Anti-racism in Scotland: progress review 2023

Detailed examination of progress made on commitments contained within the Race Equality Framework (2016-2030) and the Immediate Priorities Plan (2021-2023).

5. Introduction

Following the racialised outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the follow-on from the Black Lives Matter movement, the Scottish Government is committed to tackling systemic and structural racism, recognising that 'understanding racism and taking a truly anti-racist position means acknowledging the existence of formal and informal structural, institutional and cultural processes...." (Immediate Priorities Plan, Scottish Government 2021). This understanding must be evidence-based and clear that a “one size fits all” approach to anti-racism for racialised minorities will fail to deliver for all.

Furthermore, a review of anti-racist policymaking over the last two decades by the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER) identified that while devolved policymaking has been able to identify clear themes and priorities across national strategies to tackle deep-rooted inequalities, actual progress has been limited in terms of design and implementation. In particular, the need to embed long-term change in systems and processes was highlighted, moving away from short-term action plans. Furthermore, there is clear importance placed on appropriately utilising and retaining information gathered from engagement and lived experience, whilst avoiding consultation fatigue.

The Race Equality Framework for Scotland 2016 to 2030 was informed through extensive engagement with communities, and remains the overarching strategic framework for the Scottish Government until 2030. Due to its relevance and current validity, its themes and outcomes will continue to be progressed and evaluated as part of the overall work, alongside other identified strands.

Subsequently, there have been two action plans to implement the REF:

2016-2021 Race equality action plan: final report

2021-2023 Race equality: immediate priorities plan

The current Immediate Priorities Plan focuses on supporting communities to recover from Covid while implementing the recommendations of the Expert Reference Group on Covid-19 and Ethnicity (ERG). As such, there is a need to ensure there is an ongoing focus on implementing the REF that may have been lost through pivoting to responding to the pandemic.

Feedback from stakeholders on the above action plans have been that it has been difficult to track and measure progress. Furthermore, some actions have been vague and therefore there is a lack of tangible and meaningful outcomes. Ensuring continued relevance, accountability and measuring impact were also challenging areas.

According to a recent CRER report on anti-racist policymaking in Scotland, findings show that a:

[L]ack of evaluation and detailed progress monitoring provides insufficient evidence to determine which previous approaches worked. Progress reporting focuses on stating that the proposed actions have been taken. The only knowledge that policy makers can gain from this is that the strategy was implemented.”[5]

This supports the need to move to a programme of high-level systemic change in bringing about equity. Systemic change will entail working to identify and tackle high-level issues, to bring about meaningful change and create structures that work for all, moving away from short-term actions that simply serve to maintain inequitable systems.

A significant proportion of the ERG recommendations focus on systemic and structural change. Furthermore, a key recommendation of the ERG was to establish an observatory to provide a range of functions, including oversight and governance.

Following this, the short-life Anti-Racism Interim Governance Group to Develop National Anti-Racism Infrastructure (AIGG) was established. This short-life group was established in April 2022 as an independent group to provide advice directly to Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Government. It will operate up to the end of August 2023 and until its remit is fulfilled; and a permanent race equality governance body is established and functioning. Its remit is to:

  • provide independent oversight and to hold Scottish Government accountable for progress against the actions in the Immediate Priorities Plan (IPP);
  • provide scrutiny and advice on the work to establish a programme of systemic change on race equality;
  • consider, gather evidence, and propose the model to support the establishment of an independent observatory;
  • support and advise on the transition to a permanent governance body; and
  • provide advice and feedback to Scottish Ministers.

We recognise that to effectively address racial inequality and racism, it is crucial we have robust accountability mechanisms and oversight in place, and that we can measure and evidence outcomes and impacts. More information on forthcoming accountability and engagement approaches can be found in Section 14 of this report.

The Improving the lives of Gypsy/Travellers: 2019-2021 Action Plan has been extended to 2023 due to the pandemic impacting on delivery of actions and outcomes. We will continue to work with stakeholders to understand how this work can be taken forward as well as consider its’ relationship to the wider race equality and anti-racism work. Benefits of alignment include potentially strengthened accountability and advantages associated with the resource and profile offered by the observatory. However, there is recognition that the Gypsy/Traveller communities are amongst the most marginalised groups in society, and they have distinct needs benefitting their culture and lifestyle (e.g., accommodation and sites), and this may become diluted or lost if this is not distinct.

There have been some successes drawn from the Gypsy/Travellers work that should be applied more widely and considered as part of the options assessment around coherence. Collaboration in particular has been key, with the community, third sector partners, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), and others. Having dedicated funding for the community and the building of trust have been other significant factors.

This report focused on what we have achieved to date in relation to both the REF and the IPP. Content has been mapped according to the six themes of the REF:

Theme 1: Overarching work

Theme 2: Community cohesion and safety

Theme 3: Participation and representation

Theme 4: Education and lifelong learning

Theme 5: Employability, employment and income

Theme 6: Health and home

For information on commitments/actions that are outstanding, see section 13 of this report.



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