At a conference in February this year, our Permanent Secretary spoke of her impatience around pace, progress and the power imbalance regarding race equality. In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, exposing and exacerbating the deep inequalities which disproportionately affected certain minority ethnic groups. The killing of George Floyd in the USA sparked protests around the world, including in Scotland, rightly demanding that Black Lives Matter. Our Executive Team heard sobering and impactful testimony from minority ethnic employees about their fatigue of explaining themselves and the emotional labour required to help white colleagues understand that the issues are real. We were left in no doubt that a step change was required.
I believe this Plan is the first step to making that change. It takes as its starting point the recognition that like many other large employers, Scottish Government is not exempt from the structural and systemic forces that enable and embed institutional racism. Tackling this is complex and calls for a willingness to disrupt our own thinking and the usual ways of doing things, to relinquish power and to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I welcome the explicitly anti-racist approach of this Plan which shifts the emphasis from ‘fixing the people’ to ‘fixing the system’ – a system which is as much about our culture as it is about policies and processes.
I am optimistic that we will achieve this. We are building a good evidence base of what works to increase diversity in recruitment. Our Race Equality Network is thriving and providing a valuable space of community and constructive, collaborative challenge to do better, sooner. And there is a growing demand from white colleagues to understand how to be effective race allies. That matters, because we can only make change when everyone uses their power – as individuals, colleagues, managers or leaders – to be actively anti-racist. Race equality is everyone’s business.
I am grateful to the senior race Champions and the Race Equality network for their leadership and challenge and their willingness to support and enable change. My thanks goes to Trade Union colleagues for working in partnership with the Diversity and Inclusion Team to develop a progressive Plan, and to our Critical Friends group for offering their time and expertise to shape the Plan. Above all, I would like to thank all of you who took part in the survey and focus groups which formed a large part of the evidence base of this Plan, who shared their personal stories with my Executive Team colleagues and who offer regular blogs on Saltire. Your lived experience and insights are the real test of how equal, diverse and inclusive we are as an organisation. I ask all of you to continue to hold us to account to deliver the change we need to see.
Director General Education, Communities and Justice
Senior Ally for Race, Religion and Belief
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