for bringing forward this issue for debate to allow us to restate the Parliament’s efforts to bring about full racial equality. It is important to have an honest debate around this subject and to talk openly about what we can do to achieve the aims that are set out in the motion and amendments.
Some progress has been made in recent years but, on a number of fronts, we still see progress stagnating. I hope that that can be improved through more focused action.
I move amendment S5M-09529.1, to insert at end:
“, and notes the need to respond to calls from racial equality charities to continually improve the data available for protected characteristics and fill evidence gaps.”15:51
Fifty years after the introduction of Britain’s first legislation aimed at tackling inequality, minority ethnic people still face serious disadvantage in their daily lives. As we have heard, higher rates of poverty, lower rates of employment and a range of health inequalities dominate the picture. What is more, the lack of minority ethnic visibility in every aspect of public life is shocking and is a testament to the failures of public policy and successive Governments. As Annie Wells said, it is shocking to find that, when it comes to political life, we are two BME councillors down on the previous local authority elections. If 4 per cent of Scotland’s population comes from the minority ethnic community, there should be 49 minority ethnic councillors in Scotland. In addition, it is sad to note that there are only three minority ethnic female councillors. Similarly, only 1 per cent of Police Scotland’s officers and staff are from a minority ethnic background. There is something seriously wrong there—there has to be something meaningful in the action plan to get that figure up.
Despite that reality, action on race inequality has fallen off the agenda. The Government’s framework for race equality is long overdue. Further, this parliamentary debate is long overdue, and I have to express my frustration at the fact that it has been reduced to a slot of only one and a half hours. I would have preferred to delay the debate so that we could have had longer to debate the issues.
I remind the member that it is the Parliamentary Bureau, which includes the business managers of all the parties, that decides the timings of debates.
I was just expressing my personal view that, given the importance—
I think that it is fair to point out that the timings of debates are agreed across the chamber by the business managers.
I still stand by what I said, which was that I would have preferred it if the debate had been delayed, because I think that it is an important debate for us to have.
The framework itself is a positive step but, to be honest, the document needs to set out a clearer vision. I know that the Government has tried to do that in the action plan, but what appears to be missing from the approach is any serious monitoring of the progress that we might make along the way. The Labour amendment tries to address that. We will also support the Tory amendment.
One aspect that can be lost in the debate is how diverse the problem is. The fact that the minority ethnic population is about 4 per cent of the Scottish population tells us very little about the problem. Organisations such as BEMIS would argue that that figure is higher if we include the Polish and Irish communities and those from the A8 countries such as Romania and Bulgaria.
Those from the African and Polish communities are much more likely to be in low-paid jobs. Minority ethnic women are at a double disadvantage. Gypsy Travellers, who are included in the definition in the legislation, are a small group but, as the cabinet secretary has said, they face high levels of discrimination compared with other groups. I welcome her announcement today.
It is essential that different aspects of the needs of each community are analysed and that the problem is not simply seen as a hierarchical one. People from minority ethnic communities are twice as likely to be in poverty. Indeed, after housing costs, one third are in poverty in comparison with 18 per cent of those from non-minority ethnic communities. They also have lower rates of benefits take-up.
Racism and disadvantage are deep rooted. The cycle of hidden or unconscious bias in all levels of society needs to be seriously challenged if we are to make progress. Scotland is not that different from the rest of the UK with regard to institutionalised racism.
I ask for deeper analysis of the position of women and girls. There is a lack of disaggregated data, and the Scottish economy is highly segregated, as we know. Ethnic minority women are underrepresented in lead sectors of the knowledge economy, including science. Thirty-nine per cent of Pakistani women are in the wholesale retail sector, and 46 per cent of Chinese women are concentrated in the hotel sector. Girls in BME groups have a higher level of attainment than boys in BME groups—in fact, they have the highest level of attainment of all groups. We need to take a serious look at how we can make that matter to those girls.
Close the Gap has noticed that there is a concentration of women in low-paid professions and that they are significantly underrepresented in senior roles. Minority ethnic women experience a double barrier of racism and sexism, which makes it difficult to find work that matches their qualifications, despite achieving higher qualifications.
I recognise the work that the Government is doing; Labour members will support both the Government motion and, as I said, the Tory amendment. We need to start making real progress in this area, and I hope that that will start very soon.
I move amendment S5M-09529.3 to insert at end:
“, and calls on the Scottish Government to commit to a system that is able to establish what has and what has not been effective, identify barriers to progress, update the action plan with any new approach determined and monitor and evaluate the impact of the Race Equality Action Plan at regular intervals, preferably at least every three years, including through involving key race equality bodies in the work of the ministerial working group.”
We move to the open debate, with speeches of four minutes. If members have not pressed their request-to-speak button, it follows that they have not requested to speak, Mr Dornan.15:56
Today’s debate and the publication of the race equality action plan send a strong message to people from ethnic minority backgrounds that the Scottish Government is resolute in making our country a better and fairer place, no matter a person’s background or race.
The strategy sets out many positive steps that will be taken over the coming years to drive real and lasting change, and it will strive to ensure that everyone is able to realise their true potential. The plan contains no fewer than 120 different actions—from employment to education, health to housing and poverty to public representation—showing the Scottish Government’s clear commitment to improve every aspect of a person’s life.
