- The Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid):
The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-4601, in the name of Malcolm Chisholm, on race equality.
- The Minister for Communities (Malcolm Chisholm):
I am grateful for the opportunity to introduce the debate and to restate the Scottish Executive's continuing commitment to tackle racism and promote race equality. Members will be aware that, during 2004-05, the Scottish Executive undertook a review of race equality work in Scotland. Given that it is just over six months since we published the review recommendations, the time is right to update the Parliament on the progress that has been made since then and, in so doing, to give members the chance to debate the issues and contribute to the development of the Scottish Executive's national strategy and action plan for race equality in Scotland, which is due to be published later this year.
The Scottish Executive undertook a review of race equality work in Scotland to consider whether the focus and priorities of our work were appropriate within the context of the present time. The primary purpose of the review was to determine the best approach that is required to deliver tangible improvements in the lives of Scotland's diverse communities in addition to ensuring that resources are maximised and directed to best effect.
A great number of individuals and organisations with an interest in the area responded to the review. I am extremely grateful to them for their contributions, which have shaped our policy. Among other things, the review told us that the Scottish Executive should provide more strategic leadership and direction on race equality; that public bodies should accelerate the delivery of race equality and tackle racial disadvantage in key public policy areas; and that development and capacity building are necessary for the minority ethnic voluntary sector.
Having considered the issues and views that were expressed during the review process, we have developed a framework for action that will help to ensure lasting and effective change and, alongside the forthcoming national strategy and action plan, the delivery of race equality for all in Scotland. Later this year, we will publish the national strategy and accompanying action plan. The strategy will set out the vision, basis and direction for our future work on race equality and the action plan will outline what the Scottish Executive will do.
Respondents to the review identified four specific policy areas that merit further work: ethnic minorities and the labour market; asylum seekers and refugees; Gypsy Travellers; and race equality in rural areas. Strategic groups comprising key stakeholders have been established to examine the issues and prepare the action plans that will inform the national strategy and action plan. I will say something on the first two policy areas in this opening speech and address the latter two in my closing remarks.
Even when class and qualifications are taken into account, we know that many people from minority ethnic backgrounds earn less for doing the same or a similar job as their white cohorts; are less likely to be in employment; and are still underrepresented in many occupations. That is why we set up a short-life project group, with membership from central and local government, the voluntary sector, the Commission for Racial Equality and employers' organisations. The group is chaired by Dr Charan Gill and both Allan Wilson and I attend its meetings. The group's overarching objective is to increase the number of people from ethnic minorities in the labour market and to address barriers to their participation. The group has three specific objectives: first, elimination of the ethnic penalty; secondly, reduction of the employment gap; and thirdly, reduction in occupational segregation. The group aims to produce an agreed action plan by the end of next month.
It has been three years since the Scottish refugee integration forum published its action plan, which sought to address the barriers that prevent refugees from playing a full role in Scottish society. I reconvened the SRIF in December 2005 and have chaired it since in order to produce a revised action plan that will address the new and emerging issues that affect refugees. The new action plan will examine, among other matters, specific issues such as health, housing, justice, young people, community development and positive images. It will seek to build on the essential principles of the original action plan and to fill any gaps that may have developed. We will publish the new action plan, following proper consultation, later in the year.
- Christine Grahame (South of Scotland) (SNP):
The minister said that he would deal with asylum seekers and refugees. Will he address the asylum seeker issue later in his speech?
- Malcolm Chisholm:
I have been dealing with it. When we talk about the Scottish refugee integration forum, we mean asylum seekers and refugees.
Since the dispersal of asylum seekers began in 2000, Scotland has learned a great deal about how to make new arrivals feel welcome and integrate into our communities. My belief is that effective integration is beneficial not only for refugees, asylum seekers and their immediate communities, but for Scotland as a whole. Refugees and asylum seekers bring useful and sometimes rare skills and knowledge to Scotland. If they integrate successfully they can bring huge benefits to the whole of society.
The Scottish refugee integration fund is a grant scheme that is used to support the SRIF action plan that I mentioned. Between 2003 and 2006 the scheme has provided more than £1.5 million to projects that take forward key actions outlined in the strategy. A further £600,000 to fund projects in the current financial year was allocated two weeks ago.
As well as providing essential advice and information to refugees and asylum seekers, the projects provide services that include befriending schemes, community volunteering projects, drop-in centres, translation and interpreting resources and awareness-raising activities. The projects are run by a variety of organisations that range from major United Kingdom charities such as the British Red Cross to small community organisations such as St Rollox Church of Scotland. The wide range of projects that is funded through the grant scheme reflects the range of issues that is addressed in the SRIF action plan.
In addition to providing support to develop the capacity of the minority ethnic voluntary sector, the review highlighted the pressing need to provide better support to communities. As a result, the Scottish Executive established the race equality, integration and community support fund. It will provide £2 million during 2006-08 to support projects that foster greater integration, understanding and dialogue between communities; provide support to tackle issues of inequality and integration; and encourage greater partnership working and improved engagement between minority ethnic communities and public sector bodies.
Just under a fortnight ago, I was pleased to announce awards from the new fund when I visited one of the projects that will receive funding at the sports medicine centre at Hampden park. The project, which is run by Glasgow Ansar, Glasgow Maccabi and Bellshill Athletic Football Club, brings together young people from across Glasgow to combat racism, foster integration, build friendships and promote diversity through a football-based fitness and training programme. I could give many other examples of projects we are funding that promote integration and race equality in a similar or related way.
I am aware that much of what I have discussed so far concerns new work associated with the outcomes of our review of race equality work. In the meantime, our programme of race equality, integration and community support work in other areas continues apace.
Our one Scotland, many cultures national anti-racism campaign is now in its fourth phase of activity. In order to spread as far as possible our message that there is no place for racism, we have continued our multimedia broadcasting strategy. We have targeted audiences using prime-time television and radio adverts and the internet. As part of the campaign, we have continued to fund a range of initiatives that raise people's awareness of racism and its effects. The Scottish Trades Union Congress's one workplace, equal rights project is mainstreaming equalities into the work of unions throughout Scotland. The project ensures that the key messages from the Executive's work to tackle racism and mainstream equality are sustained and fully implemented throughout Scottish workplaces.
We fund Show Racism the Red Card, which harnesses the profile of professional footballers to work with young people, schools, fans and Scottish football clubs to tackle racism on and off the pitch; the Heartstone project, which uses the media of photography and storytelling to raise awareness of the issues of racism and xenophobia; and Young Scot, the national information service for 16 to 26-year-olds. Most recently we supported the Scottish Refugee Council's refugee week, which acknowledged the positive contribution that refugees make to the country.
Throughout the Scottish Executive and its agencies, good progress is being made to mainstream race equality into our daily business and policy making. I have time to give only a couple of examples. The Scottish Executive Health Department has continued to build on the policy in "Fair for All", which was developed to tackle racial inequalities and ensure delivery of a culturally competent health service. The success of the approach has led to the document "Fair for All: the Wider Challenge", which encompasses initiatives on age, disability, gender, sexual orientation and spiritual care and includes specific actions that are to be undertaken by the Health Department and the national health service in Scotland to promote equality in the workplace.
It goes without saying that schools have a key role in the drive for race equality and in preparing young people to live in a multicultural and inclusive society. The Education Department has funded a number of resources that schools can use to tackle racism and discrimination and to promote equality and integration. The department is also making progress with several equality initiatives in co-operation with schools and education authorities and with research on the educational experiences of children of asylum seekers in Scottish schools.
Tackling racism is not a matter only for Government or public bodies—we all have a responsibility to speak out against racism. In 2004-05 a total of 4,927 racist incidents were reported to police forces in Scotland, which was an increase of 29.6 per cent on the previous year. However, the Commission for Racial Equality estimates that as few as one in five racist incidents is reported. The level of racism and the increased number of racist incidents in Scotland are of great concern to the Scottish Executive. We are examining the development of a monitoring framework to maximise intervention and to tackle the underreporting of racist incidents.
In that context, it is only right that Parliament should devote some time to the recent reports of people and property being attacked for showing support for a football team. I am sure that members will join me in expressing outrage and disgust at those attacks, as will all right-minded people in this country. As the Minister for Communities, I will make perfectly clear the Scottish Executive's position on the events: we whole-heartedly condemn those acts of mindless violence, which the police are investigating as racist assaults. There is simply no place for racism in Scotland. Racism harms us all, wherever and however it manifests itself. Scotland cannot become the confident and successful nation that we all want it to be unless we rid the country of the scourge of racism, including anti-English hatred.
We are determined to establish a modern, dynamic Scotland that fosters integration but respects diversity. We want everybody to be able to help shape Scotland's future and to share in what the country has to offer. We want a country in which no one is held back because of their colour, race or background and where there is no place for racism, in whatever form it appears.
That the Parliament supports the development of a national strategy and action plan on race equality and welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the strategy; welcomes the significant funding provided to local projects through the Race Equality, Integration and Community Support Fund and Scottish Refugee Integration Fund and national projects like Show Racism the Red Card and Heartstone; supports Scottish Executive priorities to increase ethnic minorities' participation in the labour market, build more inclusive rural communities, provide better services to Scotland's Gypsies/Travellers, support refugee integration and continue to raise awareness of the issues through the One Scotland Many Cultures campaign, and supports the Executive's other work to help tackle racism and promote race equality in Scotland.
