The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities has now published its report. Following publication there was a statement in the House of Commons about this matter, which can be viewed here.
This report was an opportunity to seriously respond to structural racial inequalities in the UK following the powerful Black Lives Matter movement. It was a chance to set the record straight on disproportionalities in the criminal justice system, maternal mortality, school exclusions and unemployment. Instead, I am deeply disappointed that it disregarded the commonly held view on what institutional racism is, and downplayed structural issues that need to be addressed.
Racism is real, and it is the lived experience of so many people in this country. According to the Race and Disparity Unit, Black people are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. Additionally, it is deeply concerning that MBRRACE-UK has said that Black mothers are more than four times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than white women. The Timpson review of school exclusions also found that Black children are more likely to be excluded than white children. Though we have made progress in reducing disparities, evidence shows that we still have a long way to go to achieve equality.
It is deeply concerning to see institutional racism being downplayed during a pandemic where Black, Asian and minority ethnic people have died disproportionately, and are now twice as likely to be unemployed according to the Office for National Statistics. The Government must take greater action to protect these groups from COVID-19.
Recovering from the pandemic, we cannot return to business as usual – rooted in insecurity and inequality. We must resist divisiveness and stand together to build a brighter future.
The Government is now considering the Commission’s recommendations and will set out its full response this summer.
I firmly believe this report must be rejected. The Government should instead focus on implementing the recommendations in the Timpson review of school exclusion, the McGregor-Smith review into racism in the workplace, Wendy Williams’ review into the Windrush scandal, the Angiolini review into deaths in police custody, and the Lammy Review into the treatment of Black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals in the criminal justice system.
Policy areas where ethnic disparities exist, such as health, education, justice and policing, are devolved matters in Scotland. Therefore, I would encourage you to also contact your MSP about this matter when the Scottish Parliament returns after the election. The Scottish Government needs to take target and immediate action to tackle racial discrimination and inequality.
We know beyond doubt that everyday racism exists and the focus now must be on overcoming hatred and prejudice. Rather than a debate about whether it is structural or not, we need to focus on action. In Scotland, Scottish Labour’s leader Anas Sarwar has called for politicians to come together on a cross-party basis, because the fight against hate is a fight for all of us.
I am committed to listening to people’s lived experiences and tackling racism in all its forms. I believe a Race Equality Act needs to be introduced to end structural inequalities in our society. I have written to the Minister to make clear the views of myself and constituents in Edinburgh South on this matter.