Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights - anti-racist policy making: review

Findings of a research programme into Scottish race equality strategies since 2000. The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER) was commissioned to support the implementation of this review, with a focus on exploring opportunities for better practice.

Community Cohesion and Safety

Race Equality Framework for Scotland Vision

We build good race relations and community cohesion across all communities, and all minority ethnic individuals feel safe, protected and included, and experience less racism


6. There is greater cohesion between all communities in Scotland

7. Access to justice and safety for minority ethnic individuals is improved and the effectiveness of the justice process in dealing with racism is reviewed

8. Scotland's police workforce is better able to tackle racism and promote equality and community cohesion in the delivery of police services

9. Police Scotland's workforce better reflects the diversity of its communities

Key themes

A total of 112 commitments and actions relating to community cohesion and safety were recorded across the documents analysed.

Improvements to embedding race equality within justice system policies and processes were a particular focus, with 23 related commitments and actions.

Examples of activity related to embedding race equality in the justice system included:

  • Improving Police responses to racist incidents and hate crimes
  • Improving support and engagement mechanisms for victims of racist hate crime and their families
  • Multi-agency responses to hate crime, particularly Multi-Agency Racist Incident Monitoring (MARIMs) at local level
  • Police accountability for the handling of racist incidents
  • Addressing racist or inappropriate behaviour on the part of Police Officers
  • Activities to explore and address issues of community relations with the Police Force

Specific work to embed race equality in the justice system for targeted groups such as migrants with no recourse to public funds, those requiring translation and interpretation or Gypsy/Travellers accounted for a further 12 actions and commitments.

Initiatives on hate crime and community cohesion featured regularly, with 23 commitments and actions.

Examples of hate crime and community cohesion initiatives included:

  • Activities to encourage hate crime awareness and reporting
  • Processes for organisations (such as transport operators) to address racist incidents
  • Support for anti-prejudice and community cohesion work in the Voluntary and Youth Work sectors
  • Scottish Government / Executive led anti-prejudice campaigns

Involving minority ethnic communities in work around justice and community cohesion was the subject of 11 commitments and actions, with another 11 focussed on improvements to data collection and evidence on racial inequalities in relation to the justice system.

A further 11 related to leadership and accountability, with a particular focus on audit processes through Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS). This area of work came through strongly in the Scottish Executive's work to implement the recommendations of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry of 1999. Nine commitments and actions related to capacity building within the justice system.

The remainder of the commitments and actions relating to community cohesion and safety included:

  • Addressing race equality within generic policy related to community cohesion and safety
  • Diversity in the Police workforce
  • The formation of advisory groups
  • Work to meet the public sector equality duties, particularly regarding fostering good relations

Some evidence on the change generated by policy activity in this area is available from evaluation of Scottish Government's anti-hate crime campaigns, however this shows mixed results. The 2018 'Dear Haters' campaign, for example, had some success in raising awareness yet the proportion of the audience in its target group willing to report hate crime fell by 2% over the campaign period. This is likely to be as a result of flawed methodology in developing the campaign, issues which were raised by race equality stakeholders during the campaign's development.

Early work on diversity in the police workforce demonstrated greater success, with an 82% rise in the number of officers from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds between 2002 and 2003. This followed a range of positive action measures by Chief Constables within each area of the (pre-Police Scotland) Scottish Police Service, including targeted advertising, presentations and networking opportunities.

HMICS routinely examined the recruitment, retention and progress of minority ethnic staff within the Scottish Police Service as part of its primary inspection programmes. This reflects the ongoing debate on the potential for audit and inspection bodies to make a positive impact on equality work within their respective sectors.

Police Scotland continue to work towards a more representative Police Force, and there may be opportunities for them to build on previous practice within their current positive action programmes.

Some evidence of improvement in approaches to race equality within the case work of Procurators Fiscal was identified through evaluation of training interventions made as a result of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Action Plan for Scotland, however details of what worked and why are lacking. This underlines the importance of evaluating the practical outcomes of training, and sharing the results to inform future practice.