- Christine Grahame (South of Scotland) (SNP):
I will speak to the Scottish National Party amendment and my colleague Sandra White will address some of the specific initiatives that are referred to in the Government's motion, which we support. We will not support the Conservative amendment, because it would add nothing and is therefore unnecessary.
My speech will have three interwoven strands: the prejudice that some asylum seekers endure; the failure to allow asylum seekers to take up employment while their cases are being considered; and the deportation of valued immigrants, which may conform to the requirements of England, but not to those of Scotland, neither in principle nor in the context of the fresh talent initiative.
An article in The Scotsman yesterday described the experience of one asylum seeker, Ahlam Souidi, who is 43 and was a legal adviser in Algeria, but who fled after receiving threats from elements there who did not like her law work. She said:
"We had very bad ideas about Glasgow … People said the weather was horrible, which wasn't a big problem for us, but they also said while the Glasgow people were friendly, they were also very racist."
The article continued:
"Sadly, their initial experience of the city did nothing to dispel that image … The racial harassment started the night they moved in—verbal abuse, condoms through the letterbox and on the door handles, graffiti on their door referring to the numbers killed in the 9/11 atrocity … While she can't excuse the racist behaviour she experienced in Nitshill, she does feel that the people there should have been better briefed before the immigrants started arriving".
I shall address that later. Five years on, and despite the fact that her children are well integrated, regard Glaswegian as their first language and are doing well at school, the Home Office is still to make a decision over their case.
Such racial harassment was corroborated in recent evidence to the Communities Committee on social inclusion. Anne-Marie Smith, a single parent, said in evidence:
"An incident happened a fortnight ago in my area of Pollok. The forum was trying to get people—teenagers—to mix with refugees. The situation ended up with the refugees and the workers having to get a police escort out of the area. There was a misunderstanding. This goes back to the relationships between the younger ones and the older generation. Nothing is put on for them but, all of a sudden, things are put on for the refugees. People ask, ‘What are they getting when we're not getting anything?' That issue will come up a lot."—[Official Report, Communities Committee, 31 May 2006; c 3608.]
That was recounted not to blame, but to explain. It is as plain as a pikestaff that if we simply plant asylum seekers in deprived areas, those attitudes, by some but not all—I will come to that in my concluding remarks—are predictable and therefore avoidable.
Of course, there is always Dungavel, where—on Scottish soil—the Home Office even imprisoned children. Between 150 and 200 people are there today, some of whom were ferried in from Northern Ireland. There has been criticism of Dungavel by Northern Ireland's human rights commission. After a recent visit to Dungavel, the chief commissioner, Professor McWilliams, said that the delegation was not impressed with the conditions. She said:
"The accommodation for men is in dormitories, with six to eight beds—that quite shocked me to see it in this day and age."
She went on to say:
"Women are in a separate centre. Families are located there as well."
Will the minister advise whether there are children at Dungavel? That quotation suggests that there are. That is despite Scotland's commissioner for children and young people challenging not only the detention of children but the manner in which they were deported: dragged from their beds in the small hours, in a country that was perhaps all they knew and which they regarded as home, their parents handcuffed by uniformed police officers. She challenged that with the withering words:
"Children are not a reserved matter."
All that—the racism; the humiliation; the forced unemployment, sometimes of consultants and doctors whom we desperately need—happens under a Westminster writ that runs here. According to Frank Field, former minister for welfare reform, the United Kingdom is becoming a "global traffic station" for migrants. He continued:
"There will be economic gains"—
"but I am just raising whether any country can sustain the rate of immigration we are now suffering."
Frankly, Frank, the answer is yes. Scotland's needs are not those of the UK; in fact, quite the contrary is true. To name but two examples, our Minister for Health and Community Care takes poaching trips abroad for health professionals and we rely on foreign construction workers.
The First Minister launched the fresh talent initiative, the success of which the Executive is very coy about. Although there have been only 586 applications since the scheme was launched in 2005, the initiative is laudable. However, it is grimly ironic, given that we allow Westminster to deport mature and young talent from Scotland. With a falling population, Scotland needs immigrants. The Minister for Health and Community Care and the First Minister have demonstrated that. What could be plainer than that we should not deport families who have lived here for years? What could be plainer than letting those who seek asylum work while they are here and be assessed for residency? What could be plainer than the fact that introducing asylum seekers into areas in which communities are already struggling daily to get by can be a recipe for racist revenge? What could be plainer than the fact that we need our own immigration policies that are tailored to Scottish needs?
I shall finish with a heartening quotation from Maureen West, who gave evidence to the Communities Committee. We were talking about food, and she said:
"It is true; a lot of people do not know how to cook food. I got involved with some of the refugees in our area—I must have a friendly face—and they were asking, ‘What's this?' They had come from villages and been dumped in the middle of Castlemilk. They did not know where the post office was and what the food was in the supermarket. They had never seen that stuff in their lives before because the food in their country is different.
We tried to organise classes to show them how to do mince and potatoes. We had a cross-cultural event where they brought all their African food and we brought mince and potatoes, haggis and turnip, potato scones and tea cakes, and it all went like snow off a dyke; it was brilliant."—[Official Report, Communities Committee, 31 May 2006; c 3625.]
That is the authentic voice of Scotland. This is a migrant nation—80 million of our descendants live in foreign countries. We migrated and, in most cases, were made welcome. That is a voice that should be heard more loudly with our own policies, for our own people, for our own needs.
I move amendment S2M-4601.1, to insert at end:
", condemns however the treatment of asylum seekers who after years in Scotland, often with children born in Scotland, can still be deported and while living here are prevented from seeking employment despite their wish to do so, and considers that this situation completely contradicts the Fresh Talent initiative and the culture of an inclusive Scotland which the Executive quite rightly seeks to promote."
- Dave Petrie (Highlands and Islands) (Con):
I apologise for the state of my voice. I assure members that it has nothing to do with the world cup. It gives me great pleasure to open this important and worthwhile debate on behalf of my party. The Conservative party has always recognised the value of immigration and migrant communities.
It is a common characteristic of the British, and of the Scots in particular, to mix and integrate with people from different cultures. Just look at the historic popularity of Italian ice cream parlours, the multitude of multicultural restaurants that we all frequent on a regular basis and the wonderful mix of people from various ethnic backgrounds who now populate our schools, workplaces and universities.
The ethnic communities in our society are a direct consequence of historical links with a wealth of nations. On 15 June, I delivered a speech to this chamber on migration in the Highlands and Islands and praised the existence of an increase in migrant workers, particularly from Poland, who are contributing to our society and helping to maintain the Scottish economy in the region that I represent. However, I also drew to members' attention the need to put in place a structure that will encourage integration and help race relations.
In this wonderful country in which we live, it is a shame that a minority of misguided individuals show a darker side to Scottish culture and attitudes. If we are to encourage immigration into Scotland—which we must do, for the cultural and economic benefits that it brings—it is important that the Executive takes a lead in the development of a national strategy on race equality.
I welcome the fact that the strategy has been introduced. However, I would like to point out that racism and bigotry are aimed not only at the colour of someone's skin. As Malcolm Chisholm said, the recent world cup distractions have done a lot to highlight how much more is still to be done. However, they have also highlighted a somewhat half-hearted approach on the part of certain members of the Executive. I cannot help but feel that certain comments that have been made have stoked the flames of bigotry towards our nearest neighbour and have legitimised many of the attitudes that we are trying to fight. That reached its lowest point with the attacks on England supporters in Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Although those attacks were wholly unrepresentative of Scottish society, they illustrate an underlying and pernicious blot on our society that is stubbornly resistant to change. I urge all members not to go down that route and to fight against any discrimination, whether it be anti-English or anti-any culture. I hope that, in the future, the Executive will maintain a more joined-up approach to race relations. That will have to happen if it is to have any success in that regard.
The Conservative party, being a party of localism, is pleased to see that the Executive has invested a large amount of money in local community projects through initiatives such as the race equality, integration and community support fund. The most effective way of solving a problem is through action at base level, rather than through a top-down approach that is controlled and directed straight from the Executive offices. I urge ministers to continue and to make greater use of that approach, tapping into the huge resource that is available through schools, community groups and the media to spread the word.
Above all, integration is the most important way in which to protect against bigotry and racism. We should encourage all parties to see what mutual benefit can be gained from one another through constructive dialogue. History has taught us that, when two communities co-exist side by side without integration, that breeds mistrust and paranoia. We have seen that in many of the old industrial cities of northern England. I am pleased that initiatives such as the Scottish refugee integration fund are addressing that issue.
When we welcome people to our country, we have to demonstrate that spirit throughout our communities. I would go further by urging the Executive to support access to English language lessons as the surest way to true integration. Figures for 2004 suggest that more than 150,000 people in Scotland are in need of English language support. A Scottish Executive strategy was introduced in 2004 but, regrettably, its implementation has been slow. Urgent action is needed. Language barriers can present a major health and safety concern in the workplace. Many migrant workers, particularly from eastern Europe, are coming to Scotland to work as labourers, and if managers cannot properly explain to them the health and safety rules, many of which are a lot more comprehensive in this country, that presents a danger to the migrant workers themselves and to their co-workers. It is therefore essential that the Executive makes language its number 1 priority in promoting integration and better race relations.