We have come a long way over the past few decades in reducing racial inequalities, but it is a disappointing reality that people from underrepresented backgrounds still face poorer outcomes than the majority of Scots. For example, in the year ending June 2017, the employment rate in Scotland for white people was 74 per cent, but it was much lower for ethnic minority groups, at 58 per cent. The stats also show that, while one in five people who identify as “White British” live in poverty, the figure for those from minority backgrounds is more than one in three. People from such communities are twice as likely to be unemployed; if we can tackle the inequalities and discrimination in the labour market, many other linked inequalities can be alleviated as well.
Our aspiration is not simply to move people who are marginalised into employment; it is to ensure that they are employed in jobs that are appropriate for their level of skills, qualifications and experience. One of the most marginalised groups in Scotland is the Gypsy Traveller community, as we have heard. The most recent Scottish social attitudes survey found that 34 per cent of people in Scotland believed that
“a Gypsy/Traveller was unsuitable as a primary school teacher”,
while 32 per cent would be unhappy if a relative married a Gypsy Traveller.
Let us reflect on those findings for a moment. If that was any other community, there would be a social outcry and the people who held such views would be taken to task. Such attitudes are not easily changed when a former Tory MSP—now an MP—voices similar views himself. When asked what he would do if he were Prime Minister for the day and if there were no repercussions, Douglas Ross responded that he
“would like to see tougher enforcement against Gypsy Travellers”.
The Gypsy Traveller community is a huge part of Scotland’s rich cultural heritage, and Mr Ross should be ashamed of the way in which he singled them out. I am sad that discrimination against them seems to be accepted and normalised by many people, and I welcome the commitments made in the report to tackle that.
As we have heard, in addition to financially supporting organisations that work to improve outcomes for Gypsy Travellers, the Scottish Government will also establish a ministerial working group specifically to drive forward improvements for that community. Such steps show the Scottish Government’s leadership in advancing race equality.
My constituency of Rutherglen is home to Scotland’s second-largest settlement of showpeople. For centuries, showpeople have toured the country providing entertainment and other services to local communities, taking pride in their strong and unique cultural identity. I doubt that there is a member in the chamber who does not have a childhood memory, or even a more recent one, of a trip to the shows. I know from the constituents I have spoken with, and from the discussions that we have had in the cross-party group on the Scottish Showmen’s Guild, that many people in that community would wish to be able to identify themselves as a distinct people.
The option to identify oneself as “White: Gypsy/Traveller” was included for the first time in the Scottish census in 2011, and that is a step that I welcome. However, many showpeople also wish their community to be granted equal status and acknowledgment in any future census. Showpeople’s identity can often be misunderstood, so any steps to increase knowledge of their culture—and the cultures of different minorities—should be welcomed.16:01
I welcome the debate, but I agree with Pauline McNeill that it is a shame that it has been shoehorned into the end of the afternoon.
As Annie Wells said, we will support the Government’s motion. One does not really need to say any more than the first few words of the motion, which states:
“that no one should be marginalised or discriminated against because of their race or background”.
Kaliani Lyle’s “Addressing Race Inequality in Scotland: The Way Forward” is an important document. It is a useful and detailed outline of some of the key challenges. I also welcome the race equality action plan, in which the cabinet secretary states:
“The reality is that in Scotland today, people from minority ethnic communities are twice as likely to be unemployed, run a higher risk of poverty and are more likely to live in overcrowded homes.”
It is housing that I want to concentrate on today.
First, I will cite some statistics taken from both reports. In Scotland, “White: Other British”, “Pakistani” and “White: Scottish” ethnic groups had the highest levels of home ownership—at 70, 68 and 68 per cent respectively—in 2011. The “African” and “White: Gypsy/Traveller” groups had the highest proportions of people who lived in social rented accommodation—at 41 and 40 per cent respectively, or double the rates in the population as a whole. “White: Polish”, “Bangladeshi” and “African” households had the highest rates of overcrowding.
Ms Lyle says that
“people from minority ethnic communities are disproportionately likely to live in the private rented sector”
“we know little as to why this is the case.”
She recommends that research be done to explore the gap between what minority ethnic communities need and what they have, and why it exists. Accurate data is important, as our amendment points out. She also suggests that the Scottish Government should consider setting aside a proportion of the affordable housing investment fund to allow for the provision of larger properties for minority ethnic communities in those local authority areas that are failing to do that. Ms Constance does not go quite as far as that in her own series of action points, and I think that she is probably right in the tone that she sets. We need to treat everybody in housing need fairly, based on accurate data.
Ms Lyle also addresses the crucial issue of housing quality, and focuses on the private rented sector. She says:
“We have the legislation required to target housing quality improvement in those sectors where minority ethnic communities predominate. What is now needed is better enforcement of that legislation.”
She calls for the Scottish Government to do an assessment of the enforcement of private rented sector regulations and to report on the findings. As members across the chamber have said, the issue of housing conditions and maintenance is huge. We should not limit our discussions on that to particular sections of society, or indeed particular forms of tenure. The issue is massive and needs to be seen as such, although it is clearly a particular issue for certain sections of society.
I said that I welcome the race equality action plan. However, like most Government documents, it is heavy on waffle, particularly in the housing section, and light on detail. That aside, if members back the motion, we can truly have a chance of achieving race equality.
I also heard what Graham Simpson had to say about the length of the debate. I suggest that he and Pauline McNeill take that up with their respective business managers. That is the way that timing arrangements come about. If members are not happy, they should take it up with their business managers, so that it does not happen next time.
