MSP urges action to increase BAME workers in public sector

21 February 2019, 06:38

Anas Sarwar

Black and ethnic minority workers are "chronically under-represented" in Scotland's public sector, research by the MSP Anas Sarwar has found.

While 4% of the Scottish population are black and minority ethnic (BAME), just 1.8% of civil servants working in Scotland are from ethnic minorities, according to official statistics.

Less than 1% of council employees identify as non-white in 21 of Scotland's 32 local authorities, while Dumfries & Galloway Council has just one non-white staff member for every 1,000 employees.

The figures, from Scottish Parliament researchers, also reveal there are only 10 ethnic minority civil servants at the most senior level.

In the Scottish NHS, 3.3% of the total employees are recorded as non-white, although this figure includes people who declined to respond.

BAME police officers and staff make up just 1% of Police Scotland's force.

Mr Sarwar will call for "a change in culture" so senior positions reflect Scottish society, when he presents his findings in a speech at a BAME into Leadership conference in Edinburgh on Thursday.

Ahead of the speech, the Labour MSP said: "A diverse workforce is a strength, and we need a change in culture so that our public sector fully reflects Scottish society.

"And that doesn't just mean increasing the number of BAME employees, but also those in positions of leadership.

"It can't be because of a lack of talent - it's a lack of opportunities.

"Greater diversity doesn't just mean a more representative workforce, it also means a more informed workforce that influences mainstream decision-making.

"Discrimination is more than just abuse or threats, it also impacts on life chances and outcomes including people not getting jobs or missing out on promotion."

In the keynote address, Mr Sarwar will call for a full audit of BAME representation in the public sector workforce, and is expected to say: "This research is just a starting point and there needs to be a full audit of senior, managerial or leadership roles across the public sector and beyond.

"One mechanism that employers can put in place to help address the workforce gap is to include a requirement for at least one BAME candidate, where at least one has applied, to be shortlisted for an interview for a vacancy.

"This will not automatically mean that more BAME people will be appointed, but it will at least increase the likelihood of it happening.

"Scotland is also the only country in the UK with a statutory gender representation objective for public boards, and that is a principle which could also be applied to BAME representation, and I would welcome talks with the Scottish Government about that."