There are areas in which the Conservative party applauds the efforts that the Executive is making, but there are also areas in which we disagree. To disagree with policy to improve race relations does not, however, put us in opposition to the overall aim, which is a common misconception. We are concerned about such expensive drivers as the fresh talent initiative, which assigns a huge amount of taxpayers' money to encouraging people to come here. As Christine Grahame said, the results have yet to prove that investment's worth. Instead, we should invest in creating a healthy economy, as opposed to one that lags behind that of the rest of Britain. We should cut red tape and provide affordable housing and public services for our communities. If we do that, we will be spoilt for choice with applications to move here, and we will have provided a healthier economy for the people already living here.
In support of the motion, I praise the Executive's efforts, and I commit my support to any possible means of effectively improving race relations in Scotland. The fact that only 57 per cent of minority ethnic working-age people are in employment, as opposed to 73 per cent of non-minority ethnic people, suggests that there are still a lot of barriers to be broken down and a lot of issues to be tackled.
Without wanting to steal a much-used new Labour catchphrase, I believe that education is the key: education in our schools; education of non-English-speaking immigrants; and education in society, through such initiatives as the one Scotland advertising campaign, which I applaud. That will aid integration and understanding, and will bind communities together into a cohesive Scotland, with everyone striving for the same goals. I urge members to support the amendment in my name.
I move amendment S2M-4601.2, to leave out from "supports Scottish Executive priorities" to end and insert:
"welcomes the intention to support improved integration and understanding between all groups in the community, and urges the Scottish Executive to deliver tangible improvements in the lives of Scotland's diverse communities whilst ensuring resources are maximised and directed to best effect".
- Nora Radcliffe (Gordon) (LD):
The Parliament and the Scottish Executive have a responsibility to provide leadership in the fight against racism and in the efforts that are needed to eliminate racial disadvantage and inequality. The commitments in the Executive parties' partnership agreement on equal opportunity, particularly on tackling racism, demonstrate that the Executive views those policy areas as a priority. That voluntary prioritisation is backed by the requirements of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, which places a general statutory duty on the Government and other public bodies to promote race equality.
The Executive's race equality scheme was published in November 2005, and it sets out arrangements for meeting the statutory duty to promote race equality. Prior to that, between June 2004 and February 2005, the Scottish Executive conducted a comprehensive review of race equality work, with its primary purpose being to determine the best way
"to deliver tangible improvements in the lives of Scotland's diverse communities whilst ensuring resources are maximised and directed to best effect."
That was reiterated by the Minister for Communities this afternoon, and those words are also used in the Tory amendment. The conclusions of that review included a need for more strategic leadership and direction on race equality from the Executive; a need to accelerate the delivery of race equality by public bodies, which should be getting to grips with racial disadvantage in key policy areas; and a need for development and capacity building in the minority ethnic voluntary sector.
Respondents to the review identified four specific policy areas that merited further work: ethnic minorities and the labour market, asylum seekers and refugees, Gypsy Travellers, and race equality in rural areas. The Executive has responded by setting up strategic groups in which key stakeholders will examine the issues and prepare action plans. The minister outlined some of the specific themes that are to be focused on by the working groups, and those will inform the national strategy and action plan, which we hope to welcome in the summer.
If a spur to action were needed, the Commission for Racial Equality briefing for the debate outlined a range of indicators that demonstrate that Scotland is still a long way from achieving race equality. For example, the working-age employment rate for non-white people in Scotland is 57.9 per cent, compared with 73.8 per cent for white people. Ethnic minority pupils in Scotland's schools say that they experience everyday racism. Only 1 per cent of local councillors are from an ethnic minority background and there are no visible ethnic minority members of the Parliament. Thirty-one per cent of people believe that there is a danger of race riots occurring soon in Scotland. However, as outlined in the Executive motion and in the minister's speech, significant funding is being provided to tackle racism, and much good work is being done.
I am concerned that the Commission for Racial Equality briefing highlights a lack of adequate data on which to base policies and monitor progress. Good information is essential. I hope that the Executive's strategy and action plan will focus on that fundamental issue.
I find it particularly interesting that the Commission for Racial Equality now deals mainly with cases that involve indirect or institutional discrimination rather than direct discrimination. I hope that that means that we have the mechanics broadly right and in place. However, even if that is the case, we are left with the much more difficult battle to win hearts and minds and change attitudes.
The one Scotland, many cultures campaign was a good and positive opening salvo in the battle. I also mention the Heartstone project, which breaks down prejudice by opening people's minds through their eyes. In its photographs, Heartstone shows us that people are people, whoever and wherever they are, and that we all—as human beings, living out our lives—have more in common than divides us.
Gypsy Travellers were identified in the race equality review as a group who are particularly susceptible to harassment and discrimination. The Equal Opportunities Committee has revisited and pursued the recommendations on Gypsy Travellers that it made in its report in the first parliamentary session.
- Ms Maureen Watt (North East Scotland) (SNP):
Does the member agree that we should condemn campaigns that harass Gypsy Travellers, such as that by one of our local evening papers?
- Nora Radcliffe:
Absolutely and utterly. That newspaper has been reported on the standard of its behaviour, which is disgraceful and reprehensible.
Concern is felt about the slow progress that is being made, but there is good news, too, such as the excellent video that young Gypsy Travellers have made about their lives. There is also good news in the north-east, in the work of the Traveller Education and Information Project. We have some of the best and some of the worst in my bailiwick.
The last point that I will take from the CRE briefing, which I endorse whole-heartedly, is that promoting race equality means promoting equality for everyone. Scotland should be
"shaping a different future beneficial to all its inhabitants."
Liberal Democrats welcome the diversity of modern Scottish society and seek to ensure that everyone—regardless of ethnicity, sexuality, gender, disability or age—is treated on an equal basis. Contemporary Scotland is right to be proud of its distinct heritage and of the new cultures, faiths and traditions that it continues to embrace. I hope that we all want the modern dynamic Scotland that the minister spoke of, which fosters integration but respects diversity, and where all can help to shape Scotland's future and share in what it offers.
To achieve that, we must lead by example as parliamentarians and individuals—by sharing mince and tatties, exchanging mealies and mealie puddings, and welcoming and valuing the contribution that in-migration makes to our community, our culture and our economic well-being. I commend the Executive motion to Parliament.
- Mark Ballard (Lothians) (Green):
I think that it is agreed that equality is fundamental to any civilised society and that we cannot afford to deny people life opportunities on the basis of bigotry and prejudice. We may feel that we in Scotland have less of a problem with prejudice and discrimination, but we must remain aware of all the marginalised groups that are present in our nation and the conditions that they face.
Christine Grahame described well how we in this country still treat people who have fled persecution in their countries. I will therefore support the Scottish National Party's amendment and urge other Greens to do so. Dungavel is a blot on Scotland and it must be closed down.
I agree with Malcolm Chisholm's condemnation of the recent attacks on people in Scotland because of the football strips that they were wearing. Such attacks having nothing to do with football—they are racist thuggery and should be condemned as such.
I do not agree with David Petrie. I have always been partisan in who I support on the football field—I will happily support anybody who plays against Manchester United—but we cannot assume that such partisanship can be translated into a legitimate reason for racist thuggery off the football pitch. Partisanship and racist thuggery are two entirely separate things. Whether a football excuse or any other excuse is made for racist thuggery, we should say that it is racist thuggery pure and simple.
I will focus on a specific group that is mentioned in the Executive's review and in the motion, and the direct and indirect discrimination that its members still face in Scotland. Like Maureen Watt and Nora Radcliffe, I condemn newspapers that still think that attacking Gypsy Travellers is legitimate and that do not recognise that such attacks are a form of racism. Around 2,000 people identify themselves as Gypsies or Travellers in Scotland. They live on council sites, privately owned sites and in unauthorised locations. A further, unknown number of Gypsies and Travellers have moved into conventional housing but still see themselves as part of the Gypsy or Traveller community.
Scottish Gypsies and Travellers are one of the most discriminated and marginalised groups in our nation. At the moment, they are not even properly legally recognised as a distinct racial and ethnic group. The Commission for Racial Equality is right to argue that that in itself is discriminatory.
- Linda Fabiani (Central Scotland) (SNP):
I wonder whether Mark Ballard shares a concern that I have. In the first session of the Parliament, either in 2001 or in 2002—I see Cathy Peattie nodding—the Equal Opportunities Committee carried out a major study into discrimination against Gypsy Travellers but, sadly, that group's perception is that nothing has changed since then. We should take action to address that community's problems.
- Mark Ballard:
I strongly agree with Linda Fabiani. In preparing for this speech, I read about the good work that the Equal Opportunities Committee has done on the issue and I share its disappointment about the lack of progress, which it outlined in its recent report.
I want to mention some points that are made in that report. Gypsies and Travellers are still routinely unable to access services that the majority of us take for granted. The British Medical Association has reported that they are the most at-risk health group in the United Kingdom. A survey of young Gypsies and Travellers carried out by Save the Children reported that not only had the vast majority of them experienced discrimination, but 84 per cent of them thought that the level of racial discrimination against Gypsies and Travellers had stayed the same or was even getting worse. I therefore support the call in the motion to
"provide better services to Scotland's Gypsies/Travellers".
The promises that the Executive made in 2001 to improve the lives of Gypsies and Travellers in Scotland have not been taken far forward. I hope that the Equal Opportunities Committee's review of progress will be listened to to ensure that we get more than good words from the Executive—we want to see real action.