On a point of order, Presiding Officer.
It is not a point of order, Ms McNeill.
On a point of order, Presiding Officer. You intervened in my speech twice to make that point, but I want to know whether any rules were broken. I heard what you said about raising it, but—
It was a point of clarification for the chamber. I hear that members are unhappy about the length of time that the debate has been given. The resolution is for members to speak to their business managers, who agree the timings for all debates in the chamber. That applies to all parties; every party has a business manager and is represented at the bureau meetings at which timings for debates are decided. I was giving clarification to the chamber about why this is a short debate.16:06
I agree whole-heartedly with the motion. Scotland should be a country that is proud of its record of striving for equality. We should endeavour to be a country that nurtures good relations within communities, supports interfaith activities and tackles the prejudices and attitudes that foster intolerance and hate crime. Scotland should be a place where individuals from a variety of backgrounds can live and raise their families safely and without fear of prejudice. Furthermore, people of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds should be able to follow their religion or beliefs without bigotry or bias from others. The race equality framework for Scotland shows a commitment from the Government to tackling the barriers that are faced in achieving race equality, tackling racism and addressing the obstacles that prevent people from minority ethnic communities from realising their potential.
In relation to employment barriers, I believe that private companies should report not just on their gender pay gap but on gender, race and disability. We should be ensuring that the Scottish living wage is paid across all sectors, particularly those in which significant numbers of workers from BME backgrounds are present. Many such citizens are the most economically active but—as others have said—they are also residing disproportionately in poverty.
It is also about getting into work in the first place. I spoke to a constituent from Iran who has a degree in interior architecture and design and a masters in construction management. She is experiencing significant barriers to getting into that line of work. Why? Is it because she is female? Is it because she is from a BME background? I am not sure, but that is something that we need to address. I also believe that the modern apprenticeship programme should ensure that it is putting measures in place to achieve equality objectives—perhaps by continuing, and even broadening, its strategic intervention across both marketing and integration to the world of work.
I am the convener for the cross-party group on racial equality, having taken over from my predecessor, Bob Doris. I thank the vast array of organisations—far too many to mention—that make up that group and contribute to it. In particular, I thank Jatin, Rebecca and Carol from the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights, who make sure that the group functions well. It aims to provide a forum for issues relating to race and anti-racism, and to seek solutions to the discrimination that is faced by Scotland’s black and minority ethnic communities.
As a wee plug, I say that the next meeting is on 23 January and I encourage all MSPs who have contributed to today’s debate and MSPs more widely to come along. An invitation to that meeting has just been sent to the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, and to Kaliani Lyle, and I hope that their diaries will permit them to come along and discuss the framework.
Ms Lyle has been a speaker at previous meetings; she came and gave an excellent presentation while we were forming the debate for today. Given my position, it is only fair that I highlight the overall feeling of members in the room at that meeting, which can be put into some broad areas. Scotland has improved over time, but progress is very slow. People from BME communities, in particular, still feel the strain of prejudice in a wide range of areas, including the welfare, justice and education systems. There can be a disconnect between individual diverse communities. Finally, people from those communities do not want lip service and talking shops—they want elected members, parliamentarians and others to take their thoughts and views seriously. That is what the framework that the Government and the cabinet secretary have brought forward does.
I see that I am running out of time. I had intended to speak about the Gypsy Traveller community, which the cross-party group also discussed, but my colleague Clare Haughey eloquently covered that.
One of the most important actions that need to be taken is the employment of a zero tolerance approach to discrimination. That goes not just for the general public but for employers, healthcare providers, planning bodies and a range of people across the public sector.16:10
I make it clear that the comments that I will make are not a criticism of the cabinet secretary, of the good intentions of the civil servants concerned or, indeed, of the action plan. I welcome the action plan and the points in it, but I want to reflect on my own lived experience and stories that have been shared with me by family, friends and constituents.
Although the plan’s aims are noble, there is a wider institutional problem that needs to be addressed. Let us take the Scottish Parliament as an example. There have been five Scottish Parliament elections, and in that time only four ethnic minority members have been elected, all of them from Glasgow, all of them from a south Asian background, all of them Muslim and all of them male. In the entire history of the Westminster Parliament, only three ethnic minority members have been elected to Westminster to represent Scottish constituencies, and it could be said that that is partially negated by the fact that two of them belong to the same family. As things stand, Scotland has zero ethnic minority representation in the UK Parliament.
Anyone from an ethnic minority who has represented any political party in this chamber or at Westminster will admit that they are nervous when it comes to talking about race. That is partly because of a belief that we need to portray ourselves as being representatives of all communities, not just the one that we come from. That is why we avoid talking about race. I will be honest—I am nervous about talking about race today and, as members know, I do not often get nervous about many things.
I want to speak about what I think is, at times, a Scottish exceptionalism. I do not think that, as a country or a society, we talk about race in the way we should. I do not think that our chattering classes talk about race or that the media talks about race. We rightly all repeat the line that Scotland is an open, diverse and inclusive country, but that should not blind us to the challenges that are faced in Scotland. It sometimes feels as though we talk ourselves up as being different from and better than other places when, in fact, there is good and bad in every country. Someone does not become any more or any less racist when they pass a border—when they get to Carlisle, for example. We have good and bad in all our countries.
