• Kirsty McNeill

Holyrood Election 2021: Which manifesto delivers on race equality?

Updated: May 5, 2021

All of the main political parties have now published their manifestos ahead of the Holyrood elections on the 6th May 2021. These manifestos reveal the parties’ visions for Scotland’s future and show the priority given to challenging racial inequalities and racism.

Manifestos cover devolved areas of policy, all of which are of relevance to minority ethnic people in Scotland. This blog post highlights specific policies and plans around race equality and anti-racism, discussing relevant commitments from the main five political parties currently represented at the Scottish Parliament. However, it’s beyond the scope of this piece to analyse whether, or the extent to which, any proposed policy would be beneficial (or otherwise) for race equality. Generally, we have not included statements of positive intent, but instead focussed on reference to specific actions.

In advance of the election, CRER created our own manifesto for race equality, which included demands for action on race equality policy, community cohesion, poverty, employment, health, education, the public sector equality duties, housing and Black history. The manifesto and further context around the commitments can be found at: www.racemanifestoscotland.org

Earlier this year, CRER asked parties to confirm their commitment to anti-racism by taking on our demands for action and building them into their election manifestos. CRER’s manifesto was shared with all political parties and we also reached out to all parties listed here to discuss race equality and manifesto development.

Here’s a thematic look at the race equality policies included in parties’ 2021 manifestos:

Race Equality Policy

CRER’s manifesto called for parties to commit to renew the approach to implementation of the Race Equality Framework for Scotland 2016-2030, with action planning that focuses clearly on the visions and goals of the Framework and reports progress accurately and transparently.

The Scottish National Party’s (SNP) manifesto said that, building upon the recommendations of the Social Renewal Advisory Board and the Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity, they would develop the next race equality action plan with stakeholders and ethnic minority communities to reach the objectives set out in the Race Equality Framework 2016-2030.


CRER’s manifesto demanded a commitment from parties to work with Black and minority ethnic (BME) stakeholders to build a targeted approach to tackling poverty in minority ethnic communities, mainstreaming this into anti-poverty and child poverty strategies and action plans.

On poverty, the Scottish Conservative Party would work with community representatives to develop a targeted approach to tackling poverty amongst ethnic minorities.

The Scottish Labour Party would work with stakeholders to build a targeted approach to tackling poverty in diverse minority communities, mainstreaming this into anti-poverty and child poverty strategies and action.

Community Cohesion

CRER’s manifesto called for the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 to be amended to require Community Planning Partnerships to act with a view to promoting community cohesion.

The SNP would review the Community Empowerment Act and consult on ways in which it could be expanded to put more power in the hands of people and communities.


On employment, CRER’s manifesto asked for all parties to commit to achieve equal representation for minority ethnic people within Scottish Government by 2025 by setting a Positive Action Plan with annual progress reports, and encourage wider change by requiring all bodies funded or contracted by Scottish Government with over 100 staff to take similar action.

In response to the disproportionate economic impact of COVID-19 on people from minority ethnic communities, the SNP would take action to tackle inequality as part of the National Transition Training Fund. The number of minority ethnic people participating in the Minority Ethnic Leadership and Development Programme (in partnership with the John Smith Centre) would be increased and further support would be given to projects which are supporting minority ethnic people into public boards.

Also of relevance to employment, the SNP would introduce an overarching Scottish Diversity and Inclusion Strategy covering the public sector, educational institutions, justice system, transport and workplaces, focussing on the removal of institutional, cultural and financial barriers which lead to inequalities in relation to protected characteristics, including race.

On employment, in reference to Scotland’s ethnicity pay gap, the Scottish Green Party stated they would take action to address this as part of work to ensure that Scotland’s institutions and workforces are as representative of society as possible. They would increase opportunities for apprenticeships for people from minority ethnic groups, stating that funding of apprenticeships should be contingent on this, amongst other measures. On employment and representation within local political spheres, the Scottish Greens would work to remove barriers to full participation in local Government by extending access to public office funding across all protected characteristics.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats would carry out pay audits of government, local government and agencies to provide evidence on unfair disadvantage experienced by ethnic minority employees.


CRER’s manifesto called for parties to commit to implement and full resource all of the recommendations of the Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity.

As referenced previously, the SNP would build upon the recommendations of the Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity to develop the next race equality action plan. The Scottish Conservative Party would take forward work to tackle poor health outcomes amongst ethnic minority groups, building on the work of the Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity. The Scottish Liberal Democrats would also act on the recommendations of the Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity.


CRER’s manifesto called for a specific change to the social studies curriculum, to amend the Curriculum for Excellence to include a specific experience and outcomes measure: ‘I understand Scotland’s historical role in empire, colonialism and transatlantic slavery, and the diversity of Scottish society in the past’. Additionally, we have called for political parties to commit to introduce mandatory recording of racist incidents and prejudice-based bullying in Scotland’s schools with data to be collected, analysed and published by the Scottish Government on an annual basis.

With reference to Black Lives Matter, the SNP said they would fund the development of an online programme on Scotland and the UK’s colonial history, which Local Authorities will be encouraged to adopt in all schools. They would create a new programme of anti-racist education in schools, including support for teachers’ professional development. They also would improve the reporting and publication of data on racist incidents in schools.

The Scottish Conservative’s manifesto said schools should emphasise the importance of respect, tolerance and equality in an age-appropriate way to prevent bullying, racism, homophobia and misogyny.