I will give another example from the Equal Opportunities Committee's report. Since 2003, the number of all-year Gypsy Traveller council pitches has been reduced from 560 to 480. Despite all the Executive's good words and everything that the Equal Opportunities Committee and the Parliament have said, Gypsies and Travellers have still not been properly included in housing strategies. I understand that eight councils still have no dedicated strategy for Gypsies and Travellers. We have to get real. We must move beyond kind words and create a real obligation on councils to provide safe, suitable and sufficient land for Gypsies and Travellers. Gypsy and Traveller sites have to be safe and protected in public planning. Gypsies and Travellers must have the same rights to security in their accommodation as anybody else.
Gypsies and Travellers are still discriminated against. We talk about them, but we still fail to act properly. Society as a whole does not recognise the extent of the discrimination and often does not recognise that Gypsies and Travellers are a racial group that faces racism. We need to tackle racism and prejudice across Scotland. We need to move beyond the overt, direct racism—the racist attacks—and consider, as Nora Radcliffe said, the institutional racism. We must recognise the needs of the most marginal groups—the asylum seekers, the refugees and the Gypsy Travellers—who are often forgotten when we talk about tackling racism and prejudice in Scotland.
I commend the motion and the SNP amendment as part of the process of ensuring that we have one Scotland that is open to all.
- Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East) (Lab):
I welcome this debate and the minister's commitment to race equality. I, too, will address issues relating to Gypsy Travellers.
Since the Equal Opportunities Committee's report on Gypsy Travellers in 2001, progress on its recommendations has been slow and inconsistent from one local authority to another. There has not been enough sharing of good practice between local authorities and other service providers. Poor accommodation, poor education and poor health continue to be major aspects of social exclusion for Gypsy Travellers. The biggest single issue is accommodation. Until we resolve it, poor education and poor health will continue to be major difficulties.
Most Travellers do not have safe and secure places to stay that they can call home. We still lack accurate, up-to-date information about sites and accommodation needs, but we know that the current provision of sites is inadequate. Significantly, the police have a presumption of non-prosecution for unauthorised camping where there is inadequate camping accommodation. Adaptations for disabled and elderly Gypsy Travellers are denied because site rents are paid to general funds rather than to housing revenue funds.
Participation, development and the monitoring of services are hampered by the lack of Gypsy Traveller liaison officers, as most local authorities did not take up the Equal Opportunities Committee's 2001 recommendation, which would have made a significant difference.
In education, high levels of bullying and racist abuse are suffered by Gypsy Traveller pupils who do not hide their identity. Many Gypsy Travellers in the settled community are afraid to say that they are from Gypsy Traveller families. The secondary curriculum does little to encourage more Gypsy Travellers to attend, and little is done for those who do not or cannot attend regularly.
In relation to policing and criminal justice, there is evidence of clear understanding and commitment at senior level, but there is still a need to deliver the message throughout all the levels of the service, and not just the message about unauthorised encampments.
Good work in areas such as Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire is being undermined by unacceptable and irresponsible reporting by the local media.
Frustration that nothing had changed was clear in last year's review, especially in the evidence from the young Gypsy Travellers who took part in the original inquiry. We cannot go back in four years' time, ask the same questions and hear the same answers. We need to move forward.
Following the publication of the early findings of our review, the final report now awaits the report of the Executive's short-life working group on Gypsy Travellers. It is not true to say that nothing has happened. I welcome the fact that that group—which includes Gypsy Travellers—is considering our recommendations in addressing issues relating to Gypsy Travellers. I hope that the group will lead to stronger, clearer direction from central Government.
It is clear that generic race policies and programmes have not been effective in including Gypsy Travellers, and that specific, highly targeted work is needed so that Gypsy Travellers can be mainstreamed into such generic policies and programmes. We need to push the agenda so that it becomes a natural part of what we do. We need to build on our policies, strategies and systems and deliver consistency across Scotland.
Of course, Gypsies and Travellers might be better protected against the extreme discrimination that they face if their ethnic minority status were afforded formal recognition in law. At the very least, that might discourage sections of the media from the worst excesses of discriminatory reporting that we have seen in recent times and, indeed, witnessed at the Equal Opportunities Committee. However, it seems unlikely that that will happen for the time being. We will have to wait for a test case under the Race Relations Act 1976. I therefore feel strongly that we need to urge the Executive to do everything within its power to change the law. I welcome the minister's undertaking to enter into a dialogue on this matter with his relevant Westminster colleagues.
The Scottish Parliament's commitment to social inclusion has raised the hopes and expectations of the socially excluded, not least those of Gypsies and Travellers. We must ensure that we do all that we can to address those hopes and fulfil those expectations. We have to do it as soon as we can, so that we do not come back in four years to find that the situation is still the same.
- Bill Aitken (Glasgow) (Con):
During the past 50 years, there has been a dramatic change in Scotland's ethnic make-up. For example, when I was a child, a black face or a sari-clad woman would have been a matter for comment. Nowadays, they are simply manifestations of a much more diverse society. Many thousands have come to Scotland, and we are the better for it. Those who have come from south Asia, for example, have contributed significantly to my own city of Glasgow. Law abiding and invariably hard working, they have been an example to some sections of the indigenous community.
We can never be complacent but, at the same time, we can take pride in the fact that Scotland has generally good race relations and that it compares favourably with certain other regions of the United Kingdom, and most definitely with certain other countries within the European Community.
When we are discussing any race relations strategy, we have to consider several elements. First, as we do with everything else, we have to find out what works and what does not. If it works, we build upon it; if it does not, we discard it. We should not be afraid to discard things that do not work.
We must consider the barriers to integration, a principle one of which is difficulty with language and communication. Surely there can be no greater impediment to getting a job than not speaking the language. Not only are there health and safety issues, as Dave Petrie mentioned, but the basic fact is that someone is unlikely to get a job if they do not speak the language. Action is necessary to ensure that those who do not speak English have the appropriate language training.
At the same time, any race relations strategy has to be fair and—as with any other form of justice—has to be seen to be fair by everyone. Sometimes, when there are problems, it is because a strategy is not seen to be fair. I have no difficulty in accepting the truth of what Christine Grahame said about the incidents in Nitshill in Glasgow, but one of the problems was that when they saw the asylum seekers coming, many people in Glasgow thought—rightly or wrongly—that they were getting something that they themselves were not going to get, and there was understandable resentment. Any strategy must be fair.
Racist incidents are unacceptable but, at the same time, we and Scotland's ethnic communities have to recognise that sometimes when people come into conflict it has nothing to do with race. The number of times I have fallen out with other people in this chamber is not necessarily indicative of any personal animosity.
- Linda Fabiani:
Will Mr Aitken accept that when he does it is generally his fault?
- Bill Aitken:
In an uncharacteristic demonstration of good will, I concede that it is sometimes my fault, but certainly not always.
Within certain sections of the ethnic community, I think that there is a degree of oversensitivity that is perhaps encouraged by an attitude that has been brought into the debate, whereby we are so determined to be fair that we are sometimes a little bit more than fair. To go in that direction is to be unfair again.
- Mark Ballard:
I am concerned that Bill Aitken seems to ignore the history of vicious racist and homophobic attacks that have happened and that continue to happen in Scotland. Given the history of such attacks, surely it is better to be oversensitive rather than insensitive.
- Bill Aitken:
I do not in the least underestimate the impact of such attacks, which are utterly and completely deplorable. At the same time, oversensitivity can sometimes result in consequences that are quite the reverse of what was intended. We need to be fair and balanced. For example, why is it that when an offence involves a racial element but the court is given no evidence to that effect, the instruction of the Crown Office is that the racial element should not be deleted from the charge at the conclusion of the Crown case? That is quite wrong. It is left to the sheriff or magistrate to delete that element at the end of the Crown case. That would not happen in other instances. The practice is quite wrong and we need to watch it.
One of the major pressures on race relations has been the events of the past seven or eight years or so, during which we have seen a massive increase in the number of asylum seekers. Frankly, the Blair Government bears a great responsibility for that. The fact is, if the matter had been properly handled at the time we would not have experienced those pressures and we would not have seen situations of the type to which Christine Grahame referred. Basically, unless we have a controlled immigration process—of course, we need immigrants—we will increase pressures on the system.
- Christine Grahame:
Does Bill Aitken concede that the population pressures south of the border are completely different from those in Scotland, which has a falling population and shrinking skills base? We need more people—to give just one reason—to provide the pensions for our pensioners in the future. Should we not have a different policy in Scotland to suit Scottish needs?
- Bill Aitken:
Obviously, immigration policy is controlled by the UK Government, and I do not believe that we should diverge from that—the matter is not within our devolved powers. Christine Grahame would expect me to say that. However, I am sure that she in turn will agree that, if a large number of immigrants arrive simultaneously without any infrastructure to support them, there will inevitably be difficulties.
This has been a good and measured debate and I have learned from some of the contributions. For example, I did not appreciate the pressures that Gypsy Travellers are under—those are a matter of considerable concern. I have a better understanding as a result of some of the speeches.
I think that we can move onwards with the issue. Frankly, our difficulty with the SNP amendment is that, yet again—understandably, given the political perspective of its members—the SNP is attempting to introduce into the debate the issue of asylum policy, which is not within our devolved powers.
- Linda Fabiani (Central Scotland) (SNP):
We have had many parliamentary debates on race equality since the Parliament was reconvened. However, although an awful lot of good things are said and people are terribly well intentioned in such debates, we have tended only to talk about the issue. We say all the right things, but the question is what we are doing to achieve greater race equality in our society.
A few members have already referred to the extremely useful briefing from the Commission for Racial Equality. The briefing states clearly:
"progress towards race equality in Scotland is still not happening fast enough".