When ethnic minority people talk about race, because it is not talked about in wider society or in our media, we are often accused of playing the race card. I welcome, celebrate and take part in all the campaigns on everyday sexism—which is an important issue—and everyday homophobia, but what about the everyday racism that takes place? Where are the discussions on that? We have all heard things such as, “I’m not a racist but ...” and “I know you say you’re Scottish but ...”. One of my favourites is, “I can’t be a racist, because I have black friends.” Particularly worrying is, “I can’t be racist, because I teach black children,” which someone said to me just a few weeks ago.
Although there has been a reduction in the number of racial hate crimes in our communities, there has been an increase in the number of religious hate crimes, which often involve the transference of hatred to a different form of different. The number of Islamophobic hate crimes in Scotland has doubled in the past year. That is impacting on women in particular, especially women who wear a headscarf.
If I had time, I would give more detailed examples of the challenges that we face to do with the police in Scotland. The statistics have been mentioned, so I will not repeat them. We need to measure and address the wider institutional issues that we face. It is not just action that we need; we need to think about how we can challenge and change the culture. As well as looking at the proportion of BME workers in the wider workforce, we should examine the proportion who occupy lead roles.
Over the past three months, I have had experience of a certain campaign. I will not go into the details of that today—I might speak about some of it at some point in the future, when I am more confident about doing so.
These questions need to be asked. How many chief executive officers of companies in Scotland are from an ethnic minority? How many chairs of public bodies in Scotland are from an ethnic minority? How many chief executives of councils or Government departments in Scotland are from an ethnic minority? How many departmental directors are from an ethnic minority? How many special advisers are from an ethnic minority? How many of the staff who run political parties are from an ethnic minority? How many university or college principals are from an ethnic minority? How many school headteachers are from an ethnic minority? How many editors or producers are from an ethnic minority? The answer to each and every single one of those questions is none or next to none. That is not acceptable and it needs to be addressed in wider society.
I want to say a lot more but now is not the time. Perhaps I can do it at some time in the future.
I appreciate that you wanted to say more, which is why I let you have longer.16:15
I very much welcome the debate and the earlier comments that no one should be marginalised or discriminated against.
I proposed an amendment to the motion, which was to insert:
“recognises the failure of successive governments to eradicate long-standing and deep-seated prejudice against Gypsy/Travellers”.
I have a lot of engagement with the Gypsy Traveller community, most of whom call themselves Scottish Travellers. It would be churlish of me not to say that there has been a lot of progress, and I welcome the cabinet secretary’s leadership.
We cannot look forward without looking back. I want to allude to documents that were made available to the Equalities and Human Rights Committee, which discussed these issues at its meeting last week. The documents were about the situations that Gypsy Travellers found themselves in historically. They were about a housing experiment. I am grateful to Roseanna and Shamus McPhee, who are—not that I need to say this—highly educated and talented people who are unemployed Gypsy Travellers. I will just read a couple of passages from the letter of 19 March 1954, if I may:
“After working among this class of people for the past seventeen years, I fully appreciate the general opinion that the majority of the Nomad families have not many redeeming features, nevertheless, if we are to tolerate such a way of life in our midst, then we must provide suitable camping sites for this class of people.”
Further on, the letter says:
“This property is 12 miles from Blairgowrie, and I would suggest it would be ideal for a Tinker Settlement, which I can see is the only solution to the Tinker Problem ... I am sure this proposed small Tinker Settlement, would at least be part of the solution to this grievous problem in our midst, and would be an example to the other Counties as to how to tackle the Tinker Problem.”
That was written to the county clerk by a gentleman who signed himself
“William Webb ... Chaplain to Tinkers”.
That tells us all we need to know about their standing.
No one should be marginalised or discriminated against. How do Gypsy Traveller communities feel about that? A briefing that was prepared for the meeting of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee—I was a member of the Equal Opportunities Committee last session—referred to two committee reports: “Gypsy/Travellers and care”; and “Where Gypsy/Travellers Live”. We know that they are not unique, but we heard stories about medical practitioners refusing to treat Gypsy Travellers, and Gypsy Travellers being turned away from accident and emergency departments.
We know that information is limited, so we support the Conservatives’ position on data. The Irish Traveller movement has gathered a lot of information and I commend the yellow flag movement to members. Indeed, I have commended it to the Scottish Government in the past. It talks about encouraging an environment of interculturalism.
These are still different people. These are still the folk who park their trailers in lay-bys beside main roads. Why do they do that? They do not choose to park there. They do not choose to go on to industrial estates. They no longer have access to their historical stop-over sites.
Local authorities have a mixed position on this, although they have an obligation to assess housing need. I have faced challenges with that in my area. Highland Council has four sites. One of the sites suffered a lot of damage and I asked the council when it was going to sort it, but it said that there was no need. I asked how it established that and, to cut a long story short, it has all been sorted and, when I passed the site on Friday night, it was full of families, which was good to see.
The political leadership that all these reports have called for is absolutely necessary. I get that no one wants a bun fight over whose responsibility it is. Planning is reserved to local authorities. However, someone has to grasp this, because we all need to live somewhere and we all need access. If people’s lifestyles are genuinely to be facilitated—there is no reason why a nomadic lifestyle cannot be supported in this day and age—people will either have to cede power or seize power. Either way, we need that change.
