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Three urgent equality requests from the Scottish Government at the beginning of the new parliamentary term


The 2011-2016 term of the Scottish Parliament saw significant strides forward for equality, including the introduction of the Scottish-specific public sector equality duty, passage of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014, the lowering of the voting age in the independence referendum and Scottish elections to 16, the development of the Equally Safe strategy, and the publication of the Race Equality Framework for Scotland. Ahead of the recent election, most Scottish political parties made commitments to equality in their manifestos, with some stronger and more specific than others.

However, despite promises and precedent, we know that making continuing progress on equality is a long and difficult process which requires considerable political will. As such, CRER has written today to the First Minister with three urgent requests to push forward the equality agenda in the new parliamentary term.


A Dedicated Minister for Equality

CRER believes there is merit in creating a ministerial post focused solely on equality, rather than including it as part of a wider remit or portfolio. Much more practical work remains to be done to promote equality for all those who face discrimination. The task of successfully implementing initiatives and strategies and of creating additional legislation and schemes needed to address issues for many equality groups is significant and expansive and deserves a dedicated focus.

Social justice and equality work are not the same. The former is largely concerned with income inequality and poverty, whereas equality seeks to address the prejudice and discrimination (both personal and institutional) faced by individuals because of who they are. These agendas are certainly related, but should not be conflated. With plans to progress the Fairer Scotland Action Plan and to introduce a socio-economic duty for public sector bodies, the Scottish Government would benefit from separating these two agendas to ensure each area of policy receives specific focus and expertise to effectively tackle inequality for all.

Furthermore, appointing a government minister to focus specifically on equality would send a strong message to the equality sector and to community members affected by equality issues that the Scottish Government values its commitment to equality and intends to keep it as a key priority area in the coming years.


Equality Impact Assessment of the Programme for Government

As legislation passes through the Scottish Parliament, it must undergo an Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) to ensure that it does not have a negative impact on groups with protected characteristics, to determine if there is a differential impact on any one group in particular, and to highlight opportunities to promote equality that may have been missed.

Given this, CRER asked the First Minister to ensure that the upcoming programme for government itself be assessed prior to its announcement in the Scottish Parliament. Significant consideration must be given to the aims and potential effects of legislation and initiatives on equality. Performing an EqIA on the programme for government would offer a strategic method to identify the impact of these commitments and demonstrate that the Scottish Government is being conscientious and considered about equality.


Dedicated Resources for the Race Equality Framework for Scotland

The recently published Race Equality Framework for Scotland 2016-2030 made several promises to improve racial equality across a variety of sectors including education, employment, health, housing, justice, and participation. Given the fifteen year life of the Framework, CRER is mindful that the pledges made to communities require sustained resourcing and commitment to be successful in the long-term. It is exceptionally important that the Scottish Government recognises this and sets aside the resources needed to successfully implement the Framework in the coming years. Without this, it will fail to achieve the results promised and minority ethnic communities will continue to face racial discrimination and inequality.

At the start of the new parliamentary session, it is important that the equality sector and community groups hold MSPs and the Scottish Government to account for their commitments to equality. Fulfilling these three requests would go a long way to demonstrate that equality will remain high on the agenda in the term ahead.


Published: 12th May

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Race equality in 2016 party manifestos

Author Dorothea Brande once said, “A problem clearly stated is a problem half solved.”

In the case of tackling racial inequality in Scotland, several political parties are neither interested in stating the problem nor developing policies to solve it, at least according to their 2016 election manifestos.

The problem is that minority ethnic groups in Scotland are disadvantaged and discriminated against in a range of measures. 28% of Scots feel that there is sometimes a good reason to be prejudiced against certain groups, while 21% of those from non-white minority ethnic groups reported experiencing discrimination compared to only 6% of their white counterparts. 4,807 racist incidents occurred in Scotland in 2013/2014 and racist hate crime continues to be the most commonly reported hate crime in Scotland. Minority ethnic groups are under-represented in Scottish politics, with 1-2% of MPs, MSPs, and councillors from a non-white minority ethnic background, compared to 4% of the population. Those from non-white minority ethnic groups are underemployed at a much higher rate than those from white ethnic groups and the poverty rate for all minority ethnic groups is twice that of the white British poverty rate, despite minority ethnic children out-performing white ethnic pupils in school. Clearly, something is wrong in Scottish society.