Scottish Labour support the inclusion of Scotland’s historical role in empire, colonialism and transatlantic slavery, and the longstanding diversity of Scottish society, as part of the Curriculum for Excellence.

The Scottish Greens committed in their manifesto to ‘teach the past’ stating the importance of young people learning about the reality of British and Scottish history, including the empire and slavery. They would introduce mandatory recording of racist incidents and prejudice-based bullying in Scotland’s schools, and work with third sector partners to build anti-racist competence in schools. Also on education, they support measures to address the under-representation of people of colour in further education.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats, with reference to Black Lives Matter, stated that they support changes to the way history is taught in schools to include a wider perspective on empire, slavery, and Scottish and British involvement in them.

Public Sector Equality Duties

CRER’s manifesto called for parties to commit to revise the Scottish specific public sector equality duties (PSED) to create a system that genuinely holds public bodies to account on tackling inequality.

On PSED, the SNP would expand the specific duties that require a listed public authority to publish gender pay gap information to disability and ethnicity reporting and ensure these are included within Equal Pay Statements. Relatedly they would also develop an ethnicity pay gap strategy to go alongside existing disability and gender pay gap strategies.


CRER’s manifesto called for parties to commit to amend the legislation on Local Housing Strategies to require local targets for access to social housing for minority ethnic groups, with monitoring requirements on progress towards meeting those targets.

No party manifestos had specific reference to housing for ethnic minority communities (outwith some reference to Gypsy/Traveller accommodation, highlighted later).

Black History

CRER’s manifesto called for parties to support the development of a national museum, archive and learning centre dedicated to illuminating Scotland’s histories with regard to empire, colonialism, slavery and migration.

The Scottish Labour Party would develop a museum, archive and learning centre dedicated to telling the stories of underrepresented groups in Scotland’s history and culture. The Scottish Liberal Democrats manifesto also states their support for the creation of an empire and slavery museum to tell the true story of Scotland's history. The Scottish Green Party’s manifesto made reference to Patrick Harvey’s motion on the establishment of a slavery museum.


The SNP would create a new £2 million fund for public artwork which broadens the range of representation in public spaces of Scotland’s history and culture, with a focus on the contribution of women and minority ethnic communities.

The Scottish Green Party, in support of diversity and inclusivity within the cultural sector, would create a cultural leadership scheme to ensure that people from diverse backgrounds are heard at an early stage across cultural policy making and support the introduction of a mandatory quota for recruitment of artists from minority ethnic backgrounds for organisations in receipt of public funding. They also would work to re-evaluate existing public monuments and references to figures involved in colonialism and the slave trade, and dedicate new public art to people of colour.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats said they support greater diversity in public art. Additionally, they would work for an equitable culture within Scottish sport, working to making sure opportunities are not dictated by ethnicity and funding allocations are fair. They will support anti-racism and antihomophobia campaigns and work to make sport inclusive and intolerant of discrimination at all levels.


The SNP would work with leaders and partners in the police and wider society to improve the diversity of Police Scotland and enhance the quality of data across the justice system, to better understand and serve the needs of minority ethnic communities. They would implement the remainder of Dame Elish Angiolini’s review into complaints against the police and introduce a Police Complaints Bill. They would also continue to support and resource the Sheku Bayoh Public Inquiry and would commit to taking forward findings to deliver improvements and strengthen public confidence in policing.

The Scottish Conservative Party would introduce a Protection of Free Speech Bill to repeal the Hate Crime Act.

The Scottish Green Party would review racial awareness in policing and the criminal justice system, and the ways in which black and minority ethnic communities are impacted, with this to be led by the affected communities. They support Dame Elish Angiolini’s proposal for an improved police complaints system.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats would enact the recommendations of Dame Elish Angiolini’s independent review into police complaints handling.


The SNP would increase and improve data collection in order to have a strong evidence base and to be able to gauge intersectional inequality, measure outcomes, and recommend improvements.

The Scottish Green Party would improve the collection of data about issues such as black and minority ethnic communities’ economic participation, health status, and access to public services.


The SNP would deliver their Gypsy Traveller Action Plan with a focus on improving accommodation and tackling prejudice.

The Scottish Labour Party would fully implement the Action Plan and would take action to address the persistent and harmful discrimination that Gypsy/Travellers face.

The Scottish Greens said they would take measures, including potentially legislative action, to ensure that Gypsy/Travellers lifestyle and heritage is protected. Their commitments include introducing new permanent stopping places, protecting and equipping existing stopping places and pushing for an apology for past treatment of Gypsy/Traveller communities in Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament has the power to act for race equality. The experience of the pandemic has made it clear that incremental progress is simply not good enough. Whilst it is positive to see more reference to race equality in party manifestos this election and an extent of cross-party consensus on some issues, what really matters is the policies and actions taken in the next parliamentary term. Positive statements of intent are not enough. As Scotland moves towards the long process of COVID recovery, we will need decisive action on race equality.

You can read the parties' manifestos in full here:

Scottish National Party Manifesto

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Manifesto

Scottish Labour Party Manifesto

Scottish Green Party Manifesto

Scottish Liberal Democrats Manifesto

On the 19th April, CRER held a hustings event in which candidates from the five main parties discussed their parties policies for race equality ahead of the election. If you missed this you can watch a recording of the event on YouTube.