Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 18th March 2015.
Good afternoon, Presiding Officer. It is an honour to talk about celebrating Scotland’s diverse communities. As many members know, I have been involved in equality and diversity for more than 40 years, so I have some experience in the field.
I find the motion interesting, as it discusses
“negative attitudes ... toward immigration and immigrants”,
no doubt in response to UKIP and the negative media stories. However, as the UKIP MEP’s shameful comments about my fellow Glaswegian—that is the important bit: Glaswegian—Humza Yousaf showed, we also have to deal with the plainer issue of downright racism.
Sadly, there are still major issues for people from ethnic minority communities who are born and brought up in Scotland. The most recent figures showed an increase of 3 per cent in the number of racist incidents recorded by Police Scotland. There are about 90 per week, which is far too many.
Despite forming more than 4 per cent of the Scottish population, people from minority ethnic backgrounds make up only 1.1 per cent of local authority staff. Similarly, in 2013-14, only 1.1 per cent of modern apprenticeship starts were from the minority communities. One of the poorest performers is our fire service. Performance had been improving during the Strathclyde Fire and Rescue days but, now that the service is Scotland wide, only 0.8 per cent of our fire service staff are from the minority communities.
Let us talk about poverty. Figures show that people from minority communities are significantly more likely to live in relative poverty. In 2013-14, the figure was 25 per cent, compared with only 14 per cent for the white British group. The Scottish Government’s recent report on severe poverty states that people from ethnic minorities are at greater risk of severe poverty and deprivation. It is shameful to think how poorly minority communities are being served today.
As this week is Islam awareness week, it is a good time to embrace diversity, but Scotland still has a long way to go. I want change in education and employment outcomes for minority communities—not just poster campaigns that say that we should be nice to each other, but delivery on the ground, which is more important.
I appreciate any campaign that aims to challenge anti-immigrant attitudes. I call on all my colleagues in all the parties to look again at the public sector equality duties. Scotland has the potential to lead the UK in putting an emphasis on requiring public authorities to take action to tackle inequalities, instead of simply reporting to us on them year in, year out.
Before I demand equality in service, let me truly wish all of us the best of luck in working across Scotland to achieve equality and to defeat inequality, not only in race but in education, employment and all aspects that affect our citizens in Scotland. We are a nation and we need to be strong, and the only way that we will be strong is if we protect, love, support and look after one another. Let us do that together.