Despite this, not every party standing candidates for election even mentioned racial equality in their manifestos, let alone set out ways to challenge and overcome this inequality.

Commendation must be given to the parties that not only stated the problem, but also offered solutions. The Scottish Green Party highlighted the issue of racial discrimination both for UK-born individuals and for refugees and first-generation migrants, and addressed issues including hate crime, education, political representation and participation, employment, poverty, and cultural diversity. They were also one of two parties who committed to the implementation of the Race Equality Framework for Scotland, alongside the Scottish National Party.

The Scottish Labour Party however have stated in their manifesto that they would consult with communities and publish a strategy to break down barriers faced by minority ethnic people. There is no mention of the (recently launched) Race Equality Framework for Scotland which compiled a huge database of information through public consultations. Likewise they state the many ways in which they wish to tackle inequality in education and employment, but make no mention of black and minority ethnic people and the specific barriers they face, or of the evidence that the Scottish Parliamentary inquiry published on race and employment.

The Scottish Labour party also published a BME-specific manifesto in addition to a disabilities, an LGBTI, and a women’s manifesto. While the BME manifesto was not well publicised, it addressed topics including opportunity, public life and representation, the economy, justice and health.

RISE: Scotland’s Left Alliance dedicated a section of their manifesto to “anti-racism” and stated that they are an anti-racist organisation with a “zero-tolerance policy towards racism.” Their manifesto highlighted policies to improve Scotland’s awareness of racial inequality (both historical and modern), address institutional racism, end racist hiring practices, improve political representation for minority ethnic groups, and tackle racist policing.

The Scottish National Party pledged to appoint a Race Framework Advisor to implement a range of actions to tackle existing inequalities in minority ethnic communities in line with the Race Equality Framework for Scotland. The only other race-specific policy detailed in the party’s manifesto addressed increasing minority ethnic representation in Modern Apprenticeships. The manifesto addresses wider equality issues and states that teachers will be expected to undertake equality training to address prejudice-based bullying, police officers will receive appropriate training to investigate hate crimes, and public authorities will be required to gather diversity information to use it to inform employment practices.

Other parties mentioned racial equality, but this was alongside other equality areas and did not offer policies particular to tackling racism and discrimination. The Women’s Equality Party noted that women experience additional inequalities due to ethnicity, alongside other characteristics such as sexuality, gender identity, and class. Their manifesto highlighted issues of poverty, violence, hate crime, political representation, and media representation with the effect of these issues on BME women detailed alongside the effect on disabled women, LGBT+ people, and disabled people.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats asserted that there should be equal opportunity for everyone regardless of their race, sexuality, gender, religion, disability. One policy in particular applies to minority ethnic people – forming a stakeholder group to propose new ways to tackle the barriers to equal representation in senior roles in the police and education services.

However, the Scottish Conservative and UKIP did not address racism, racial equality, or issues facing minority ethnic groups in their manifestos.

While much progress has been made since the 2011 manifestos (when a vast majority of parties did not mention racial equality or racism at all), there is still much work to be done to convince parties that racial equality must be a policy priority.

Before politicians can put forward policies to tackle racial inequality, they must be willing to talk about it. For several parties, the 2016 manifestos were a missed opportunity to do just that.

NB: Please note, this blog was updated on 9th May 2016







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image of public sector equality dutiesimage of scissors

The final report of the Public Sector Equality Duty Review has arrived, two months late and yet somehow still far too early.

Unsurprisingly, one of the main thrusts of the PSED review report is that it’s not possible to accurately review the public sector equality duties because of the short space of time since their introduction. This concession will be cold comfort to the many people who raised the inappropriate time scale when the review was first proposed; particularly as it hasn’t stopped the Independent Steering Group from deciding that there is much to criticize and almost nothing to commend in the operation of the duties so far.

The tone of the report is overwhelmingly negative from the foreword onwards. The first description of the Steering Group’s feelings about the review is a single sentence from Chairperson Rob Hayward OBE, set in a paragraph all of its own (presumably for emphasis), stating “My colleagues and I were disappointed by some of what we found.” Whilst discussion of best practice is noticeably absent, the report often veers towards scaremongering. For example, it alleges that emergency services are less effective thanks to the paperwork associated with PSED (seriously), that citizens should not have to bear the ‘burden’ of filling in equality monitoring forms and that private businesses undertake days and days of unnecessary administration as a result of the duties.

