6. Beyond the Race Equality Action Plan 2017/21 – what next for race equality in Scotland?
As we look beyond the current Race Equality Action Plan (REAP), our attention is focused on our next programme of race equality work, which must take us measurably closer to the long-term vision and goals of the Race Equality Framework for Scotland (REF).
Our next programme of work must also:
- Respond to and take action to implement the recommendations from the Expert Reference Group on COVID and Ethnicity (ERG), and build directly upon this work;
- Be underpinned by the data and evidence which shows the disproportionate impact of COVID and wider evidence of systemic, structural inequalities and race, to build a foundation for its actions;
- Be rooted in lived experience, and informed in its approach by those it is working for;
- Include an analysis of previous race equality work, what has worked and what has not;
- Focus on significant actions which can have real and direct impact on the lives of minority ethnic communities;
- Stress, and act on the centrality of active participation, empowerment and the voices of minority ethnic communities, and take an intersectional perspective;
- Set out measureable outcomes that are explicitly linked with the REF, are anchored in the National Performance Framework, and can be tracked and measured;
- Include robust governance and oversight arrangements, with a stronger accountability structure.
Our plan for 2021-2022
The Scottish Government recognises the need to balance immediate action and longer-term structural change, particularly in the light of COVID-19 and the new role of the ERG. That is why we intend to publish a 18 month "bridging plan" before summer 2021, setting out actions and activities, closely linked to the REF, which would be delivered with appropriate monitoring and oversight from external partners in addition to its internal governance.
This "bridging plan" aims to coincide with a proposed 18-month extension to deliver on the actions set out in the Gypsy Traveller Action Plan, with longer-term planning and increased action focusing on the integration and coherence of our work with Gypsy/Travellers as part of our broader approach to tackling systemic racism and racial inequality.
There will be three parts to the 'bridging' plan:
1. Ongoing implementation of recommendations made by the ERG. These focus on the immediate needs of communities in dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As we move into the recovery and post-pandemic stage, we need to ensure that we continue to deliver for Scotland's minority ethnic community.
2. Continuation of priority areas of work already underway to address immediate issues of race equality in key policy areas, with specific targets/milestones to be achieved within this period.
3. Develop a deeper understanding of how systemic racism creates racial inequality, to inform longer-term system change.
Across all three parts of the work, data will be key to knowing if we have succeeded. Longer-term work to improve the gathering, analysis and reporting of robust and reliable data to monitor outcomes – already underway – will continue through the bridging plan and into the longer-term change programme.
Governance, oversight and accountability is critical and while appropriate arrangements will be put in place to cover this 18 month period, we will also use this time to explore an optimal model for strengthened functions of oversight and accountability, bringing the right blend of support, challenge and focus.
Developing a longer-term change programme to tackle racial inequality (2023-2026)
Throughout the 18 month bridging plan, detailed work will be taken forward to develop a longer-term change programme to tackle systemic discrimination which results in racial inequality. This will be underpinned by the lived experience of minority ethnic people in Scotland. In order to do this, we will directly involve people from minority ethnic communities as well as organisations that represent and support them, as well as academic experts and a wide range of delivery partners.
There are a number of challenges that this development work will need to address. We welcome discussion on these points:
1) Coverage of the future programme of race equality work
Unpicking structural racism and addressing inequality experienced by Scotland's minority ethnic communities cannot be a job for government alone. Everyone has a role to play, including local government, NHS Boards and the wider public sector, businesses and employers and of course wider society. Our work must ensure the active participation of minority ethnic communities, and centre lived experience. Our longer-term change programme must involve built-in, direct engagement with a wide range of people and organisations, who must also play a key role in the monitoring, reporting and governance structures. This will be key to the success of our future plan of work.
2) Understanding and responding to the scale and complexity of the challenge to address systemic racism and racial inequality
The environment in which we are working has changed in ways which were unanticipated when the REF was published in 2016, and with it, societal expectations about how systemic racism should be addressed. We acknowledge that existing systems and power dynamics too often perpetuate disadvantage, and that if we are to create real cultural and systemic change we need to tackle this directly. We have acknowledged that we need to tackle systemic racism, and we now speak about being explicitly actively 'anti-racist'. Our next steps must reflect that – not only by using those words but understanding how we embed this in our policies, services and cultures. We acknowledge that we need to build a deeper understanding of systemic racism and anti-racist actions, not only across the Scottish Government, but also the public sector as a whole and wider society. We recognise the scale and complexity of the task, and the investment which will be needed to address this.
4) Taking an Intersectional Approach
Intersectionality is a key principle for our future work, based on the understanding that individuals and communities have dynamic, fluid identities and diverse circumstances. Racism and racial inequality combines with other types of discrimination and disadvantage to affect people's life experiences, needs and opportunities and outcomes. This work must be built on a sound understanding of intersectionality and compound discrimination.
5) Oversight and accountability
We recognise the need to put in place strong mechanisms for oversight and accountability. External monitoring and accountability will be a key feature of our longer-term programme of race equality work, so as to support and strengthen our work to advance race equality. We are committed to exploring how a stronger structure for oversight and accountability will guide and measure our work on race equality and that work will be further developed in the coming months.
6) Prioritisation and resourcing
We must acknowledge the need for appropriate resourcing for race equality work across and well beyond the Scottish Government, and to recognise the priority issue that race equality represents. We will ensure that our response matches our ambition, and that it is a core part of government work going forward. This will be relevant to our broader thinking in relation to the development of our overall approach and strategy to mainstreaming equality and human rights across Government and the wider public sector.
Our next programme of Race Equality work over the period 2021-2026 has already begun with our timeline for implementation of the recommendations of the ERG. We welcome ongoing conversations with a wide range of people, communities and organisations as this immediate work continue to form the baseline for a programme of work which matches our ambitions and takes us measurably closer to the long-term vision and goals of the REF.