Although we are happy to support the Conservative Party amendment, the issue also requires political leadership. Douglas Ross has been alluded to. There are not many of us who have not thought about what we would say if we were asked what we would do if we had charge of things for a day. Douglas Ross did not make a spontaneous outburst. There was something deep seated there, to do with a history of involvement with planning issues in Moray. This week, I read that the Conservative Party has restored the whip to the MP Anne Marie Morris, who apparently used the N word—excuse my language, Presiding Officer.
We need leadership. We had an excellent speech from Anas Sarwar. We need to change things. The cabinet secretary will get full backing for her plans, if we can deliver on them.16:20
I, too, welcome the debate and thank the Scottish Government for using its time to allow the Parliament the opportunity to consider the race equality action plan, which was published this week. All told, the 120 action points that are recommended in the plan represent the distance that we as a nation still have to travel in respect of our efforts to eradicate racial inequality and discrimination in our country.
In the words of Coretta Scott King, who I have quoted in this chamber before, the struggle for equality is never truly over and we have to win it with each and every generation. When the President of the United States, the putative leader of the free world, takes it upon himself to retweet the vile, fabricated and hate-filled videos of Britain First, which are designed to incite hatred against Islam, that should serve as a weather vane for where our generation’s struggle shall lie.
The action plan gives us the measure of the task before us in Scotland and, in the main, presents us with a road map of how to get there. It speaks to a range of frontiers that we need collectively to make progress on. The calamitous decision to exit the EU has emboldened the far right in this country and has led to an uptick in religious intolerance and race hate crimes. Although that has predominantly been manifest south of the border, we do our communities a disservice if we believe that the increase has only been manifest there.
I therefore welcome the plan and pledge the support of the Liberal Democrats for its execution, but we would do well to listen to organisations such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which point out the gaps in the plan and in our existing provision for people from ethnic minorities, particularly in areas such as mental health. As such, it is important that the plan remains a living and breathing document that is open to continuous improvement from all quarters.
In my remaining time, I want to pick up on the words of John Finnie and address the particular aspects of the Government motion, which are not necessarily fully addressed in the plan, in respect of Gypsy Travellers. We often forget that they, too, are afforded protections in the Equality Act 2010, under the protected characteristic of race and ethnicity.
As deputy convener of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee, it was my privilege to take evidence last week from a range of representatives of the Scottish Gypsy Traveller community. John Finnie joined us on that occasion, which he was welcome to do. I am not overstating things when I say that that amounted to two of the most informative hours of my career in this place. That Gypsies and Travellers can trace their origins in Scotland to before the time of the Vikings gives them an indigenous status that is nearly unparalleled, but they still experience what amounts to, in the words of Davie Donaldson, their fiercely articulate representative at the meeting,
“the last acceptable form of racism in this country.”
Davie is 19 and, as a nomadic traveller, he has seen the rights and interests of his people and other communities of Gypsies and Travellers steadily eroded over that short period. He is currently studying for an undergraduate degree in social anthropology at the University of Aberdeen but, prior to that, he held a youth council representative role. On one occasion, he attended a meeting on planning in the city and he asked about the needs of the Traveller community. The senior city figure who was chairing the meeting, not knowing that Davie was a Traveller, replied, “Son, the first rule of planning you need to understand is that nobody cares about the tinks.”
That happened just two years ago. It is almost unimaginable that a city leader would use such a pejorative and derisive term about any other race or ethnicity. However, such an attitude is manifest in the number of sites that have been closed to Travellers in the past two decades, about which we heard in the debate, in the normalisation of the open abuse and name-calling to which Travellers are subjected in schools and communities, and in the prejudice that Travellers still experience when they try to obtain full-time employment.
It struck me that although our society is very much enriched by Traveller communities, we persistently fail those communities in the formulation of public policy. In her opening speech, the cabinet secretary talked about the community’s disenfranchisement. If someone is nomadic in Scotland, who represents their interests in the Scottish Parliament? Who is their MSP? To whom do they go for support? I look forward to addressing such issues as we deliver the action plan.
I again thank the Government for raising this important issue and assure it of our support for the motion. We also support both amendments.16:25
I welcome the publication of the race equality action plan. Like many members, I welcome, in particular, the focus on the inequality and discrimination that Gypsy Travellers experience.
In Scotland, Gypsy Travellers experience particular disadvantage, not just in housing, health, employment and education but in many other areas. It is saddening and frustrating to see how many of the problems that they experience are cyclical in nature.
Shelter Scotland reports that there are currently no official transit sites where Travellers can stop over. Many council sites are in bad locations and have inadequate facilities and limited access to services, which means that Travellers often have to stop in unauthorised areas, as John Finnie said. That can lead to problems and confrontations with local communities that make the initial problem harder to resolve.
It is encouraging to see the action that has been taken and the progress that has been made in Scotland, such as the recognition of Gypsy Travellers as an ethnic minority with its own culture, traditions and ethnicity, which ensures that they receive the protection under equality law to which they are entitled, as a result of having a protected characteristic.
There is also the guidance for local authorities, which was published in May this year, the establishment of the Scottish traveller education review group and the incorporation of minimum site standards into the Scottish social housing charter. However, I must point out that much of the work on the Gypsy Traveller strategy was subject to numerous delays. Such delays must be avoided in future.
We still have a long way to go. We must tackle the false and damaging prejudices that exist about Gypsy Travellers. Common and insidious assumptions about a group of people cannot and must not be tolerated.
