Over the course of the last eighteen months, Scotland has faced a period of change, disruption and uncertainty almost unique in its history, and which it shared with the rest of the world. Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has meant changing what “normal” looks like, whether in terms of healthcare, our economy, our jobs or schooling. For many minority ethnic people in Scotland, the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear, or worsened, existing inequalities in society. It is vital that our response tackles those inequalities and their causes head-on.
That is why in June 2020 we convened an Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity, to provide us with the scrutiny, challenge and expertise that we needed to ensure that we delivered for minority ethnic Scots. Their advice and recommendations were instrumental in designing our COVID-19 response and I would like to extend my particular thanks to them for this.
It is clear that it is not enough to simply “not be racist”, in order to truly take down the structural and institutional inequalities that make minority ethnic peoples’ lives worse in Scotland we need to have an actively anti-racist approach in everything we do. Anti-racism – that is, seeing racism as a structural issue – must be firmly embedded in organisational culture and practice in order to start tackling the roots of racism. In 2016, we laid out our Vision in the Race Equality Framework for Scotland. This is where we want to be. In 2017, we laid out our plan for how to implement that in 2017-21 in our Race Equality Action Plan. This report shows that we’ve made real progress, but it is also clear that there is more to do.
It takes time to get it right developing the meaningful, structural and strategic change that we need in order to eradicate racism. A challenge for us is how we are going to build systems and structures in Scotland that work against structural and systemic racism, and how we ensure that our policies translate to real, improved outcomes for minority ethnic people in Scotland. We recognise the need for deep and lasting change – Scotland does not and cannot claim to be free from racism. As part of anti-racist policy-making we need to build in time for capacity-building, data gathering, and engagement with those with lived experience of racism.
At the same time, we need to maintain our momentum on delivering concrete improvements for minority ethnic people in Scotland. Our Immediate Priorities Plan for Race Equality in Scotland captures the work we are undertaking across government. This work includes our recovery from the pandemic, but also includes areas as diverse as our wider Health priorities, Education, Housing, Fair Work, Poverty and Social Security. It gives us a benchmark by which to report our progress, and is a reflection of where we are, as well as where we will be in eighteen months’ time.
I’d like to thank everyone who has helped us develop this work and who is already helping us put it into practice. Our ambition for Scotland is undeniably high, and it is something that we need the help of everyone in Scotland, inside and outside government to help us achieve. Together, we can continue on our journey to eradicating racism, and making Scotland a fair and equal place for all.