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Report reveals huge level of racial inequality in Scottish public sector workplace

A DAMNING new report on workplace discrimination reveals huge levels of inequality when it comes to people from black and ethnic minorities getting a job with in the Scottish public sector.

Equality campaigners say not enough is being done to integrate people from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds into the public sector workplace.

A report produced by the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER) has revealed that just 0.8% of staff in all of Scotland's local authorities are from BME backgrounds - despite making up 4% of the general population of Scotland.

Of all applicants for posts in the wider public sector just 4.4% of people from a BME background are subsequently appointed, compared to 7.1% for white candidates.

CRER say the situation in local authorities was "more alarming" with white British candidates three times more likely to be appointed than BME applicants. Just 2.1% of BME applicants end up being appointed compared to 6.1% of white British applicants.

The CRER study on staffing in 20 Scottish local authorities using freedom of information legislation, showed that of 146,774 total staff in post, just 1188 were declared as being from BME backgrounds.

It showed that the proportion of the Glasgow City Council workforce with a BME background is less than 2%, although according to the latest census data, the BME population makes up 12% of the city population. A council spokesman said it did not recognise the 12% figure and believed 5% was more accurate. Research shows that Glasgow's BME population, which includes Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, African, Caribbean and other Asian groups has more than doubled in 10 years, from 31,510 in 2001 to 68,684.

CRER also said BME representation in Scotland's fire and rescue services is just 0.7%. Some 25 of Scotland's 32 local authorities have no black political representation, CRER found. Outside Glasgow, there were just 10 BME councillors, out of 1143.

Analysis of the 2011 census data showed that just one in three within minority ethnic groups feel they have some Scottish identity. This compares to 82% of the rest of the population who characterised themselves as at least partially Scottish.

The census news was welcomed by Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop who said it showed the country is a "welcoming and dynamic nation".

But when the CRER was asked if it felt Scotland had been doing enough to be inclusive to minority groups, the answer was: "Definitely not."

Jatin Haria, executive director of CRER, said: "I guess the picture I am painting of Scotland in 2014 is one of well-meaning people and policies, but a definitive lack of action. We seem to have moved on to a post-race society without acknowledging that 'race' was ever an issue."

He said a key factor was a "lack of pressure" on public bodies and others to take "real meaningful action to achieve change".

There needed to be recognition that there was a problem, and then greater use of enforcement action by the authorities, such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission to ensure public bodies adhere to the Equality Act. He said there needed to be "a greater use of positive action measures to ensure a level playing field".

Haria, who served on the Scottish Executive's Race Equality Advisory Forum, added: "Not only are white UK candidates three times more likely to be appointed than their equally qualified and experienced black counterparts, but if this situation is allowed to continue then the ethnic penalty faced by BME people in Scotland will continue to grow."

Equality legislation stipulates that Scottish public authorities must have "due regard" for the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations.

But Haria says that while the "talk and policy is good, the practice on the ground is questionable". Separate research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland has revealed that despite decades of equality legislation some public bodies are "still near the start of their journey" in dealing with inequality - and many local authorities struggled to produce basic information about staff equality.

Its examination of equality outcomes revealed that 29% of public authorities had set "poor" outcomes - defined as "intended activity without a clear purpose".An Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland spokesman said: "Looking at the Scottish public sector as a whole, there are still challenges that we face in responding fully to the public-sector equality duties.

"Only one-third of public authorities have robust measurable equality outcomes and they were required to publish them by spring last year."

Rami Ousta, chief executive of the Black and Ethnic Minority Infrastructure Scotland, believes there have been advances in race equality but agreed more needed to be done.

A Cosla spokesman said: "Cosla and our member councils are committed to equal opportunities for everyone in Scotland. We want to see all minority groups appropriately represented in all employment sectors including the professions, national and local government.

"Cosla encourages a higher rate of applications from groups whichmay be under-represented in our workforce and monitors closely the backgrounds from which we receive applications for jobs to determine whether positive discrimination of under represented groups would be a consideration."

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: "We are committed to reflecting the communities we serve and want the number of BME staff in the organisation to more accurately reflect the population as a whole."

At the Scottish Government, a spokesman said: "Recruitment of local council staff is a matter for the local authorities concerned. The Scottish Government supports equal opportunity in the workplace and in recruitment, regardless of a person's ethnic background, gender, age or sexual orientation."

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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