Sheku Bayoh

– in the Scottish Parliament on 12th November 2019.

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Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

The next item of business is a statement by Humza Yousaf on Sheku Bayoh—next steps. The cabinet secretary will take questions at the end of his statement. I encourage members who wish to ask a question to press their request-to-speak buttons as soon as possible.

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

As members will be aware, the Lord Advocate met the family of Sheku Bayoh yesterday to inform them of the outcome of the victim’s right to review process in connection with the circumstances of Mr Bayoh’s tragic death in 2015. Mr Bayoh died during an operation by police officers to restrain him, and I know that the thoughts of members from across the chamber will be with his family and friends at this difficult time.

Following a complex and thorough investigation and review, the Lord Advocate has confirmed that, on the basis of the evidence available, there will be no criminal proceedings against Police Scotland or individual police officers in connection with Mr Bayoh’s death. The First Minister and I met the family today to express our deepest condolences and assure them of our commitment to establishing the facts surrounding this tragic incident. They are right to expect a full public examination of the circumstances of Mr Bayoh’s death, and I stated my determination to put in place a process to deliver that.

Today, I can confirm that I will establish a statutory public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 into the circumstances leading up to and following Mr Bayoh’s death.

A ll deaths in police custody are subject to a mandatory fatal accident inquiry under the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc

(Scotland) Act 2016. The responsibility for establishing the FAI sits with the procurator fiscal, under the direction of the Lord Advocate. FAIs examine the cause of death and consider steps to prevent other deaths in similar circumstances.

In this case, however, the Lord Advocate, as head of the system for the investigation of deaths in Scotland, considers that the remit of an FAI would not allow all the issues that require to be investigated to be addressed. FAIs can examine circumstances and factors leading up to a death but not what follows it. In this case, the Lord Advocate has identified questions that an FAI simply could not examine. Those questions are about the early stages of the post-incident management of the investigation and they raise issues of public interest and importance. That being the case, it is imperative that the circumstances leading up to Mr Bayoh’s death and the events that followed it are examined in full and in public.

I am conscious that public inquiries are significant undertakings and that this is not a decision to be made in haste. As members will be aware, Mr Bayoh’s family have been calling for a public inquiry for a number of years, and the First Minister made it clear that a public inquiry was definitely an option. When I met the family last year, I assured them that this Government shared the family’s commitment to getting answers. On that basis, it is one option that I had been considering in advance of the confirmation yesterday of the Lord Advocate’s decision—not to pre-empt that decision but to be prepared for this outcome. Now that we have confirmation that there will be no criminal proceedings in this case, and having examined all other options, I believe that it is right that, as a Government, we should hold a public inquiry. I have discussed that with Mr Bayoh’s family, honouring my commitment to update them first. They were very clear in their determination to get to the facts surrounding Mr Bayoh’s tragic death, and a public inquiry is now the surest way to do that.

The terms of reference of the public inquiry will determine its scope, direction and parameters, so it will be important to take the time to get them right. The inquiry will cover matters that would be covered by an FAI and a range of other issues, such as the post-incident management of the investigation. The formulation of the terms of reference will require discussion with the person appointed to chair the inquiry. I will also wish to discuss the draft terms of reference with those most directly affected by the inquiry, with a view to shaping a remit that is clearly focused. We must not lose sight of the purpose of the inquiry, which is to establish the circumstances leading to and following the tragic death of Mr Bayoh in order to identify any steps that could prevent deaths in similar circumstances and to improve the post-incident management following such deaths.

Let me be clear. For any independent scrutiny of this case to be rigorous and credible, it must address the question of whether Mr Bayoh’s race played a part in how the incident was approached and dealt with by the police. In saying that, I am not prejudging the answer to that question; that will be for the inquiry, which will be independent of ministers. In order to do that effectively, the inquiry must be equipped with the necessary diversity of expertise and background to scrutinise the extent to which race was a factor in the case.

I will be discussing with the inquiry’s chair how we can build diversity into the structures of the inquiry. The chair will also be instrumental in helping to shape the terms of reference. The formal process directed to appointing a chair will begin shortly, and it will be important to ensure that the chair will command the confidence of those involved and indeed the wider public. That will include ensuring an appropriate level of expertise in taking forward the remit of the inquiry. That, too, will take time, but I will return to the chamber early next year to provide a full statement confirming the inquiry’s terms of reference and the chair.

