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