I invite members to imagine being in this position: they have noticed that their son’s homework is repeatedly not marked by his teacher, so they express their concern. As they leave, at the school gate, they hear the same teacher say, “I don’t know why she’s complaining. I know he’s a Gypsy and he’s not going to do anything with it anyway.”
The young boy grows up—Alex Cole-Hamilton told the story, but I will tell it again, because it is worth repeating. He is at a community planning executive meeting, as the vice-chair of the local youth council. He is 16. It is his first meeting, and no one knows that he is a Traveller. The group is discussing national health service provision in rural and marginalised communities, so he decides to ask, “What about the Gypsy Traveller community?” This is what followed, as we heard in the Equalities and Human Rights Committee last week:
“The whole table went silent”
and then came the line:
“here’s your first lesson ... No one here cares about the tinks.”—[Official Report, Equalities and Human Rights Committee, 7 December 2017; c 9.]
Those are just two examples that were relayed to the committee. It is still happening and in some sectors it is getting worse. There is a lack of access to healthcare, education, social services, jobs and sometimes even sanitary services and running water.
It is acknowledged in the report that discrimination against Gypsy Travellers is far more accepted and normalised than discrimination that is directed at other minority ethnic groups. The people who gave evidence to the committee last week told us that the treatment that they face is the “last acceptable form of racism.”
I absolutely agree with the comments of Gail Ross and other members about the discrimination that Gypsy Travellers face. Many members will know that I have a particular interest in the plight of Gypsy Travellers. The chamber has a strong record of members working together to tackle discrimination and inequality. Does Gail Ross agree that it is now time for the whole chamber to unite to tackle the discrimination that Gypsy Travellers face?
I could not agree more. That was well said. Thank you.
The Scottish Government prides itself on its inclusive values, and it has repeatedly acted to demonstrate that, such as with the reassurance that was offered to EU nationals who will live in Scotland after Brexit and our apology and pardon to gay men with historical convictions. I welcome the measures in the action plan to move to achieve real and tangible progress that we can all be proud of and to promote tolerance among everyone in our society, including and particularly towards the Gypsy Traveller community.16:30
I am delighted to take part in this important debate on race equality.
It is absolutely vital that Scotland is a tolerant and welcoming society and that nobody is discriminated against because of their race or background. That is why it is vital that we engage with people and ask them to come forward to speak honestly about what is happening and the topic that we are discussing.
Race inequality can affect every aspect of a person’s life. People from ethnic minorities can face discrimination and challenges when they attempt to secure housing, enter the workplace or even access transport. Those are basic functions that we would expect to have in a normal society. If we put up barriers to those things against individuals, that is totally unacceptable. It is important for us all to look at the wide range of issues that affect those from ethnic minorities when we address race inequality.
The introduction of a joint ministerial working group is very much welcome. That recognises that the issues cannot be viewed in isolation. Race inequality cuts across ministerial portfolios, and that fact must be borne in mind when we talk about policy decisions. The new working group should help to ensure that that happens and that the tackling of race inequality is a top priority for the Government and the Parliament.
Over the past few decades, we have come a long way in tackling race inequality, but there is still some way to go. Events over recent months have been very worrying. Members have already alluded to some of those situations and circumstances, which have caused us real concern.
“Addressing Race Inequality in Scotland: The Way Forward”, by the independent race equality adviser, is a comprehensive publication that gives real direction to where we should focus our efforts. We should focus our efforts on working together, making communities feel safe and supporting individuals.
The Scottish Conservatives’ amendment asks members to recognise the importance of continually improving our data. That is vital, because that data shows exactly what we can do if we take the information and use it to our advantage. The report cites previous examples of data collection, such as in the equality evidence strategy, and calls on the Scottish Government to act to tackle the gaps that were identified in that strategy.
I very much welcome the new funding, which will be transforming, but we have to work together to ensure that that becomes a reality.
The report talks about the Scottish Government showing leadership across the public sector to improve the collection of ethnicity data. That issue has to be looked at to ensure that we have that information. The gathering of such data is incredibly important to allow us to identify and, more important, to tackle such inequalities.
I hope that all members across the chamber support our amendment. I see the opportunities that it brings.
It has been very encouraging to hear many comments that have been made. People understand the real issues that individuals face in our communities, and I am pleased that the Scottish Government does so. The Scottish Conservatives support the entirety of the Scottish Government’s motion with our small addition.
We must do all that we can. I support Annie Wells’s amendment, but we must focus on the action plan, make things better, and improve the lives of individuals and groups who feel disenfranchised and that barriers have been put in front of them. It is up to us in the Parliament to make a difference. Working together, we can achieve that.16:34
I welcome the debate and the publication of the race equality action plan, which provides a framework for how we improve the lives and experiences of minority ethnic communities in Scotland. Like the cabinet secretary, I particularly thank Kaliani Lyle and the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights for their contributions to the report and the debate.
Given that the debate takes place on what has been a momentous day in the chamber, it would be frustrating if the budget overshadowed some of the important speeches that we have heard—particularly from Anas Sarwar and from a range of excellent speakers on the discrimination that the Gypsy Traveller community faces.
The Government can count on the support of Labour members when it takes definite actions to advance racial equality. That is why we have called on the Government to confirm on the record that it will review and evaluate its progress in taking those actions.