If systemic issues emerge that were causal or contributory factors in this case, it is right that the inquiry addresses them. While we must be careful not to expand the terms of reference beyond the inquiry’s core purpose, not least to avoid further delaying the process for all involved, it is important that all relevant issues are covered. However, it is not intended that the inquiry will consider the wider framework for investigations into serious incidents involving the police, given that, as members will be aware, Dame Elish Angiolini is currently reviewing law and practice for complaint handling, investigations and misconduct in relation to policing. There might be areas of shared interest between that review and the public inquiry, but Dame Elish Angiolini’s review is not investigating individual cases, whereas the primary purpose of the public inquiry will be to examine the circumstances of this specific case.

I am, of course, aware of other families who have lost loved ones in tragic circumstances and are looking for answers. My thoughts—and those of colleagues in the chamber—remain with those families. In a number of cases, complex investigations are still under way, while other cases might be subject to other processes, including the fatal accident inquiry process. Each of those cases will have its own distinct features, and it is important to allow those processes to run their course.

As I set out in my letter to the Justice Committee last week, I recognise that there are questions about the arrangements within the Scottish Prison Service and the national health service for handling deaths in prison custody. That is why I have asked Her Majesty’s chief inspector of prisons for Scotland to undertake a review of the handling of deaths in prison custody. I have also asked Professor Nancy Loucks of Families Outside to work alongside HMCIPS and provide external expertise. The review will have a sharp human rights focus and will ensure that the voices of families of those in prison is heard.

Turning back to policing, it is worth noting that, since the establishment of Police Scotland, public scrutiny of policing has never been greater. That is understandably the case. It is essential that public and parliamentary confidence in the police remains strong, and I know that members will share my view that police officers and staff across Scotland work hard to keep us all safe.

In its 2018-19 annual report, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland stated:

“we continue to be impressed by the determination of officers and staff to delivering an effective policing service to the communities they serve.”

We know that a majority of adults also said that the police were doing a good or excellent job in their local area. As a Government, we remain committed to excellence in policing, and our commitment to protect Police Scotland’s revenue budget has resulted in the organisation’s annual budget increasing by more than £80 million since 2016-17.

Of course, policing by consent depends on accountability, and it is vital that the police are held to account when things go wrong. Having spoken to the chief constable regularly, I know that he values such accountability. I am clear that a public inquiry will provide the independent and robust mechanism that is needed to give us that clear understanding. As with all statutory inquiries, it will be inquisitorial rather than adversarial. It will also identify lessons and improvements for the future to help to prevent deaths in similar circumstances and to build trust and confidence in policing.

I want to finish by again expressing my condolences to Mr Bayoh’s family and friends, who have been unwavering in their search for answers. I am confident that a statutory public inquiry under the 2005 act will provide the best means of establishing the circumstances leading to and following Mr Bayoh’s tragic death.

The Presiding Officer:

The cabinet secretary will now take questions.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

I am very grateful to the cabinet secretary for providing advance sight of his statement.

I associate myself and my party with the cabinet secretary’s expression of deepest condolences to the family of Mr Bayoh. I understand their need for a full public examination of the circumstances of Mr Bayoh’s death to establish the facts. We are therefore pleased that the cabinet secretary will establish a public inquiry into those circumstances under the Inquiries Act 2005, which will identify lessons and improvements.

A number of questions arise from the cabinet secretary’s statement. Given that the tragic incident in question took place in 2015, it has taken four years to get to this point, so can the cabinet secretary give any more indication of the timescales that will be involved in setting up and conducting the public inquiry and any indication of when it might report? Secondly, can he advise us what kind of inquiry it will be and the level of it—more specifically, will it be judge led? Finally, can he give us any further detail on why a fatal accident inquiry was not felt to be appropriate? Specifically, why was it not felt to be appropriate for looking into the questions that were identified by the Lord Advocate?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I thank Liam Kerr for those important questions and the tone in which he asked them. I agree that there has been a long search for answers from the family of Mr Bayoh. I cannot comment too much on the reasons for those delays. As Liam Kerr will be fully aware, the investigation into whether there would be criminal proceedings was conducted independently by the Crown—rightly, there was no ministerial influence on that.

The reasons for that length of time are for the Crown to answer and I am sure that that would have been part of the conversation that took place between the Lord Advocate and the Bayoh family yesterday.