It also reiterates one of my concerns, which is that progress
"remains patchy and often relies on isolated initiatives."
The lack of a big picture worries me somewhat. An awful lot of grand initiatives are under way, and some of them are wonderful—Dave Petrie talked about the many community initiatives that are aimed at delivering different elements of the strategy. However, we perhaps sometimes miss the big picture of what we are trying to achieve.
Racial discrimination is varied. There is the direct discrimination that some members have spoken about, and a couple of members have mentioned the absolute racism of England supporters being beaten up. It strikes me that those incidents have received a large amount of publicity, given that every blooming day people suffer direct racial abuse because they happen to have a brown face or do not have English as their first language. As racist events, such incidents do not receive nearly as much publicity. That is not to downplay the horror of the other occasions that have been mentioned, but there is a kind of indirect racism in our society that does not accord the same importance to what happens daily as it affords to incidents involving people whose ethnicity is English, Welsh or European generally. Sadly, the colour of people's skin is an issue.
Indirect discrimination happens all the time. It is inadvertent—people do not even realise that they are guilty of it. We must raise awareness of that kind of racism, just as we must keep ensuring that institutional racism is stamped out. That is still an issue, despite the Chhokar case and the Lawrence case in England. We are not yet free of institutional racism. We must continue to monitor the issue and to work towards improving the situation.
Stereotyping is something else that we do. I had a wry smile on my face when Dave Petrie referred to the arrival of the Italian community and how much we all loved its ice cream parlours. What a stereotype that is. I say to him that we started in chip shops and moved on to ice cream parlours—he should get his facts right next time. I am not trying to get at Dave Petrie. The Italian community has internalised the stereotype and turned that kind of humour on itself, for various historical reasons that I do not have time to go into. I often think of myself as a third-generation Italian. I do not suffer racism, but if I were third-generation African, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Chinese, I would suffer racism because of how I looked and spoke. That is inherently wrong.
What are we going to do about it? I am glad that the minister is looking to develop further the Scottish Executive's one Scotland strategy. My concern is that it focuses very much on direct racism. I would like the final documentation that will come out over the next few years to be expanded to address the more hidden types of racism that also exist.
The minister focused on three main themes: employment, the Scottish refugee integration forum and mainstreaming. I am glad that he put on record the fact that the forum covers asylum seekers, because there is some confusion about that. The ethnic minorities and the labour market strategic group that Dr Charan Gill is heading up will look at labour issues. As some members have rightly pointed out, non-white people from ethnic minorities are less successful in the labour market. I have heard some mutterings about what the group's findings will be. Will the minister clarify whether the data that are being used to formulate the report, which will appear at the end of next month, are specific to Scotland? Do we have sufficient data to back up the report, or do we merely have extrapolated UK data, because much of what is involved—employment legislation, for example—is reserved? If we are serious about moving forward in this area, we need to know that the base data from which we start are absolutely right. We know that it is no longer true that ethnic minorities constitute 2 per cent of the population of Scotland. We need to update that figure, which came from the 2001 census.
I ask the minister what representations he has made to the Home Office on the specific issue of reinstating the right-to-work concession to asylum seekers in Scotland. Under a European directive, it is perfectly acceptable for asylum seekers to work. In fact, if a decision on an asylum seeker's status has not been made a year after their arrival, they should have the right to work. What representations are we making to ensure that level of equality?
I note that, although the Scottish refugee integration forum action plan is expected later in the year, it is already late—we were promised it before then. I ask the minister to be more specific about how much later it will be. There are also concerns about funding. I do not deny that admirable work and consultation are involved in the new action plan and that some really knowledgeable people are contributing, but we need to know when the action plan will be published and that budgets will be set for the beginning of 2007 so that we can move on.
Many Executive departments are still not carrying out proper race equality impact assessments in the mistaken belief that their initiatives and policies do not have a racial dimension. Absolutely everything has a racial dimension, just as everything has a gender dimension. I would like to hear from the minister that impact assessments will be mainstreamed properly across Government departments.
I finish with the SNP amendment. It is crucial that asylum seekers are granted equality with everyone else in our country and are not regarded as being somehow basic. The destitution of asylum seekers is horrendous. How does the Executive measure that, so that we can truly do something about it? Is the minister considering reintroducing an education maintenance allowance for the children of asylum seekers? Children of asylum seekers go through school—it is not as if they get a decision quickly—and want to go into further and higher education, but they cannot do that without an education maintenance allowance. Will the minister also consider changing the terms of the bursary regulations, which might ease the problem as well?
I have asked many questions, which I know the minister will try hard to answer. If he does not do so today, perhaps he will get back to me at some point in the future.
- Marlyn Glen (North East Scotland) (Lab):
I am pleased to have the opportunity to take part in this Executive debate on race equality, an issue that we in Scotland cannot ignore.
It is important to reiterate that when the Scottish Executive launched its one Scotland, many cultures campaign, it was a first for the UK. The campaign aimed to make people realise that discrimination and bigotry have no place in modern Scotland and that positive, essential work continues. I welcome the co-operation of the voluntary sector with the Scottish Executive to address those long-term aims and to produce an agreed method of measuring the progress of the campaign. Changes are being made and action is being taken, but there is no magic bullet. We are striving for a shift in culture and that will take time.
The major legislative changes that are taking place in the UK will impact on race equality work in Scotland. The establishment of a unified body in the form of the commission for equality and human rights, the introduction of anti-discrimination legislation that covers religion, sexual orientation and age, and the new public duties to promote disability and gender equality will significantly alter the framework within which we operate. Those developments will foster closer collaboration and joint working across equality strands.
Although work on race equality will need to reflect that new environment, it will need to do so without detracting from the agenda of delivering a racially just Scotland. It is important to retain an individual focus, but it is fundamentally important that we acknowledge the difficulties faced when a person suffers multiple discrimination.
We need a monitoring system to record racist incidents, to develop effective intervention policies and to tackle the underreporting of racist incidents. We need to work with the police and the CRE to improve police-community relations and to continue the work of the one Scotland, many cultures campaign to emphasise the positive contribution that all communities make.
I also welcome the plans to work with local authorities, youth organisations, teachers and education bodies to raise awareness of racial equality among young people and to provide for the development of school-based activities to promote it. In this area, as in many others, early intervention is important. I applaud the Executive's plan to convene a network of academics, researchers and practitioners to consider how to improve public discourse on key race issues and I warmly welcome the provisional plans to hold a major symposium at the end of the year to stimulate discussion—I look forward to the debate.
The timing of this work is vital. We need a robust system in place because this is a time of change. The welcome, increasing numbers of migrants continue to diversify Scottish society—although, as has been said, that has been happening for generations. However, without adequate systems of integration, migrants risk being ostracised and alienated, which creates difficulty and disharmony. As the CRE outlines, Scotland has one of the fastest-growing foreign-born populations in the UK. London attracts the highest total number of new immigrants, but parts of Glasgow and Aberdeen have had a greater change in the composition of their population than London has.
Any new strategies that are developed must be dynamic and apply equally to all minority communities. The established communities with which we perhaps tend to have regular contact, such as Muslim groups, Chinese organisations and Sikhs, are being joined by recent immigrants from the accession countries. Although the groups are culturally diverse, they experience similar difficulties.
I take the opportunity to ask the minister to give prominence to a national language strategy in the proposed action plan. Dave Petrie highlighted the importance of language, and I share his view. All our citizens must be aware of their right to free translating, interpreting and communication support, which can allow them proper access to services and help them to achieve full integration. However, for a language strategy to work well, there must be adequate and appropriate training and awareness raising, and proper funding.
I am aware that all the public bodies have comprehensive equal opportunities policies, but it is now time to ensure that those policies help our public bodies to represent the public they serve. I am proud of the efforts that have been made so far and of the plans for the future, but we still have a long way to go.
- Alex Fergusson (Galloway and Upper Nithsdale) (Con):
Any debate on the subject of racial equality is worth while because the absence of racial equality leads to racial inequality and abuse. Like every member present, I utterly abhor racism in any shape or form and I warmly applaud each and every action that is taken to address it successfully.
It is a tragedy that racism remains a problem in the so-called civilised society in which we live. After all, we pride ourselves on being an all-embracing multicultural society. Nevertheless, we are debating an on-going problem that should have no place whatever in our society. Clearly, something is still wrong.
As one or two members have said, it is the tiny minority who tarnish the mostly justified reputation that we Scots have as a welcoming, open people. However, that minority can have an alarmingly high impact and can surface in unexpected places. Racism is by no means confined to our urban areas or limited to a simple white-versus-coloured formula, as recent experiences in my quiet rural constituency have shown. I want to draw attention to two issues about which we must not be complacent, lest they get out of hand.
The first, which other members have touched on, will not be a popular topic. It is the growing anti-English feelings that have been much in the news recently, although they are by no means a recent phenomenon, nor just football related. I recall making a speech as a candidate for the Parliament back in 1998 in which I posed the question: what sort of Scotland do we want to live in post devolution? The speech was prompted by the death of a teenager here in Edinburgh. He was attacked by three others for one reason only—he had a very obvious English accent. The fact that he was born and bred in Scotland was of no consequence at all. He was killed because of his accent, and not by some ignorant louts; indeed, one of the perpetrators was the son of a very high-ranking police officer.
