• Rebecca Marek

Race Equality in the General Election

Ahead of the General Election, CRER reviewed the manifestos for Scotland’s main political parties to evaluate the inclusion of race equality proposals.

Common themes emerge in the manifestos – pay gaps, employment, equality legislation, discrimination in public services, political representation, hate crime – but with different approaches and foci.

Overall, there has been considerably more attention offered to race in this election than in the 2015 General Election and in the most recent local elections. However, as important as positive rhetoric is, it remains to be seen how these policies will be implemented in the coming years.

Scottish National Party

The SNP commits to championing equality at work, and turned its focus to pay gaps, pledging to address the gender, race, and disability pay gap and to tackle pay inequality and occupational segregation. It supports equal pay audits for public sector employers to address gender, race, and disability, and commits to support lowering the threshold to 150 employees from the current level of 250 employees, as well as the introduction of sanctions – including fines – for those employers who do not comply with the law. The SNP also promise to call for public authorities to publish equal pay statements which address equal pay, occupational segregation, and reporting on gender, race, and disability every four years.

The manifesto also affords attention to political representation, pledging to make Westminster ‘work for the people,’ by ensuring that there is as much support as possible for disabled people and people of all classes, races, and gender identities to stand for election in the House of Commons.

The SNP had one commitment specific to race equality – to tackle the challenges of racism and discrimination by pressing for strengthened provisions regarding Equality Impact Assessments to ensure that legislation is sensitive to the interests of minority communities.

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party commit to tackling the ‘race gap’ and pledge to act on the findings of the UK Government’s race disparity audit of public services, which is due to report in July.

In addition addressing issues raised through the audit, the party commits to strengthening the enforcement of equality law so that private landlords and businesses who deny service based on ethnicity, religion, or gender are investigated and prosecuted.

In terms of healthcare, the Scottish Conservatives promise to support a national campaign to increase the number of Black, Asian, and ethnic minority organ donors to cut the long waiting times for patients from those groups.

In addition to the requirements on the public sector, the Scottish Conservatives will also ask large private sector employers to publish information on the pay gap for people from different ethnic backgrounds.

The party also commits to ensure civil service recruitment is as diverse as possible in regards of gender, race, and social class.

The manifesto also discusses integration and notes that there are parts of the UK which are divided along racial or religious lines. It commits to bringing forward a new integration strategy which will help people in more isolated communities engage with the wider world, help women into the workplace, and teach more people to speak English.

This manifesto sits alongside the wider UK Conservative Party manifesto which pledges to:

  • Legislate to mandate changes in police practices if stop-and-search procedures do not become more targeted

  • Reduce the disproportionate use of force against BAME people in prisons and young offender institutions, legislating if necessary

  • Reduce the disproportionate use of force against ethnic minorities in secure mental health units and legislate if progress is not made

There are also references made to immigration, but this is outwith the scope of this review.

Scottish Labour Party

The Scottish Labour Party commits to building a society free from all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia. The manifesto pays tribute to the importance of Black and Asian-owned businesses and expresses concern about the rise in racially aggravated attacks and hate crimes since the EU referendum vote.

The manifesto notes the pay gap faced by Black and Asian workers and commits to introducing an equal pay audit for large employers to close this gap. It also states that by making the minimum wage a Living Wage, ethnic minority workers who are more likely to be on low pay will benefit.

Scottish Labour also commits to implement the Parker Review recommendations to increase ethnic diversity on the boards of large companies.

The party commits to ending racism and discrimination against Gypsy/Travellers and Roma communities, and protect the right to lead a nomadic way of life.

Scottish Labour also pledges to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of hate crime.

The party also notes that UK Labour has undertaken an audit of its own party to tackle prejudice, and is acting on internal recommendations to improve the party. Scottish Labour, therefore, urges all political parties to do the same.

This manifesto sits alongside the wider UK Labour manifesto, which commits to:

  • Eliminate institutional biases against BAME communities, acknowledging that Black and Asian men are more likely to be stop and searched by police.

  • Review the Prevent strategy and assess its effectiveness and potential to alienate minority communities

  • Launch an inquiry on name-based discrimination and roll out name-blind recruitment practices if necessary

  • Work to reverse the damage done to mental health services, which has disproportionately impacted services for LGBT and BAME people

  • Provide further resources and power to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to enable it to better tackle discrimination

  • Strengthen the public sector equality duty and extend it to the private sector

There are also references made to immigration, but this is outwith the scope of this review.

Scottish Green Party

Within its relatively small manifesto compared to the other parties, the Scottish Green Party commits to opposing the repeal of the Equality Act 2010.

Scottish Liberal Democrats

The Scottish Liberal Democrats commit to reducing inequality and fighting discrimination.

The party pledges to tackle the rise in hate crime through targeting the people who commit them.

It also looks to extend diversity in public life and businesses by implementing the recommendations of the Parker Review to increase ethnic minority representation on boards, extending the Equality Act to all large companies with over 250 employees requiring them to monitor and publish data on gender, BAME, and LGBT+ employment levels and pay gaps, extending the use of name-blind recruitment processes in the public sector and encouraging their use in the private sector, and requiring diversity in public appointments by introducing a presumption that every shortlist should include one BAME candidate.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats also pledge to develop a government-wide plan to tackle BAME inequalities and disparate outcomes, and review the Equality and Human Rights Commission to determine whether it is effective and receives adequate funding.

In terms of political representation, the party also commits to introducing legislation to allow for all BAME and all LGBT+ parliamentary shortlists.

This manifesto sits alongside the wider UK Liberal Democrat manifesto, which commits to:

  • Better resource BAME police staff associations to increase ethnic diversity and BAME participation in the police force

  • Reduce the overrepresentation of BAME people at every stage of the criminal justice system, taking into account the upcoming recommendations of a review into racial bias in the system

  • Scrap the Prevent strategy and replace it with a community-led scheme

  • Increase the number of apprenticeships from BAME backgrounds

There are also references made to immigration, but this is outwith the scope of this review.

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