Investing in equality
It should come as no surprise that, as Equalities Secretary, creating a fairer and more equal Scotland is something I’m passionate about. But it’s something that is becoming more important in this changing political landscape.
Brexit has, unfortunately, been a factor in the raising of racial tensions and abuse in the UK, according to Home Office and police associations. Thankfully, this is not reflective of Scotland’s attitudes towards minority ethnic communities.
Of course, the fact we still have hundreds of racist incidents reported every year is deplorable. We have seen a very welcome fall in the number of these incidents over the last five years but it does not change the fact that any incident is one too many.
Everyone has the right to live their lives free from racism and prejudice. And that is something worth touching upon on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
This year’s theme is racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration – but Scotland has a long history of welcoming refugees.
We have provided a safe haven for around 1,600 people who have fled Syria, and we have seen communities across the country offer a warm welcome and extend the hand of friendship to those seeking refuge from war.
We have worked together to ensure they have the best possible opportunities to integrate and create a safe and stable home for themselves. And there’s a simple reason for that.
Nations are measured by the humanity they display to those most in need – it is not acceptable that those fleeing persecution, war, rape and displacement should face hatred and hostility in the very places that they should expect to find welcome and sanctuary.
That’s why we introduced our Race Equality Framework – it’s about working with and for the whole of Scotland to make our communities more inclusive. And we do that by removing barriers, whether that’s in employment, housing or access to services.
And, importantly, that vision was jointly developed with minority ethnic communities and a range of organisations because personal experience is vital to something that’s so important.
As part of this framework, next year the Scottish Government will invest in a workplace equality fund with a particular focus on disability and race, as well as hosting a summit on minority ethnic employment in order to gather views on the best way to drive forward the work related actions in the Framework. We will also invest in a specific programme to support the development of minority ethnic social enterprise – something that will increase the diversity, strength and reach of social enterprise in Scotland. These actions will continue our drive to ensure we are doing everything possible to encourage diversity and eliminate racial discrimination.
We’re extremely fortunate to have Kaliani Lyle, the Scottish Government’s Race Equality Framework Adviser, guiding the government on how we take forward that vision with our partners and create real change for people on the ground – who are directly affected by racial discrimination and lack of opportunity.
And all of our work to make Scotland a more equal society is backed by significant investment – £20.3 million over the next year, to be exact. It is money that is vital in the integration of our communities and the livelihoods of people from across society.
We need all of Scotland to work together that achieve this vision and we’re taking positive steps to get there. I’m not naïve to say that it will be easy – there’s still work to be done and there will be challenges along the way, but that shouldn’t deter us.
And it won’t – we are determined to show leadership in advancing race equality and address the barriers that prevent people from minority ethnic communities from realising their potential. It’s beneficial to all of Scotland, and all of us.