Evidence on inequalities and change over time

Key Issues:

  • Racism and prejudice are still significant issues in Scotland, and represent a disproportionate amount of the hate crime cases dealt with through the Scottish criminal justice system
  • Racism, prejudice and lack of access to criminal justice are still prevalent concerns for minority ethnic communities and individuals
  • There are significant issues surrounding community belonging and Scottish identity in relation to race equality
  • Although the Scottish Government, public bodies and civil society are undertaking approaches to reduce racism, prejudice and discrimination, not enough is known about the effectiveness of this work
  • There is still a significant minority of people in Scotland who have negative views on the promotion of equality for BME people; this has remained unchanged in the last decade

Trust and sense of belonging in the local neighbourhood

Evidence shows that minority ethnic people are less likely to feel a strong sense of belonging to their local area.

In 2012, over three-quarters (78 per cent) of white adults in Scotland felt a very or fairly strong sense of belonging to their neighbourhood. This was lower for non-white minority ethnic people,[8] however, with 62% feeling a very or fairly strong sense of belonging to their neighbourhood (see Figure 1; all figures are available at Appendix 3).

By 2019, these figures remained largely unchanged (78% of white adults feeling a very or fairly strong sense of belonging compared to 61% of minority ethnic people).

Attitudes to discrimination and positive action

The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2015 found that 19% of people in Scotland do not know anyone who is from a different racial or ethnic background. This figure remains unchanged since 2010, but is an improvement since the question was first asked in 2002 (26%) – see Figure 2.

In each survey since 2002, fewer people have agreed that they would prefer to live in an area where most people are similar to themselves, from 46% in 2002 to 33% in 2015. However, this still represents the opinion of a third of respondents.

Similarly, since the question was first asked in 2006, fewer respondents have agreed or agreed strongly with the statement that 'Scotland would begin to lose its identity if more Black and Asian people came to live in Scotland', from 46% in 2006 to 34% in 2015. Again, however, just over a third of respondents still agree.

No shift in attitude can be seen on attitudes to equal opportunities as 18% of respondents in 2002 agree that equal opportunities have gone too far for minority ethnic groups, changing only slightly to 16% in 2015. There is therefore still a significant minority of people in Scotland who have negative views on the promotion of equality for BME people.

In line with this, a quarter of respondents in 2002 (26%) agreed with the statement, 'Sometimes there is good reason for people to be prejudiced against certain groups', falling only to 22% in 2015, showing there has been no significant change in attitude to this over time.

Experiences of discrimination and harassment

The Scottish Household Survey 2014 stated that, overall, 5% of people reported experiencing harassment. Of these, 18% (the highest proportion besides those answering 'other') believed they had experienced harassment because of their ethnic group. The survey also reported that 14% of those from a non-white minority ethnic background had experienced harassment, compared to 5% from a white ethnic background.

Since 2014, statistics year on year have been broadly in line with this (see Figure 3). More recently, in 2019 there has been a rise in people from minority ethnic backgrounds experiencing harassment to 17%.

On harassment, there has not been an improvement in figures since 2015 (see Figure 3). In 2015 17% of minority ethnic people experienced harassment, over the time the statistics never fall below 17%, and rise to 19% in 2019.

The data shows that discrimination and harassment towards minority ethnic people is still a significant problem with rates not improving in the last five years.

Racial Violence and Hate Crime

Over the last 10 years racially motivated crime has been the most reported hate crime in Scotland (see Figure 4 for numbers). Anecdotal evidence suggests that racist incidents and racist hate crime are under-reported in Scotland, with victims choosing not to report due to a lack of trust in the police and justice system, confusion surrounding the process, and feeling desensitised to harassment.