On another occasion, I attended a public meeting in a small community in what later became my constituency. The meeting had been called to discuss the problem of timber being loaded on to boats in the small harbour at all hours of the day and night. At night, heavy goods vehicles were disturbing an otherwise peaceful village community. Halfway through the meeting, someone suggested that if it was not for all the so-and-so white settlers, there would not be a problem. I took the Presiding Officer's guidance on whether I could expand on that "so-and-so" and was told that it would be unparliamentary language. Indeed it was. The meeting was quite heated, but at that comment half the audience got up and walked out and the other half were worryingly supportive of the sentiment that had been expressed.
I hoped that devolution would give us the confidence—I was interested that the minister used that exact word—to become more tolerant and welcoming, particularly towards our nearest neighbours. We cannot and should not blame them for coming to live here when we constantly tell them what a wonderful country it is. However, I fear that devolution is sometimes having the opposite effect.
In many of our more attractive areas, property prices have been lifted way beyond the means of local people by buyers from other constituent parts of the UK. That is often deemed to be their fault, but it is not. The answer is to build more houses, not to abuse, verbally and physically, those who may have bought existing ones.
My final point on this aspect of racism concerns the son of a close friend of mine. He is studying engineering at the University of Edinburgh and a requirement of his course is to do some practical work. This summer, he took a job with a building firm. Such is the racist treatment that has been meted out to him because of his English accent that he has been forced to quit the job. Blatant racism is alive and well in Scotland today and is as disgusting as it is abhorrent.
The second phenomenon that I want to draw to members' attention is perhaps more recent. In a scenario that will be familiar to many members, my constituency is witnessing a massive increase year on year in the number of European workers—often eastern European—who are taking a variety of jobs, especially during the summer months. Almost without exception, they are absolutely charming people and extremely hard workers. Not only are they contributing massively to our local economies, but they are able to support their families at home in ways they could only dream about if they did not undertake such work in Scotland. However, in many rural communities, resentment is growing about the impact of this seasonal immigration on housing, local employment and more generally.
I hear worrying anecdotal evidence of increasing friction between different groups in normally peaceful rural communities. That is highly perplexing and, if we are not vigilant, I fear that the friction could spill over into something altogether more serious. If the unspeakable were to happen in a very rural area, the police cover, and the resources required to deal with the situation quickly and effectively, simply would not be in place. I do not want to be overdramatic, but I believe that a growing problem is bubbling just below the surface. I am not convinced that we are satisfactorily equipped to cope if it ever boils over.
This is a worthwhile debate because the subject is worrying. I have no doubt that all members need to and will work together to rid our country of all types of racism.
- Donald Gorrie (Central Scotland) (LD):
This has been a good and measured debate; everyone has contributed some useful points. I will not go through the speeches and award everyone marks out of 10. Everyone has quite good marks.
I will try to sum up some of the themes. The first is ignorance. I usually say that most troubles are caused by drink. That is true—a lot of violence is caused by drink—but problems of racism are basically caused by ignorance, quite often on both sides. There is the feeling—which I suppose is natural—that anyone who is strange or different or from somewhere else is dodgy, cannot be trusted and should be disliked. That seems to be deeply ingrained in people. If someone looks and sounds different, they are regarded as a potential enemy. We must get over that by ensuring that the necessary education is provided formally in schools and informally in venues such as youth clubs, where people are more likely to pick up attitudes that will guide them than they are at school.
We should aim our work at younger people because many older people's racialism, in common with any other defects that they may have, is too deeply ingrained to do much about. Young people can be persuaded to adopt a more civilised attitude to all our fellow citizens. We must have an extremely positive education policy to counter the effects of the media, which, as in almost all areas of life, are totally destructive. Some parts of the media are guilty of misrepresentation and stirring up hatred. That is a significant problem, which must be countered through the provision of accurate information and education.
I agree with the members who stress the importance of incomers learning English. I once dealt with a family of Poles who had come over after the war. One member of the family was an elderly woman who had lived in Edinburgh for 20 or 30 years, but who could still not speak English. What sort of life did that person have? We are not doing such people any favours by failing to teach them English. Pressure must be put on incomers to learn English. They can continue to speak their own language and to have their own customs, but we must get them to speak English.
Various members have made the point that we must have a system of negotiation, both locally and nationally. A variety of issues can arise. For example, people in a certain area may feel that the incomers are taking the jobs or are getting preferential treatment when it comes to housing or benefits. If such a feeling exists, it must be tackled by holding discussions with and explaining the facts to the groups concerned. If there is unfairness in either direction, it must be sorted out. We need a continuous United Nations-type of effort to resolve problems.
That applies not just to problems that arise locally, but to those that arise nationally. In some communities, the men treat their women in ways that traditional, old-fashioned Scots—or however we would be described—do not think women should be treated. Such issues should be confronted, but not in a combative way. There should be proper discussion between the various ethnic groups to encourage the understanding that people should be allowed to enjoy their own customs and ways of doing things, but should also have to conform reasonably to what the country as a whole thinks is a civilised way of behaving.
My view is that we must accept that there will always be prejudices. Although it is not possible to remove people's prejudices, we can try to diminish them. We want to prevent those prejudices from spilling over into violence. It is one thing for a pub full of Scots to cheer if another country's team scores a goal against the England team—that might not be a good thing to do, but it is understandable—but it is another thing altogether if someone from the pub goes off and hits the nearest Englishman. The important thing is that no harm is done. We must combat the violence. The two morons who attacked the boy and the person in a wheelchair because they were wearing English shirts thought that they were being patriotic Scots when, in fact, they were destroying Scotland's good name. They must have that shown to them. That takes us back to the point about education; whatever someone thinks, they should not get violent.
The question of the English is a difficulty. There are a whole lot of reasons why the English collectively get up the noses of the Scots, as well as the Welsh and the Irish. Again, we must accept that if an individual is living in Scotland, they are part of our country and we should treat them in a decent fashion. If anyone gets a grip on the English sporting press and persuades it to be less chauvinist, we might all behave ourselves better. There is an issue about the English and we will never get over it: there are too many of them and they are too near us. We have to live with that—this is the world as the Almighty made it. We will never remove the prejudice, but we can control it as well as we possibly can.
I had the interesting experience of helping my eldest son to get elected as a Liberal Democrat councillor in London. There I saw real multiracialism of the sort that simply does not exist in Scotland. They seem to cope quite well. We can learn from other parts of the country that deal with the issue in a better fashion than we do.
Many good ideas have surfaced in the debate. I hope that the minister will take them on board. I also hope that all of us will genuinely co-operate to tackle the issues that we are confronting today.
- Mr Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands) (Con):
No one can argue that racism is anything other than ugly and wrong. The Conservatives recognise the Scottish Executive's efforts to promote race equality in this country. Any initiative that promotes race equality should be welcomed.
However I found a number of areas of concern in the summary of the race equality review. One such concern is the grant of £2.3 million—the largest named sum of money—to support public agencies in meeting their legal responsibilities. I have nothing against public agencies meeting their legal responsibilities, but why is the largest sum of money that is being granted under the strategy being spent on meeting bureaucratic targets that are imposed by the Government? There are those who might cynically say that the Executive promotes strategies and then creates the jobs that will ensure that the strategies are met. They might go on to say that those jobs will be filled by like-minded people who become dependent on yet more Government strategies for their work to continue. Of course, that is the cynic's approach, but what we do not need, in any strategy that promotes race equality, is too many managers and not enough people doing the job on the ground.
At present, we are seeing a lot of immigration from the new countries of the European Union, especially Poland. We welcome the workers from those countries, as they are contributing to the economy all over Scotland. In the Highlands, following requests that were made at a local population summit, Inverness library now stocks the Polish Express, which allows Polish immigrants to keep up to date with the news from home, and the Highland Council library service is printing leaflets on its services and how to access them in Polish, Russian, Bengali, Arabic and Chinese. That was done in response to the needs of local communities. Although it may seem a simple thing, all too often such examples of good practice are stifled by bureaucracy or prejudice. I recognise the initiative that Highland Council library service has shown and its welcoming attitude.
I am not sure whether Executive strategies can ingrain such a welcome into the fabric of Scottish life, but that is what is needed. Visitors should be welcomed, whether they are visiting for days, weeks, months, years, or indeed for the rest of their lives. In the Highlands and Islands, we have a phrase that is translated from the Gaelic: there are no strangers here, only friends who have not yet met. I like that approach.
We recently witnessed the encouraging example of many Shetlanders campaigning vigorously to prevent the deportation of Sakchai Makao, who was arrested and detained and has now been released on bail. Sakchai is widely accepted as a Shetlander and has even competed as a Shetlander in the island games. It is outrageous that the immigration system is so shambolic that a person who has lived in Scotland for 13 years—most of his life—and who is integrated in the community should be told, "You're no longer welcome. Go back to where you came from." That is dreadful. I hope that the Westminster Government will see common sense and rescind the order to deport Sakchai Makao.
There must be something wrong with the immigration system under Labour, if it is necessary to make dawn raids on people who have been living peacefully in Glasgow for more than five years, who have integrated into communities and whose children have integrated into schools. If the system was fair and efficient, such situations would seldom arise, but unfortunately there has been a series of Westminster Government blunders on immigration and asylum under Charles Clarke, who presided over 1,000 cases of wrongful release.