I hope that, as work progresses, the Government takes action on Ms Lyle’s fifth recommendation, that directors of service review previous initiatives. That would help us all to learn valuable lessons and would build improvements into the Government’s work—for instance, on why employment targets in the 2008 Scottish Government race equality statement were not met.
It is clear from the report that many of the actions are embedded in existing projects. That shows the important work that the Government is already doing to fulfil its equality duties, which is to be welcomed. We look forward to seeing the detail of how the plan will be funded and supported and to hearing how that work can be optimised or made to stand alone, which will be crucial.
Headline statistics in the plan’s sections on employment, housing, community cohesion and poverty starkly isolate where minority ethnic communities face the greatest disadvantages. There is a 15 per cent gap in the employment rate, their housing is more insecure and overcrowded, the poverty rate is 50 per cent higher among them and the number of hate crimes that they experience averages 10 a day. Those statistics were highlighted by Annie Wells, Pauline McNeill and other members.
With next week’s stage 1 debate on the Social Security (Scotland) Bill just around the corner, I will concentrate on some of the actions in section 5 of the plan. Particularly welcome is the commitment that the experience panels will be “fully representative”. When I asked about it, earlier in the autumn, monitoring work had not begun, so I would be grateful if ministers would confirm whether that work is now under way.
When we consider racial equality alongside social security, it is alarming that, although minority ethnic groups are more likely than their white peers to be in poverty, the level of benefit take-up is lower among them. We have, therefore, worked with the Government to call for a legal duty to increase the awareness and take-up of benefits. That call builds on a key recommendation of the Scottish Government’s poverty adviser.
One recommendation that has achieved broad agreement among members of the Social Security Committee is that the legislation should include a right to independent advocacy. We back that call for all users and recognise just how important such a right will be. The social security system is about to get a lot more complex and, if communities who already face barriers to access can be aided to get the most out of the new Scottish social security system, that will be most welcome.
I hope that, as well as accepting our support, the Government will take on board what Labour members have said about the need to strengthen and measure the actions in the action plan and to increase progress through regular reporting to Parliament. I ask members to support the amendment in the name of Pauline McNeill.16:39
The press gallery is long since empty, and the rabble in the theatre of the chamber has somewhat died down. Discussing race equality does not really fill the newspapers in the way that argy-bargy over income tax does but, for the people to whom this debate matters, it is more important. We like to think that we have a progressive and tolerant society in Scotland and, in many ways, that is true. However, today’s debate demonstrates that we cannot take our eyes off the ball.
As the ethnic minority communities in Scotland grow in size, the issue of inequality and equality becomes more and more apparent. In 2011, the BME population accounted for 4 per cent of Scotland’s population; however, that was six years ago. The BME population is as diverse as any other part of society, but each community within it faces its own distinct problems. As Annie Wells pointed out, by identifying specific issues that specific groups face, prioritising resources and targeting those resources at the areas that need them most in the hope of tackling inequalities, the Parliament has the ability to make a real difference.
The cabinet secretary opened the debate by highlighting some of the disparities in equality that affect minority groups in Scotland. For example, they are twice as likely to be unemployed despite a high prevalence of educational attainment. The cabinet secretary also rightly pointed out that teachers might not feel that they are adequately equipped to deal with and tackle some of the racism that students face in progressing from their studies into their careers.
As Pauline McNeill said, BME people are twice as likely to be in poverty and, interestingly, the take-up of social security is lower among them. No doubt there are complex and often cultural reasons for that, but there is a clear need for outreach and awareness-raising work to show people what support is available.
Graham Simpson raised an interesting point about the need for accurate data on housing, and he asked whether the fund for investing in affordable housing will tackle the specific needs of extended families.
Fulton MacGregor shared with the chamber the story of how an educated and suitably qualified young lady from an ethnic background struggled to find work in her field. As he mentioned—I was quite shocked to hear it—people with ethnic names on their CVs or cover letters have to write to twice as many employers before they get an interview.
What can we, as politicians, do to change things if we are not in the rooms or the heads of private sector recruiters?
Does the member believe that one of the things that we, as elected members, can do is watch the content of what we are saying, especially if it is against minority communities?
I agree with Gail Ross. We have a duty to call out inequality, racism and all those phobias when we see them in the workplace, on the streets, in our homes and family environments and, especially, on social media.
I thought that Anas Sarwar’s very personal take on things was outstanding. I did not know that we have elected only four members from ethnic backgrounds in the five elections that we have had for the Scottish Parliament. Neither did I know that Scotland has zero politicians from an ethnic background at Westminster at the moment. Given the population percentage that I mentioned, that shows how little progress we have made.
As Mr Sarwar said, people are nervous about talking about race in Scotland, and therein lies the problem. Are we blinded by all our talk of how open-minded we think we are? We talk about sexism, homophobia and inequality almost every day at Holyrood, but I wonder whether we do so at peril of failing to discuss race.
It is not all doom and gloom, though. For example, I welcome the good news that the level of hate crime fell by 10 per cent between 2015-16 and 2016-17.