In saying that, I think that there is a balance to be struck between ensuring that the public inquiry not only forensically examines the incident that we are discussing—the tragic death of Mr Bayoh—but looks at further potential systemic issues. However, it should not be so wide that it loses focus and therefore exacerbates the challenge, the difficulty and the hurt that the family have felt because of the time that it has taken to get to this point. There will be a fine balance to strike and that will be part of my discussion about the remit with stakeholders who have an interest in this as well as with the chair of the inquiry.

On Liam Kerr’s question about whether the inquiry will be judge led, he will forgive me, but we need to take some time to have a discussion with stakeholders. I welcome any conversations with members of the Opposition as well. As I tried to say in my statement, it is important that, as well as having a chair, the inquiry has the appropriate expertise, particularly on issues to do with race and diversity; it is hugely important to build that expertise into the inquiry. We have seen that done in some inquiries down south, such as the Macpherson inquiry, but we have also seen where it has not been done correctly. There was a lot of criticism of the Grenfell inquiry because of a lack of diversity, considering the victims who were involved in that tragedy. We want to make sure that we learn lessons from inquiries that have taken place in Scotland and in other parts of the United Kingdom.

On Liam Kerr’s FAI question, which again is a pertinent and important one, the Lord Advocate has said very clearly that an FAI would not be able to examine the post-incident management of the tragic death of Mr Bayoh. I should say that the Lord Advocate is happy for me to say that on the record; that is why it is in my statement. He does not give me that advice as a law officer but does so in his remit as the head of investigations into deaths. Of course, we would not disclose advice from law officers.

For anybody looking objectively at the case, there are questions that have to be answered, not just on the lead-up to Mr Bayoh’s death but on the post-incident management that followed. An FAI simply would not cover those areas, so the decision to have a public inquiry under the 2005 act is right in this case.

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

I thank the cabinet secretary for advance sight of the statement and I offer my deepest sympathies to Mr Bayoh’s family.

The circumstances in which

Mr Bayoh lost his life are shocking in modern Scotland and it is unacceptable that nobody is being held legally responsible. From that point of view, I strongly support the cabinet secretary’s announcement that there will be a public inquiry.

There is a concern in this case and in other cases about the lack of transparency around the Lord Advocate’s decisions on non-prosecution and the granting of immunity to police officers and prison officers. Will the public inquiry therefore examine recent cases and review the protocol that the Lord Advocate follows in reaching a decision on non-prosecution or granting immunity for police officers and prison officers?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I thank James Kelly for that question, which is an important but difficult one. He knows as well as I do the importance of the independence of the Lord Advocate. Of course, that does not translate into not being accountable. Although our judiciary and the Crown are independent of Government and of parliamentarians, that does not mean that they are not accountable for their decisions. The Lord Advocate is answerable to the Parliament and has, on occasion, answered questions on the very spot where I am standing.

Any decision for immunity would of course be a question for the Lord Advocate and for the Crown; I hope that James Kelly understands why I am answering in that way. It would be unacceptable for the justice secretary to make a decision on who should receive immunity from prosecution in a whole range of cases, and I think that James Kelly understands that. Equally, now that I have chosen to set up a public inquiry, I would understand the frustration of James Kelly and others if those who attended it did not give full and frank answers. There is a decision for the Lord Advocate to make in respect of immunity.

On the point about other cases, the public inquiry will look specifically at the Sheku Bayoh case. It will focus on that case, but it will look at some of the systemic issues around it. If systemic issues are raised, they may well be relevant to other previous cases. Of course, the focus of the inquiry will be on the unique circumstances around the tragic incident that took place involving Mr Bayoh.

Photo of John Finnie John Finnie Green

As with other members, our thoughts are with Mr Bayoh’s family and friends. I thank the cabinet secretary for providing early sight of his statement. I want to push him a bit on Mr Kelly’s question. Although it is entirely appropriate that the decision regarding criminal immunity is for the Lord Advocate, can the cabinet secretary say whether anyone has been granted criminal immunity in respect of the inquiry? Will the inquiry have powers to compel witnesses to attend? I am thinking particularly of former police officers, including the former chief constable Stephen House.

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I cannot add much to what I said to James Kelly on immunity. That would be for the Lord Advocate. I do not think that a determination has been made, although I caveat that by saying that that is my understanding thus far. However, any future decision on immunity will absolutely be for the Lord Advocate, so he would be answerable for such a decision.