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As we mark the 60th Anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights coming in to force, CRER believes it is time to stand up and remind people of the facts behind the Convention, how we all benefit from the rights that it protects and why we should oppose any attempts to undermine the Convention.

The European Convention on Human Rights was the first Council of Europe’s convention aiming at protecting human rights. Its ratification is a prerequisite for joining the Council of Europe.  It was adopted in 4 November 1950 and entered into force on September 3rd 1953. The United Kingdom was among the first states to ratify the ECHR and played a pivotal role in its creation. The UK accepted the right of individuals to take a case to Strasbourg and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights in 1966. 

The Convention guarantees a range of political rights and freedoms of the individual against interference by the State. Before the incorporation of the Convention, individuals in the United Kingdom could only complain of unlawful interference with their Convention rights by lodging a petition with the European Commission of Human Rights in Strasbourg. That all changed on 2 October 2000 when the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA)came into force, allowing UK citizens to sue public bodies for breaches of their Convention rights in domestic courts. 

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Demonstrators outside the House of Commons. Image via International Dalit Solidarity Network When I first heard about caste based discrimination faced by people in Britain, I was appalled; I thought it would be one of those things people would prefer not to carry with them. Caste is an oppressive system of social stratification based upon occupation and the basis of one’s birth. In South Asia, the traditional caste system rooted in the Hindu religion begins with Brahmins (priests, academics) at the top, and continues downwards to Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaisyas (business community, minor officials) and then Sudras (unskilled workers). Beneath this hierarchy are those considered untouchables or Dalits who perform menial services. Caste systems are also found in Africa, other parts of Asia and the Middle East.

So how prevalent is caste discrimination in 21st century Britain? A study by the Anti-Caste Discrimination Alliance (ACDA) in 2009 showed that 58% of survey responses confirmed they had been discriminated against because of their caste. There have been cases of name calling ‘chamar’ or ‘churra’, names as derogatory as calling a black person a ‘n*****’, or calling people from Indo-Pakistan a ‘Paki’. There have been cases in Britain such as those of a carer refusing to bathe an ailing patient because the patient was from a lower caste and a case of a couple who were dismissed from work on the grounds that they were married but were not of the same caste.

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Aside from the few cases of race discrimination which hit the headlines, we don’t hear much about how Britain’s equality laws are upheld. To the casual observer, this probably seems quite natural. The Employment Tribunal system is so far removed from our everyday lives that we barely perceive it, assuming that it simply toils away in the background, resolving other people’s discrimination problems ten a penny.

But what happens when someone needs to use its services – say, for a race discrimination claim?

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Amongst other so-called ‘red tape reduction’ activities, the UK Government is in the process of reviewing the Public Sector Equality Duty of the Equality Act 2010. The Steering Group undertaking this review is due to report its findings by June 2013, having taken approximately six months from the date of its first meeting to consider a range of largely desk-based research and views from primarily public sector contributors.

Concerns have been put forward by a number of organisations and individuals across Britain that the Review process is premature, rushed and lacking in objectivity. The Public Sector Equality Duties have been in place for a very short time (since October 2010 for the overarching General Duty, and since April 2011 for the English Specific Public Sector Equality Duties which are also being reviewed).

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There is a lot of ‘noise’ coming from public sector organisations about equality outcomes at the moment. 

To give just three examples, the Scottish Government held a meeting with equality groups earlier this week to report on the progress they are making with setting their outcomes; a number of organisations are consulting on final draft outcomes and Caledonian University have brought in Simon Fanshawe to facilitate an equality outcomes summit. 

Under the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012, listed public bodies need to publish a set of equality outcomes no later than 30th April 2013. These outcomes set out the change that they want to see related to their General Equality Duty to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different groups of people. 

The regulations say ‘no later than 30th April 2013’, however most public bodies’ outcome setting processes are running very close to the deadline. They could have begun working on these from at least May 2012 when the regulations were first agreed. So it's worrying that so many of these listed bodies have agreed their strategic plans and budgets for the year ahead before even completing their consultations on their equality outcomes.

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