In closing, I make a plea to my fellow MSPs. Working groups, reports, strategies, advisers and so on are always welcome and positive moves, but what are we doing to change attitudes, tackle stigma and call out racism and inequality when we see it, hear it or come across it in everyday life? In my view, saying nothing is just as bad as doing nothing. I hope that we can find more time in the chamber to discuss this important issue, because I want us, at the end of this parliamentary session, to be able to put aside our political differences, look back collectively and be proud of the work that we have done collectively to deliver race equality in Scotland.16:44
I thank all members for their very considered and thoughtful contributions to this afternoon’s debate. I am very grateful that there is an appetite for continuing the debate, because as far as the issue of race equality—or race inequality—is concerned, we could legitimately have a whole afternoon’s debate on race equality and employment, race equality and housing, race equality and the planning system, race equality and health inequalities and so forth. I very much look forward to further debates and to taking up Fulton MacGregor’s invitation to the meeting of the cross-party group on racial equality.
Like Jamie Greene, I thought that Anas Sarwar’s contribution was excellent. He is absolutely right; it is imperative that we measure our action plans against the reality of lived experience. I, for one, never for a minute came into politics to produce action plans or Government strategies. We do need them, but the question is how they are implemented and monitored to ensure that that leads to real action and change on the ground. It is imperative that we encapsulate the real lived experience of people from all walks of life and from all backgrounds.
I also concur with the sentiment that has been expressed across the chamber, to the effect that there is no room for complacency. Although race hate crime has indeed reduced by 10 per cent, there might be legitimate concerns about whether there has been displacement of it to Islamophobic or religious hate crime, for instance. A month or so ago, I was very pleased to launch the “Hate has no home in Scotland” campaign, a very important message in which is that nobody should be a bystander.
On the cabinet secretary’s point about Islamophobic hate crimes, she will have seen the report by the tell MAMA project—MAMA stands for “measuring anti-Muslim attacks”—that shows that Police Scotland has the fourth-highest rate of such crimes being reported to it. That information was received through freedom of information requests, because Police Scotland does not currently have a data-sharing agreement with tell MAMA, as other police authorities in the rest of the UK do. It reported 217 hate crimes in 2016, which was below only the figures for the British Transport Police, Greater Manchester Police and the Metropolitan Police, and was higher than every other police force across the rest of the United Kingdom.
It is very important that we look at that and test whether the appropriate arrangement on data sharing is in place. I am conscious that hate crime, in all its forms, tends to be underreported and that, often, the biggest challenge is to get people to report it. However, I am happy to pick up on the specifics of that with my justice colleagues and Police Scotland.
The facts of the matter are harsh. For example, we have heard repeatedly that our minority ethnic communities are twice as likely to be unemployed. There is a huge gap—of nearly 15 per cent—in the employment rate. Pauline McNeill’s point about taking a much closer look at the experience of women in our minority ethnic communities is important. The gap between male and female employment in the minority ethnic community is 24 per cent. An employment gap exists in the rest of the population, but in that population it is much exacerbated.
Will she accept that one of the most marginalised groups in Scotland is Sikh women? Has she had an opportunity to visit Sikh Sanjog in Edinburgh, and is she aware that it constantly faces funding problems? Might she visit it, recognising that, if that organisation closes, there will not be a single agency in Scotland to support Sikh women?
I will certainly look at that. I know that Kezia Dugdale has corresponded with me in the past on that specific organisation. I have instructed my officers to engage with organisations to see how we might take a can-do approach on how we could help. I will have another look at that, if the situation has re-emerged.
The facts are stark. More than a third of people in our ethic minority communities are in poverty, after housing costs, which compares with 18 per cent of the white British population. We also know that ethnic minority women are hit hardest by austerity. By 2020, they will have lost twice the amount of money that will have been lost by poor white men. Time and again, members have spoken eloquently about ethnic minority women’s underrepresentation in public and civic life. In Police Scotland’s latest recruitment round, in September 2017, 10 per cent of new recruits were from an ethic minority background. Of course, we need to continue that progress.
I also recently had an opportunity to engage with the fair future project, which had been looking at the race equality framework, and about how we could work with young people—especially in the year of young people—to address race inequality in its many forms.
Will the cabinet secretary take an intervention?
I apologise, but I will not, because I am really short of time.
It is important to say that I will accept the amendments from the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. I accept that there is a need for robust evidence—that is why we have our equality evidence strategy. That strategy is a shared responsibility between the Scottish Government, the third sector, the public sector and academia, and we are moving towards having more concrete projects to fill the identified evidence gaps. There will be an annual race equality summit and there will be a progress report to Parliament in early 2021, because I acknowledge that we need to monitor activity in order to ensure that we are having an impact.
My final point is with regard to Gypsy Travellers—or, indeed, Scottish Travellers, as John Finnie pointed out. I know that John Finnie’s amendment was not selected for debate, but I have to tell members that if his amendment had been selected, I would have backed it even although it said that successive Administrations have not effectively changed the long-standing inequalities, because I accept that point.
I can talk about the progress that we have made, working together with the Gypsy Traveller community, but we have to accept that we have not done enough about, or have not been successful in addressing, the long-standing inequalities that this—as somebody said—indigenous Scottish community continues to experience. They face the last bastion of “acceptable” racism. I believe that to change something, one must accept it; one must own it and face up to it and say, “That is our problem and we’re determined to address it.” I am determined to address it and I assure members that every member of the ministerial working group is determined to address it. I know that Mary Fee is determined to address it, that John Finnie is determined to address it and, certainly, that the members who have participated in the debate today are determined to address it. I will remember that because we will have to come back to discuss some of the brave, courageous and hard decisions that we will have to take to challenge attitudes and to make things change forever for the most disenfranchised community that exists in Scotland today.
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