I understand that, under the Inquiries Act 2005, witnesses can be compelled and not complying with an instruction from the chair of the inquiry could lead to offences being committed. That is why a public inquiry under the 2005 act, with all the powers that that grants the chair and the inquiry, is the right way to proceed.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

I thank the cabinet secretary for providing early sight of his statement. I welcome the announcement in relation to the inquiry and I extend my condolences to the family and friends of Sheku Bayoh. The family have been left looking for answers for the past four years. At the same time, police officers have been left in limbo. As the cabinet secretary acknowledged, the public are potentially less safe as a result of lessons not having been learned.

To follow on from the questions from James Kelly, I appreciate the sensitivities around the issue, but surely four years is far too long to wait. Can we not look at ways in which the system can be speeded up and made more efficient so that other families are not put through the same sort of trauma as Sheku Bayoh’s family have undoubtedly been put through over the past four years?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I again reiterate how much I admire the family of Sheku Bayoh. In the four and a half years since the tragic incident, they have faced a number of obstacles, difficulties and hurdles, but they have been unwavering in their search for answers on what happened and on the follow-on after Sheku’s death. Sheku’s mother lives 3,500 miles away in Freetown in Sierra Leone. She is here today and she has often come to Scotland to be with her family. I can see from meeting her today that she is a rock of that family and that she wants to get the answers to the questions of why she lost her son and what on earth happened in the aftermath of that. I join Liam McArthur in his admiration for the Bayoh family.

On the substance of Mr McArthur’s question, I know that he has often pressed on that point and he is right to do so. I agree that four and a half years is a long time to wait for answers. There are also questions about delays in FAIs. Again, the issue is very much in the Lord Advocate’s remit, but I can give some reassurance. Members might be aware that the Lord Advocate has said publicly that he is looking at ways to reduce that delay, that he has been reviewing the reasons for it and that he understands the frustration of families surrounding it. I must be sensitive to the fact that such matters are in the domain of the Lord Advocate, who is independent. However, it is fair to say that he is not unaware of the frustration that delay can cause. If the Government can find any way to minimise that, I would be supportive of that.

Photo of David Torrance David Torrance Scottish National Party

As the member of the Scottish Parliament representing Kirkcaldy, I again express my condolences to Mr Bayoh’s family and friends, who we can all agree have been unwavering in their search for answers. There has been much speculation about this tragic incident, so a statutory public inquiry will be the best means of establishing the circumstances leading up to and following Mr Bayoh’s death. Does the cabinet secretary a gree that we must now allow the forthcoming inquiry to do its job?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

David Torrance has made a crucial point. A number of questions have remained unanswered, which is my reason for instructing a public inquiry, but I am afraid that sometimes in that vacuum accusations that have been insensitive—that is the nicest word that I could possibly use; frankly, some of them have been smears—have been bandied around. That is not just deeply unhelpful; as members can imagine, they have also been incredibly hurtful for the families involved.

Sheku Bayoh was roughly my age when he died. He was a Muslim, as am I. He was also a member of a minority population living in Scotland, much as I am. Fundamental questions have to be asked not just about the events leading up to his death but, frankly, about the processes that took place afterwards. As Cabinet Secretary for Justice, I want to have absolute confidence in the processes that exist in the justice system over which I preside, to ensure that such a death does not happen again. I hope that we would be able to prevent it but if, tragically, it were to happen again, I would want to have absolute confidence in the processes that would follow.

David Torrance is right. For all those involved and all who are stakeholders, emotions have run high. No doubt that is still true for Mr Bayoh’s family, but I do not doubt that it is also true for the police officers who were involved. Perhaps everyone needs to understand that at the heart of the incident is a man who lost his life and a family who are devastated by that. Frankly, everyone should let the inquiry do the job that it is meant to do, which is to get to the truth and answer the questions that currently remain unanswered.

Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative

I, too, extend my condolences to Mr Bayoh’s family and friends.

Will the cabinet secretary confirm whether there is a mechanism to establish how often the decision not to prosecute has been taken where someone has died in either police or prison custody, and where concerns have been expressed about the action or conduct of Police Scotland or individual police officers, or the SPS or individual prison officers? Does he agree that making such information available is vital if we are to establish openness and transparency in such tragic circumstances?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

On the many occasions on which I have appeared before the Justice Committee, of which Margaret Mitchell is convener, I have seen her commitment to there being transparency throughout the justice system, and I hope that she recognises mine. Anything that the Scottish Government can do to achieve such transparency is crucial.

I reiterate that, as Margaret Mitchell knows, decisions on whether to prosecute or to give immunity from prosecution are very much for the Lord Advocate, who is independent. None of us—regardless of whether we are Government or Opposition politicians—should have a say in such matters or seek to influence them unduly.

