POVERTY, discrimination and hate crime: study after study paints a grim picture of the challenges facing people from ethnic minorities in Scotland and politicians are often quick to promise that the action needed to tackle these issues is imminent – but the problem is, the solution they’re all hedging their bets on simply isn’t working, and here’s why.

What do our politicians deploy as potential solutions to these problems? Much of the answer, we are told, lies in education. It is an accepted truth – which happens to provide parties with pleasant media releases - that education is the key to breaking free from poverty. This isn't just a Scottish assumption; it dominates policy thinking in Western Europe. But it is deeply flawed.

Even on its own merits, ethnic minorities already tend to achieve better qualifications overall. Degrees are held by around a third of ethnic minorities compared to a fifth of the non-minority population. Participation levels are higher, too. In 2015-16, 84.6 per cent of young people aged 16-19 from ethnic minority groups were participating in education, while 70.5 per cent of those from non-minority ethnic groups remained in education.

If education offers a route out of poverty and unemployment we should see much more follow through, and yet we don't. To understand why, a study carried out by Edinburgh University last year examining the challenges faced by ethnic minorities in the workplace may offer at least a partial answer. It found that in Scotland, 38 per cent said they had been discriminated against when applying for jobs, while 31 per cent said their racial background had affected their chances of promotion. Thirty-two per cent of respondents also said they had experienced discrimination on public transport - and bear in mind how the experience of getting to work combines with issues at work itself.

Despite following the education roadmap outlined by official politics, there are persistent obstacles which plague ethnic minorities both during and after school and further education.

There is a renewed debate about race in Scotland. After a series of high profile cases of racism in Scottish politics, highlighted by Transport Minister Humza Yousaf and Scottish Labour MSP Anas Sarwar in particular, and the vile 'punish a Muslim day' campaign on social media, Scottish exceptionalism around racism is being challenged.

But so far much of the discussion remains largely at surface level. If Scotland is to truly become a beacon of anti-racism, we have to develop a structural analysis of the problem and a radical policy platform that can lead in challenging the roots of racism today.

One key contribution to this work is a new book called No Problem Here: Understanding Racism In Scotland. At its launch, hosted by the STUC Black Workers' Committee, the authors revealed an in-depth analysis which examines institutional and systemic racism in Scotland. From its role in the slave trade, to contemporary structural barriers often buried under the idea that civic nationalism offers a welcoming attitude to migrants and refugees, the book challenges us to think more critically about race in the Scottish context.

A recent Scottish Government report showed that ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty. Significantly, after housing costs were taken into account, 36 per cent of all ethnic minorities in Scotland were found to be living in poverty. This compares to a rate of 18 per cent of white British people.

A report published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission also showed the depth of poverty which blights ethnic minorities in Scotland. It found that if you are born into an ethnic minority household you are four times more likely to live in overcrowded conditions, and you are twice as likely to live in poverty or be unemployed.

This, of course, is combined with a range of social challenges such as school and workplace bullying, discrimination and everyday racism. It doesn't take much to see the scope of the challenge.

To tackle this we need a new approach. Step one: we need to talk about the problem. Such issues are under discussed in Scotland. A debate is breaking out - but it has to be an informed one that is willing to uproot and expose uncomfortable truths about our society.

There is scope to do this, especially as ethnic minorities themselves have much higher levels of trust in Scottish institutions than they do in other European countries and in England where, for example, stop and search is a more defining and estranging issue. But this requires targeting resources and developing a strategy that goes beyond soundbites and individualised examples of breaking the glass ceiling. As former US President Barack Obama showed, change at the top alone doesn't solve deeper structural problems.

This work should be conducted in alliance with the trade union movement. Unions have a central role to play in building unity in workplaces and in confronting racism and discrimination. We need to build a culture of trade unionism in ethnic minority communities, and there must be adequate resources to achieve this. Anti-racism is a class issue.

Root and branch economic transformation is required. The idea that educational attainment is married with better job prospects is not just anathema to ethnic minority communities facing workplace prejudice, but increasingly to the whole of the labour market.

We need a high-skills, high-wage economy that has a real social value, and which encourages citizens to interact instead of locking their doors. This is not an abstraction from the discussion on racism, it is central to it, and it must become part of the furniture in the emerging discourse around race in modern Scotland.

After all, a society and an economy that utilises its resources more democratically and equally doesn't foster racial division to maintain its stuttering order. In challenging racism - and in creating a new economy together - we can breed the kind of purposeful unity that delivers real change, instead of papering over the cracks.