I recently saw a film that was made by the Scottish director and actor Peter Mullan and Robina Qureshi of Positive Action in Housing, which followed the deportation of the Vucaj family from Glasgow to Albania. It is a harrowing and informative film, which opens eyes to the results of a failed Government immigration and asylum policy that brings desperate unhappiness to young children whose lives have been firmly rooted in their Scottish homes. I feel strongly that innocent children have become the victims of bad policy. We cannot put up with that in Scotland; we must work for a fair policy in Westminster.
Too many racist incidents take place in Scotland. I am alarmed by attacks on football fans who have shown support for England during the world cup. Although most people condemn such attacks, especially the vile attacks on the seven-year-old boy and the disabled man, some people are not so quick to condemn the sentiment behind the attacks. How would Scots feel if we were attacked by the English for wearing a Scotland football shirt or for displaying the saltire? Surely any UK flag should be tolerated with good humour throughout the union. However, the English seem to be fair game for a vocal minority in Scotland, which includes people who are in positions of influence, whose inappropriate remarks give credibility to racist views. Sometimes when I read articles or listen to commentators' remarks about the English, I think that if "English" were replaced with any other nationality or race, the Commission for Racial Equality would investigate the matter. Fortunately, the English take such slurs with good humour for the most part, but the phenomenon concerns me because it shows a lack of respect for our closest neighbours, on whom we depend for the major part of our tourism industry and much of our other business. It is not a good example to young Scots and could easily result in anti-Scottish sentiment in England, which would be detrimental to the Scottish economy and to the welfare of the Scots and the welcome that they receive when they visit England.
I am glad that Malcolm Chisholm's motion mentions Scotland's Gypsy Travellers. During the inquiry that led to the Equal Opportunities Committee's report on Gypsy Travellers, I visited many sites and learned about the problems to do with health, education and security that Gypsy Travellers encounter. Gypsy Travellers have been part of the Scottish culture for a long time and their problems are just as important as those of anyone else who lives in this country.
It is important that we send a clear message that the Scottish Parliament thinks that it is unacceptable to attack or bully anyone. I support the sentiments of the one Scotland, many cultures campaign. We have a multicultural society in the UK. Our society might not be perfect, but since Cromwellian times we have had a history of tolerating the beliefs and habits of the people of different cultures who make their homes here. We are a happier country than France, where I lived for a short time. There, the attitude is, "You can have any culture you like, as long as it is French."
The first responsibility of our Governments is to protect law-abiding citizens of all cultures. That can be done only if we have a fair and transparent immigration and asylum system, which aids immigrants who want to contribute to improving the quality of life in the British isles.
I support the amendment in Dave Petrie's name.
- Ms Sandra White (Glasgow) (SNP):
I thank Jamie McGrigor for his speech. I was at the meeting with Robina Qureshi to which he referred in the St Francis Centre in the Gorbals. There were some raised eyebrows when Jamie McGrigor was introduced as a Tory MSP, but his sentiments went down well. I am sure that he is most sincere, particularly on the issue of children. I thank other members for their speeches, too.
I completely abhor any form of racial discrimination or violence. I am proud to be a member of the Equal Opportunities Committee. As Jamie McGrigor and Linda Fabiani pointed out, more people are assaulted in this country just because of the colour of their skin and while they are walking about the streets than all the other people who are assaulted. If we wish to go down the road of mentioning particular nationalities, we should also mention Muslims, Jews, Scots and Sikhs. Donald Gorrie summed up the matter when he said that it is ignorance that makes people do that. It is not inherent in the Scottish race that we are violent people who attack others simply because they have a strange accent or a different colour of skin. Jamie McGrigor mentioned some measures that Highland Council has taken to welcome people into the area. We should celebrate some of the positive attitudes in Scotland and the measures that we have taken to welcome people here. I include refugees, whom I find to be a fantastic bunch of people who love Scotland, particularly the Glaswegians. Glasgow is not known as the friendly city for nothing. I will speak about that more in a moment.
I turn to the motion on race equality in the name of Malcolm Chisholm. I welcome much of what the minister said, including his comments on the development of a national strategy—I look forward to its publication. I also welcome the race equality, integration and community support fund. Malcolm Chisholm mentioned a sum of £2 million. I welcome the fact that the fund is targeted locally and designed to support cross-community integration, which is important for communities. Jamie McGrigor mentioned that we want to act not from the top down but from the bottom up, which is what targeted community initiatives help to do. Such initiatives help not only to bring people and communities together but to tackle racism and promote equality. That fund is to be applauded.
The Scottish refugee integration fund is also most welcome. It has been strengthening support for refugees, asylum seekers and communities since, I believe, 2003—I am sure that someone will correct me if that is not right. The fund supports more and more projects—21 projects now benefit from it, which is to be admired. I give the minister credit for the expansion of that fund, but we need to examine the funding and expand it even more.
Linda Fabiani mentioned data collection, with which some people are not happy. I would like improved collection of data on racial inequalities in the labour market. The minister said that a group was to be set up on the labour market. I want to know whether it will consider data collection issues, by which I mean not just collecting data in Scotland, but saying exactly what the data mean and monitoring and totalling them. That is something that is lacking. I have asked questions on that issue previously. We need data to know exactly what is happening in our society, particularly in relation to inequalities and racial issues in the labour market.
Dave Petrie and, I think, Nora Radcliffe compared the percentage of people from ethnic minorities who are employed to the percentage of people from other racial groups who are employed. We need to pay attention to that, but we need the appropriate data to do so. Businesses also need to understand the benefits and advantages of racial equality in the workplace. If we had the data available, we could provide information to businesses to encourage them to employ more people of different ethnicities, which is important. I ask the minister whether the group that he mentioned will consider data collection issues.
Many members have mentioned education, which is important, not only for people from ethnic minorities but for others who live in our country. We need greater involvement in schools by ethnic minority parents, but we must encourage them to get involved. I know what it was like when I ran a play scheme. Trying to involve people who came from two streets away was difficult. Those people were not from ethnic minorities; they were people who lived in the area. If it was difficult for parents to make that one step, it is even more difficult for people from an ethnic minority background to do so. Schools and parents must encourage ethnic minority parents to have greater involvement in schools. We can work together on that.
Cathy Peattie, Nora Radcliffe, Mark Ballard and others have mentioned Gypsy Travellers. As Cathy Peattie and Linda Fabiani said, the issue has been going on for years. Something must be done. We have heard some tragic stories. Young Gypsy Travellers have told us about the life that they led and what was expected of them—or what was not expected of them, which was the saddest part. They had confidence, but nothing was expected of them. We should consider that issue. I am glad that Maureen Watt, a list MSP for North East Scotland, mentioned Gypsy Travellers because it shows that representatives of the Aberdeen area are not frightened to raise the issue. The media must be told that it has a responsibility to society. As others have said, there has been some ridiculous newspaper coverage of Gypsy Travellers; for example, apparently rubbish was put in the middle of a roundabout and blamed on the Travellers, yet they did not even live there. That is terrible.
I cannot speak in the debate without mentioning an issue that has been mentioned in the SNP amendment and by other members, which is asylum seekers and immigration. I remind Bill Aitken that Catalonia, which is not yet independent, has control over immigration. We will see how it gets on. It has given leave for asylum seekers to remain in Barcelona, in particular. That benefits not just asylum seekers, who cannot now be used as cheap labour, but the economy too, because those people are now paying taxes and there are no underground, hidden workers. I congratulate countries such as Catalonia that have done that.
I am sure that the minister is aware of the issue that I am about to mention. I attended a meeting last night in Pollokshaws in Glasgow, where it was standing room only. It was about the new national asylum support service contracts in Glasgow, 20 per cent of which are going to be privatised. Some people in Pollokshaws have been there for five or six years, and have three, four or five children and no money whatever. Last night, I stayed behind to speak to various people. My surgery was full today, simply because NASS has said that people must accept the accommodation that is offered to them. If they do not accept the accommodation, their benefits will be taken away. They were offered a YMCA in Glasgow, which is a soft Dungavel, because people are not allowed visitors, they have to sign in and there are no washing machines. What frightened the asylum seekers even more is the possibility of having 300 asylum seekers in one high-rise tower block, where it would be easy for NASS to come along and deport them. Some of those people have been living in communities in Pollokshaws for six years and their kids are integrated into the school. The issue of integration is mentioned in the motion. The communities into which those people and their kids are integrated will be destroyed by what is happening.
I praise Labour councillors Stephen Curran, from Pollokshaws, and Irene Graham, who sent out a letter and, through the media and through various meetings, such as the one that I attended yesterday, managed to get three months' grace for the asylum seekers. Some of the councillors at Glasgow City Council are doing good work to promote the cause of the asylum seekers. We now have three months to fight the issue and to ensure that those people stay in Pollokshaws.
- Bill Aitken:
Does Sandra White agree that the nub of the matter is that it has taken such an extraordinary length of time to determine the asylum applications that it has caused all sorts of problems for the city authorities in Glasgow and other agencies? Does she agree that that delay is cruel in its import in respect of the applicants?
- Ms White:
I agree with Bill Aitken that that is cruel, but I point out that it is not only the present Government that has had such immigration laws. I think that the policy was started by Mrs Thatcher and other Tories—in saying that, I note that Jamie McGrigor and others have genuine feelings with regard to this subject. It is unfortunate that those policies have been continued by Tony Blair and will be continued by his successor, who will probably be Gordon Brown, regardless of his coin to celebrate the union of 1707 and his flying of the union jack. Perhaps we might have something to say to him.