I will take away Ms Mitchell’s question about data and the number of individuals who have been prosecuted in similar circumstances of a death in police or prison custody. I will explore with the Crown Office whether such data exists and whether the Scottish Government can do anything more. We should not fear anything from there being additional transparency. I certainly do not.

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

I, too, express my condolences to Mr Bayoh’s family.

Although we must not prejudge the answer to the question whether Mr Bayoh’s race played a part in how the incident was dealt with by the police, for any independent scrutiny of the case to be rigorous and credible it must address that very question. Will the cabinet secretary therefore confirm whether he intends that those conducting the inquiry should be equipped with the necessary diversity in both expertise and background?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I do. I want to restate and re-emphasise that very point. We cannot simply remove the issue of race from that pertinent question. The question of race undoubtedly has to be answered. I do not prejudge the answer, but we have to allow the chair of the independent public inquiry to investigate and determine whether race played any part in how the police dealt with the incident.

Jenny Gilruth has made a hugely important point. In order to gain the confidence of our communities, Mr Bayoh’s family and, I hope, the public at large, it is vital that the structures in this inquiry in particular and in any such public inquiry reflect both the expertise that we would expect when the question is being examined and the diversity of our communities. I will explore how to do that. There are examples of public inquiries—largely from England and Wales—that have managed to factor in that expertise. I will have a closer look at how to do that. As I have said, I will report back to the Parliament early next year, I hope.

Photo of Claire Baker Claire Baker Labour

I met Sheku Bayoh’s family days after his death. That meeting was among the most affecting meetings that I have ever had as an MSP. I have seen the family display fortitude and resilience over the past four and a half years, and their loss deserves answers and the truth to come out.

The cabinet secretary has made the right decision today, and I very much welcome it.

It is vital that the public inquiry has the family’s confidence. The cabinet secretary said in his statement that he will discuss the draft terms of reference with those most directly affected by the inquiry. Will he explain what he intends by that? Who will that include? Was that a direct reference to the family?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

The short answer to that question is yes. Claire Baker will be aware that there will, of course, be other interested parties. I have not received a request from the Scottish Police Federation, for example, although that might well come. It is important to give confidence about the independence and impartiality of any inquiry. When requests from interested and relevant stakeholders come in, I will give them due consideration, but Claire Baker can take it absolutely from my answer that part of the discussion will be with the family and, indeed, Mr

Bayoh’s legal representatives

.

I join

Claire Baker in saluting once again the fortitude and dignity that the

Bayoh family have shown, and I thank her. I know that she has stood by the family and their calls for a public inquiry for many years.

Photo of Rona Mackay Rona Mackay Scottish National Party

The cabinet secretary is aware that there are other families that have lost loved ones in tragic circumstances and are looking for answers. Will he confirm that each of those cases has its own distinct features, that a number of complex investigations are still taking place, and that it is important to allow those processes to run their individual courses?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

That is an important point for anybody who has lost a loved one in prison or police custody care. I completely understand their desire for a full and frank investigation and inquiry into the tragic death. However, Rona Mackay is right: every incident is unique and individual, and a range of processes can take place. Some incidents and tragic deaths that have been referred to previously in the chamber have gone through the process of a court trial; some have gone through an FAI process; and for some of them, the Lord Advocate is still determining whether there should be an FAI. However, it is important to absolutely understand where each individual family is coming from. We should absolutely empathise with that. In this circumstance, an FAI would simply not be adequate for all the reasons that I have outlined, which I will not rehearse again. That is why I have instructed a public inquiry under the 2005 act.

Photo of Donald Cameron Donald Cameron Conservative

I return to the issue of time, which many others have already raised. It is more than four and a half years since Mr Bayoh’s death

. On any view, that is a very long time for a family to wait for answers.

Setting aside the delays so far and looking to the future, will the cabinet secretary assure the chamber that the inquiry will be set up as quickly as is practicable while—plainly—not cutting corners in terms of the thoroughness of the investigation?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Yes. Donald Cameron’s question eloquently articulated what the challenge will be. We will need to ensure that there is no unnecessary delay, because, frankly, the family has suffered enough. In addition, I am certain that other stakeholders who have an interest in the inquiry will want it to get under way and take place quickly. At the same time, there will be a need to ensure that we are thorough.

I think that this will be a public inquiry unlike any other that we have had in Scotland.

