Ending Racial Discrimination
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this year and the Declaration is as relevant today as it was the day it was signed – it establishes the equal dignity and worth of every person and that human rights are universal.
Everybody should be able to live their lives in safety – access services that they need and achieve all that they are capable of. Unfortunately, we know that for far too many people that is not the case and that the minority ethnic population continue to face barriers to accessing equality of opportunity. The evidence gives us a very clear picture of what needs to change which is why are taking action to make a difference.
In late 2016, I appointed Kaliani Lyle as an independent Race Equality Adviser and she always gave me plenty to think about when we met. In her report Addressing Race Inequality in Scotland: The Way Forward, she presented over 70 recommendations for actions which she believed would make progress in tackling race inequality in Scotland.
Taking Kaliani’s recommendations as our starting point, we published our Race Equality Action Plan in December 2017. We set an ambitious 122 actions spanning employment, education, health, housing, poverty, community cohesion and safety. I expect to see early signs of positive change in some areas by the summer.
I was particularly struck by Kaliani’s reflection that, on every indicator of what is required to live a happy, productive and fulfilled life, members of the Gypsy/Travelling community are worse off than any other community in Scotland. She also noted the often used phrase that discrimination towards Gypsy/Travellers remains ‘the last bastion of respectable racism.’
And because of that there needs to be particular, and strong, action taken to address Gypsy /Traveller issues. Therefore I have established a Ministerial Working Group to provide a focus on key areas – housing, education, health and employability to focus on making a positive change in these areas.
We know that the educational achievements of minority ethnic young people are not always reflected in their later life chances. That’s why I am providing around £70,000 to BEMIS, one of our key race equality stakeholders, for a project to ensure that minority ethnic young people across Scotland are able to participate in the Year of Young People.
We should all take the issue of race equality seriously. If we don’t then we risk depriving our economy of the skills and talents of too many minority ethnic people: from the refugees I have met who can’t get work related to their qualifications, to the hard working minority ethnic graduate who gets a good degree, but can’t get an interview for an appropriate job.
It is now 70 years since the United Nations brought together people from different backgrounds, right across the world, to pledge to improve human rights. So I want to work towards a future where we do not need to have an International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Taking action to address the issues and remove the barriers can truly make that change happen.