Following the end of our last multi-year race equality plan, and in accordance with the recommendations of the Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity, the Scottish Government is undergoing a review of its race equality policy and work, with a clear desire for system change.
We are currently in an interim period running to March 2023. During this period, work is being undertaken to design new, multi-year anti-racist work to commence in 2023. In order to maintain momentum delivering positive outcomes for minority ethnic people in Scotland, we are also delivering an Immediate Priorities Plan (IPP) of key objectives during the interim period.
The IPP is based around delivering on the recommendations of the Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity. Recommendation 7 was to set up external governance to review race equality work, and the formation of an observatory:
Recommendation 7: Accountability - Independent Oversight
A key recommendation is to establish a more effective accountability and governance infrastructure in Scotland. Too often recommendations have been made on racism and minority ethnic “issues” that have subsequently been forgotten and not implemented. They may then be raised again by other Groups without reference to what has been asked before. This absence of institutional memory within the current system and structures is frustrating, disempowering and can be understood as a mechanism by which systemic discrimination occurs.
The proposal is that a new infrastructure, building on what exists already, should embed four elements:
- an observatory which brings together quantitative and qualitative data on ethnic and racial inequalities in Scotland. This should not only include epidemiological data but also cultural, historical and other socio political and economic factors
- a repository which holds historical and current evidence from arrange of different sources to maintain awareness and inform actions
- collaboration that reflects the consensus between the Scottish Government and all other relevant stakeholders that Scotland needs to better engage with the experiences of those racialised in society
- co-production processes led by those who are most affected by its outcomes
We will do this in stages, beginning with this interim governance group, which aims to deliver our commitment to have external oversight of our work going forward and provide support for our new strategy. It will culminate in establishing a permanent external oversight and governance body for our long-term anti-racist work, beginning after the close of the IPP in 2023.
The interim governance body’s remit is to:
- provide independent oversight and to hold SG 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
- provide advice and feedback to Scottish Ministers
Period of operation
The interim governance body will first meet in April 2022, subject to the availability of prospective members, and there will be two meetings per quarter (see points 14-15). It would then remain in place for at least a year and until its remit is fulfilled; and a permanent race equality governance body is established and functioning.
Principles guiding operation and membership
The group is independent and will provide advice directly to Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Government, who will be responsible for following up on this advice and implementing any associated work.
The group has no statutory powers, however its scrutiny of government processes and delivery will inform Scottish Ministers’ decision-making regarding the future of anti-racist policy. As such it will have the authority to commission research, reach out to other experts as needed, and pursue clarity and accountability across Scottish Government delivery (this will include Minsters, Ministerial officers and senior civil servants).
The Terms of Reference, a high-level workplan, a concluding report, and minutes of meetings will be published. The Group retains an option to make other documentation and resources public where appropriate.
The Group is not established on a statutory basis. It is therefore not subject to the formal public appointments process and the requirements of the Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies in Scotland. Members are appointed by Scottish Ministers, taking into account the views of the co-chairs.
Participation in the Group will be remunerated (see Remuneration, below).
Meetings will be attended by named members, and support workers if required, only. Substitutes will usually not be accepted, apart from by prior agreement with the co-chairs.
Additional expertise may be sought to engage in specific elements of the Group’s work, however they will not be full members. Their participation will be made public via published minutes.
Decision making will be as far as possible by consensus, or by majority if consensus is not reached. An attendance of 75% will be considered quorate.
Members will agree to abide by the following Group norms:
- attend the majority of meetings
- observe good time-keeping
- preserve the privacy of those with lived experience
- take individual responsibility for engaging and completing tasks delegated to them
- commit to fully engaging in the Group’s activities and proactively participating in delivery
- switch off phones and electronic devices during meetings, apart from those being used for note taking etc
- meetings will take place virtually or in accessible locations. If members are able to offer suitable accommodation within their own organisations this would be appreciated. Although the Group is independent, suitable Scottish Government accommodation may be used if other accommodation is not available
As far as possible, membership will reflect gender balance, will include those with experiences of intersecting marginalisation(s), and the realities of systemic racism and expertise in tacking it. Membership will take into account the need to ensure continuity and institutional memory.
Members will be appointed on merit by the co-chairs, and will focus on individuals having extensive knowledge and/or experience of policy making in Scotland, design and implantation of policy/systems. Membership categories will also need to include:
- community members and grassroots organisations
- young people
- scrutiny and governance expertise
- expertise in gathering and using inequality data
- expertise/leadership from public, private and third sector
Following the racialised outcomes of the pandemic, and the follow-on from the Black Lives Matter movement, the Scottish Government has recognised (via its IPP) that racism is a systemic and structural issue, and that 'understanding racism and taking a truly anti-racist position means acknowledging the existence of formal and informal structural, institutional and cultural processes....". This understanding must be evidence based and clear that a “one size fits all” approach to anti-racism for racialised communities will fail to deliver for us all.