On the questions that will be asked, there will be a need to build in either a panel or special advisers—I think that it will probably be a panel of expertise—to inform and sit alongside the chair in order to ensure that all the questions that need to be answered are, indeed, answered. At this stage, I do not want to commit to what the remit will look like. I will take some time—albeit not unnecessary time—to have a conversation with stakeholders around remit. Ensuring that the remit is focused and not too unwieldy, so that it can address still systemic issues, will be a challenge, but one that I am sure that we will be up to. Getting that balance right will be important. Clearly, whatever remit is decided on will have an effect on the timescales that are involved, as is the case in any public inquiry.

I give the absolute assurance that there will be no unnecessary delay on the Government’s part. Equally, I hope that members understand—I am sure that they do—that it takes a bit of time to make sure that we get these things right.

Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

I also place on record my condolences to the family.

The cabinet secretary spoke about identifying a chair. Will he confirm for the chamber, and for those who are listening, the timeframe that he has in mind for that, for identifying any support for the chair and for reporting back to the Parliament when those developments are known?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I should be able—and hope—to come back to the Parliament early next year; frankly, the earlier, the better. Sometimes, the processes for these things can take time. They are also not entirely in my gift. If we want a judge to lead the inquiry, that would necessitate a conversation with the Lord President, who would need to speak to the senators and make a judgment on who was available. That individual would then have to agree to lead the inquiry and accept our wish to build in expertise.

I hope that we can get that done sooner rather than later.

I have been able to do only a limited amount of work in advance. Although I planned for this outcome as well as for the other outcome, we could not do much more than simply prepare and plan, because we had to wait for the Lord Advocate to make a decision in relation to any further criminal proceedings.

Some of this is in my gift, and I will try to do what is in my gift as quickly as possible, so that there are no further delays for the Bayoh family, who have suffered enough.

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

My thoughts are with Sheku Bayoh’s family and friends. I recognise the efforts of their legal team and, in particular, Aamer Anwar, who has relentlessly pursued the case. I also welcome and thank the cabinet secretary for today’s announcement of a public inquiry. Although he is right to say that we cannot definitively say that race was a factor in the case, there is no doubt that there is structural racism in Scotland.

If we are to build confidence between our communities, tone is also really important. Will the cabinet secretary therefore take the opportunity to comment on the rather juvenile comments of the president of the Scottish Police Federation in relation to the case? I understand that he wanted to represent and defend his members, which is—of course—his right. However, at the same time, that cannot be allowed to undermine confidence in the case or the feelings of the Bayoh family or of ethnic minority officers in the police, who may also have challenges around issues of structural racism.

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Anas Sarwar always speaks on these issues with a lot of authority, and he articulated the problem and the sensitivities of the case very well. There is not much for me to add to what he said.

We must never forget that at the heart of this is a man not much different in age from Anas Sarwar and me. Like Anas and me, he was a Muslim; like Anas and me, he was a minority living in Scotland—who lost his life. Like Anas Sarwar and me, he had a loving family who have been fighting on his behalf ever since. There are other stakeholders and no doubt they have also faced challenges, but at the heart of this, somebody has lost their life, so anybody who attempts to dehumanise, smear or downplay the seriousness of the matter needs to take a very long hard look at themselves and think twice about what they are doing.

I associate myself with Anas Sarwar’s remarks. Emotions are running high and people are angry and frustrated, but it is important to the memory of Sheku Bayoh—if nothing else—that all those involved conduct themselves in a way that is worthy of such a cause, and that we let the independent public inquiry do its job.

Photo of James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

Following the confirmation that there will be no criminal proceedings in the case, it is right that the Government hold a public inquiry to get to the facts surrounding Mr Bayoh’s tragic death.

To follow on from Mr Sarwar’s comments, does the cabinet secretary agree that the onus is now on all of us—those in the chamber and those online—to approach the matter with the sensitivity and respect that it deserves, which is the least that Mr Bayoh’s family is entitled to from all of us?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Yes—for all the reasons that I outlined in my answer to the previous question. James Dornan is right to mention parliamentarians, because we will also have a view on what happened; we will have watched documentaries and read newspaper reports, and we may have received briefings from different stakeholders, legal representatives and so on.

However, it is important that nothing is said to prejudice the independent inquiry and that we allow it to do the job that it is meant to do. I ask all colleagues—myself included—not only to show an element of consideration, but to be mindful of the fact that we are entering the inquiry stage. I will make sure that we keep Parliament updated on the next steps in that regard.

The Presiding Officer:

I thank the cabinet secretary and members for their contributions.