The fact of the matter is that the dispersal system, which was started down south, has not worked. I would genuinely like the Scottish Executive to have control of immigration policy. I acknowledge the good work that the Executive has done in relation to immigration. The voucher system was stopped in Scotland because of the pressure that was applied by the Scottish Executive and MSPs from all parties. We managed to get the three-month period turned around through the work of Labour MPs, MSPs, Labour councillors and members of the SNP and the Scottish Socialist Party. We worked together and achieved that.
I do not understand why people such as the doctors, nurses, engineers and scientists to whom I spoke last night and to whom I have spoken over the years cannot work in this country and have to languish in unemployment with no money and five or six children. It is inhumane—not just disgraceful—to treat people like that. Basically, they are being shunted about to enable other people to make profits. I do not want to be part of a Government that does that type of thing. That is why I think that immigration should be within the powers of the Scottish Parliament. Immigrants should be allowed to work in Scotland and Dungavel should be closed.
I ask the minister to speak to Glasgow City Council regarding the present situation. It is dire at the moment and we have three months in which to rectify it. I would be pleased if the minister would give the council a phone and find out from Irene Graham and others exactly what is going on.
- Malcolm Chisholm:
No one can dispute that, all too often, racism, harassment and discrimination are a feature of life for many people living in Scotland today, as highlighted by Christine Grahame at the beginning of her speech. That is not acceptable. Neither is it acceptable that a climate of fear is generated around established policies such as the dispersal of asylum seekers to Glasgow—evidence of that is borne out in research that was published earlier this month by the Institute of Public Policy Research—or that heightened international tensions and recent events closer to home are exploited to encourage and foster Islamophobia. The tragic events of 7 July last year in London—and, indeed, 9/11, which Christine Grahame referred to—have cast a long shadow across community relations throughout the UK, and Scotland has not remained unaffected. That is why I have made it a priority to meet representatives from Muslim and non-Muslim communities across Scotland and hear about issues of concern and the impact of the attacks on their communities.
One of the interesting findings of the recent research on attitudes to asylum seekers in Scotland, which was published last week, was that attitudes to asylum seekers are more positive in the communities in which they live than in communities in which they do not live. That was one of the most encouraging findings of that research and backs up the point that Dave Petrie made about the fact that integration is the most important way in which to take action against bigots.
The theme of integration has run through today's debate. As I said in my earlier speech, we believe in fostering integration and respecting diversity. By integration, we do not mean assimilation. We do not distinguish integration from multiculturalism, as some people do; we view them as being two sides of the same coin. Scotland is richer because of its diverse cultures but, of course, we want integration to be part of that.
Dave Petrie was right to remind us that racism and bigotry are not aimed only at the colour of someone's skin, although the remarks of Linda Fabiani in that regard were highly pertinent. It is right that there has been some talk of anti-English hatred. I was slightly uneasy when Linda Fabiani suggested that that was indirect racism. We do not want to overstate the problem, but, when it arises, we have to challenge it and condemn it. Racism is racism; there cannot be a hierarchy of racism. I did not agree with Dave Petrie when he referred to certain comments stoking the flames. Which football team people support is completely different from the issues that we have been talking about in the debate—the question is completely irrelevant to it.
There has been a lot of discussion about the importance for integration of access to English language classes. That was mentioned by several members: Marlyn Glen, who asked for a national language strategy, which is coming soon, Donald Gorrie, Bill Aitken and Dave Petrie. As it happens, I was speaking at a conference yesterday about English as a second language in connection with citizenship. The conference covered the many innovative pilot projects that seek to combine citizenship education with English as a second language.
We have recently put £4.5 million extra into English as a second language. Over and above that, the Scottish Executive's adult ESOL—English for speakers of other languages—strategy is now in the final stages of development, and we hope to launch it later this summer. Following the launch, one of the key early tasks will be the development of a national ESOL curriculum framework. A coherent framework is to be developed for ESOL learning, teaching and assessment across the full range of publicly funded sectors, including articulation from schools programmes. We have discussed that important issue in relation to the refugee integration forum. One of the actions in the action plan will involve this area.
Christine Grahame was rather disparaging about the fresh talent initiative, but I point out to her that the establishment of the UK's first relocation advisory service has now helped more than 10,000 people, directly and indirectly, and has provided more than 300,000 people with information over the internet about living and working in Scotland. Scotland's special leave to remain scheme, which started in June 2005, has resulted in more than 1,800 successful applications to date.
Linda Fabiani asked questions about the various groups. She and Sandra White asked about data in relation to the strategic group on ethnic minorities and the labour market. We are actively seeking Scotland-specific data, and the CRE is assisting us with that work, which we are aware is absolutely necessary.
Linda Fabiani also asked about asylum. In terms of the Scottish refugee integration forum, actions will be outlined in our report. We will also take up issues with the Home Office. Linda Fabiani referred to destitution, about which, as discussed at the meeting on Monday, there is great concern. We will take up that issue as part of the finalisation of our action plan. The issues around the right to work will feature in that context. I will hold a meeting with the new Home Office minister with responsibility for those matters in the fairly near future.
Sandra White raised issues concerning the new NASS contract. I pay tribute to the work of Glasgow City Council and to Irene Graham in particular for helping to make progress in that regard. I understand and share the concerns that Sandra White expressed on the subject.
Various members spoke about Gypsies/Travellers, including Nora Radcliffe, Mark Ballard, Sandra White and Cathy Peattie, who, of course, has a detailed knowledge from her years as convener of the Equal Opportunities Committee. One of the other strands that was identified by the review was the need for further work with Gypsies/Travellers. I am of course aware of the considerable concern in Gypsies/Travellers communities about the inequalities that they face in all areas of life: access to appropriate accommodation, health care, education and other services. A group was established in October last year to consider the issues and develop an action plan to enable the provision of more accessible, co-ordinated, good-quality services.
The Equal Opportunities Committee has been conducting a second inquiry into the situation of Gypsies/Travellers. The committee's interim report has shown that progress on the issues in this area has been too slow. Johann Lamont acknowledged that in her evidence to that committee. The interim report raises many issues about services for Gypsies/Travellers that are feeding into the discussions of the group that I mentioned. Regular meetings have been held; the last meeting took place yesterday and the action plan will follow in due course. Concerns were expressed—by Linda Fabiani, I think—about the timescale for that group and others, but all the action plans will be completed within six months. That is reasonable, given the level of engagement and the involvement of interested parties that we have been determined to have as part of the process.
Nora Radcliffe emphasised the importance of dealing with indirect and institutional discrimination, as did Linda Fabiani. Since the publication of the Macpherson report when the Parliament was established, we have responded quickly by establishing national forums, the Lawrence steering group and the race equality advisory forum. The thinking about institutional discrimination has informed our race equality work ever since.
Jamie McGrigor complained that £2.3 million would be spent on race equality work in the public sector, but that sum of money is described in the report that he has received from us as covering new development work with the community and the voluntary sector, as well as work to support good existing projects such as Show Racism the Red Card. Some money is supporting new public sector initiatives, but it may reassure Jamie McGrigor to know that the amount is not £2.3 million.
I do not have time to go through all the new initiatives to support race equality in the public sector, which is an important feature of the work on the review. For example, some money will go to the national resource centre for ethnic minority health and new posts will be created to support race equality work in regeneration. We are also funding a couple of posts at the local government Improvement Service. Some money is—rightly—going into the public sector to support this work.
The one strategic group that I have not mentioned is that which considers race equality in rural areas, which I promised to mention. We know that people from minority ethnic backgrounds who live or work in rural areas can, because of the small minority ethnic populations in those areas, often feel much more isolated than those in urban areas. That issue has been brought more into the spotlight recently with the arrival of migrant workers, many of whom choose to work and settle in rural communities. I am glad that Dave Petrie and others welcomed that. That group will produce a report in the next few months.
It is in all our interests that Scotland should be at ease with its increasing diversity. By taking the action—and more besides—that is outlined in the motion, the Scottish Executive has committed itself to fostering integration but respecting diversity and to laying the infrastructure for a time when all can help to shape Scotland's future and to share in what it has to offer.
The Scottish Executive has a duty to show leadership to the public, private and voluntary sectors in tackling the damaging impact that prejudice and discrimination can have in the workplace, in schools, in our public services and on our streets. Our national strategy and action plan will address organisational, business and employment practices and how public services are delivered.
Scotland has produced great thinkers. Its people have demonstrated enterprise and innovation and contributed to the world in many significant ways. Scotland has also benefited from the contribution of the many people who have visited and settled here over the centuries. We continue to do so today. The Scotland of the 21st century needs that innovation, interchange, energy and dynamism to continue. There is no place for small-minded prejudice or narrowness of vision if we are to be a successful nation. Racism undermines and clouds that vision. If we do not tackle racism, we let ourselves and Scotland down. Everyone can help to create a climate in which racism is unacceptable. That is a big challenge, but for Scotland's sake, we must not fail.
Later this summer, we shall set out our plans for how the Scottish Executive will take further action to tackle head-on racial inequality and disadvantage and to deliver tangible improvements to the lives of minority ethnic communities in Scotland. I do not underestimate the hard work that lies ahead of us in the coming months and, as ever, I do not propose that we have all the answers or can achieve the desired results on our own. Our approach will therefore be to work in partnership with a range of interests to secure improvement and change. We will continue to emphasise that the agenda is about not just minority ethnic communities, but all communities. The agenda is evolving and we will build flexibility and reviews into all that we do.
I am sure that I can count on members' continued support as the Scottish Executive works towards a Scotland in which there is justice, equality and respect for all.