The Interim Governance Group is focused on anti-racism and the specific and disproportionate impact white privilege has on communities of colour, as such the membership reflects this through lived and learned expertise. The intention is that the work of this group will create improved infrastructure and accountability that has a positive impact on the lives of all racialised minority communities, however racialised outcomes are not uniform, and effective interventions need to take the specificities of experiences into account. In Scotland, this includes important disparities impacting Black/ethnic minority groups.
The Interim Governance Group will be using definitions specific to the communities we are, at this particular stage of work referring to, this will be “communities of colour” or “racialised minority communities”.
It is important that the Scottish Government makes specific space for conversations and influencing related to this and also that delivery of equality policy is also informed by the experiences of migrant and white minorities
The Scottish Government will provide secretariat to the group and other administrative, analytical, digital and communications support as required.
Role of the co-chairs
The co-chairs are responsible for leading meetings of the group and for setting the strategic direction and business of the group in discussion with members and in accordance with the purpose and remit of the group.
The co-chairs will support with approaching potential members.
The group will formally report directly to Scottish Ministers via the co-chairs.
The co-chairs are not responsible for any follow-up or implementation that is required on the basis of the group’s advice and any recommendations that are made. Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Government will ultimately be responsible for acting upon the advice of the group.
Safeguarding and ensuring safe spaces
The group consists of individuals from diverse cultures, background and circumstance. Members should be given time and space to share their stories if they want to, and be willing to learn about other cultures and other people’s experiences. Intersectionality exists, so homogeneity should not be assumed – nor that the group will automatically address the needs of any specific sub-groups within it.
It must be recognised that people who are, and/or have been racialised (and/or experience intersecting inequalities), will be impacted by their experiences in many respects, including emotionally, and there may be potential for conflict. Positive intent should always be assumed. Where possible and appropriate, Scottish Government will assist in creating a safe space and providing resource to support where abuse, discrimination or toxicity is being experienced.
The group is intended to be a space where members feel safe, respected, heard and able to participate fully. The Scottish Government seeks to avoid tokenism by ensuring that the group contains a majority of people with lived experience of racial discrimination. The focus will be on how to make a positive impact and gain perspectives to create long term change in improving anti-racist system change within the delivery of Scottish Government work in Scotland.
Communications and information sharing
The Group will not be subject to Freedom of Information (FOI) and will not be required to respond to FOI requests. This is because the Group is not established on a statutory basis, and because it is clearly reflected within the Group's remit and appointment letters that they are independent.
Any papers provided from the Group to Scottish Government Ministers or officials will become subject to the usual FOI requirements. This means that any e-mails, notes, initial or formative advice and communications to Scottish Government Ministers or officials, would immediately become Scottish Government documents for the purposes of FOI. The Scottish Government can apply exemptions to withhold certain information, for example if policy is still being formulated, but may not be applicable for other types of information. Documents withheld for policy development reasons are likely to become appropriate for release in the future, once policy in this area is fully formed.
The Scottish Government Secretariat will keep the Group's records in a separate electronic file with restricted access. This will clarify that, for the purposes of FOI, the Scottish Government is holding these records only on behalf of the group and not in its own right.
Information and papers sent to Group members are intended for viewing by those members only. There should be an assumption that papers will contain Official Sensitive level information and thus should not be shared with colleagues or third parties, either in hard copy or electronically, and their content should not be discussed outwith the Group or any of its agreed workstreams or sub-groups. Protocols will be developed for the distribution of information and papers.
Group discussions are confidential and not for sharing with third parties.
Dual meeting approach
In order to allow time for full discussion and scrutiny in addition to updates provided by the Scottish Government on ongoing work, there will be two meetings of the group per quarter, each within a month of each other.
This will work as follows:
- April 2022: Inaugural meeting
- May 2022: Update meeting
- July 2022: Scrutiny and discussion meeting
- August 2022: Update meeting
- October 2022: Scrutiny and discussion meeting
- November 2022: Update meeting
- January 2022: Scrutiny and discussion meeting
- February 2023: Update meeting
- April 2023: Scrutiny and discussion meeting
- May 2023 Final update meeting
We will be using sub groups which may be additional to this meeting schedule for members who participate in these.
We recognise that asking minority ethnic people to do further unpaid labour fighting racism contributes to structures of racism and inequality. That is why we pay participants for their time.
Pay will be at the following rates:
- Chair/co-chairs: £300/day
- Members: £200/day
Membership is envisaged to number between 12-20, including the chair/co-chairs. Pay will be through ordinary Scottish Government pay channels.
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