A 2015 publication by HMICS reported a general lack of awareness among minority ethnic participants about what the term 'hate crime' means, or how to report it.[9]

From 2008-2013, the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey results have shown that only a minority of people think it is common that people are physically attacked because of their skin colour, ethnic origin or religion, with around 7% of people agreeing with this statement each survey period (see Figure 5). This stands in contrast with both the data on self-reported harassment given previously and the hate crime statistics provided at Figure 4, suggesting a significant lack of awareness of racist hate crime amongst the population in Scotland.

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey also shows that over time the percentage of people who are worried about being insulted, pestered or intimidated on the basis of their ethnic origin or race has increased – from 2.9% in 2012-13 to 4.5% in 2018-20 (see Figure 6).


Studies regarding access to justice for non-white minority ethnic individuals are outdated, but a 2011 client satisfaction survey of users of the Public Defence Solicitors' Office shows that 9% of respondents were from a non-white minority ethnic background, compared to 4% of the population. 4% were of an Asian background and 5% were from other non-white minority ethnic groups. Further examination would be necessary in order to identify whether, as it appears, BME people are over-represented in access to publicly funded legal support.[10]

Criminal Justice Workforce

In surveys of the legal profession conducted by the Law Society of Scotland in 2006 and 2009, 97% indicated their ethnic group to be white in both iterations. In their most recent survey, there has been little change with 95% describing themselves as white and 1% identifying themselves as Pakistani, Pakistani Scottish or Pakistani British, mixed or multiple ethnic groups or other ethnic group respectively.[11]

Similarly, a survey of legal aid solicitors in Scotland in 2010 found that 96% of respondents were of a white ethnicity, with only 1% identifying as being from a non-white minority ethnic background and 3% not disclosing their ethnic group.[12]

Further research from the Law Society of Scotland in 2011 found that non-white minority ethnic lawyers were significantly less likely to be equity partners than their white colleagues. Furthermore, in choosing a legal career, some non-white minority ethnic participants noted that their family and friends had tried to dissuade them from pursuing a career in law due to perceptions about prejudice towards non-white minority ethnic individuals. Nearly 75% of participants felt that their ethnicity had been a factor during recruitment. Additionally, 33% felt they had been treated differently in the workplace due to their ethnicity, particularly non-white minority ethnic women.[13]

Prison Population

In 2011-12, non-white minority ethnic individuals were overrepresented in the prison population at 3.9%. In particular, the percentage of Black individuals in prison was higher than that of the overall population.[14]

In 2016, analysis by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that the rate per 1,000 population of adults in prison was much higher for African/Caribbean/ Black people compared with white people (3.1 compared with 1.7).[15]

Latest statistics show that between 2019-2021, 96% of people in custody on an average day were white, 2% were Asian, Asian Scottish or Asian British and 1% were African, Caribbean or Black with other groups making up less than one percent each.[16]

Considerations for future policy

Community cohesion and safety policy to date has had a strong focus on encouraging hate crime reporting, and perhaps less on the development of preventative approaches and community cohesion work which engages the majority ethnic community (particularly those who are disengaged and may potentially have some prejudiced attitudes). Dame Elish Angiolini's recent review of police complaints handling has also raised the ongoing importance of relations between minority ethnic communities and the Police.[17]

In light of previous approaches, Scottish Government may wish to take the following opportunities into consideration when developing work to meet the visions and goals of the Race Equality Framework:

  • Development of (and funding for) preventative anti-racist initiatives based on evidence of what works to create attitude and behaviour change, with evaluation mechanisms designed to strengthen this evidence base, reflecting the Equality and Human Rights Commission's principles for evaluation of anti-prejudice work (developed by CRER on behalf of the Commission)[18]
  • Considering how community cohesion more broadly can be strengthened through national and local policy approaches, with a focus on reaching those in the majority ethnic community who are not engaging positively with people outside their own ethnic group
  • Mechanisms to build capacity on race equality within the Police Force and the wider justice system
  • Reviewing representation of minority ethnic groups throughout the justice sector in line with Census 2022 statistics when available
  • Opportunities to improve connections between minority ethnic communities / community organisations and Police Scotland



Back to top