The Scottish Government has been criticised for refusing to co-operate with a UK-wide race equality audit that shows Scotland has the least diverse civil service anywhere in Britain.
Figures collected by the Race Disparity Audit suggest ethnic minorities are less than half as likely as whites to work for the UK or Scottish Government.
Publication of the audit, which Theresa May has put at the heart of her bid to end the “burning injustice” of inequality, sparked a row after the government in Edinburgh said it was “not in the best interests of the people of Scotland” to take part.
Scottish data is in devolved areas including health, education and criminal justice is missing from the audit, which has laid bare the gap in outcomes between communities.
However, employment and benefits data collected by the Department for Work and Pensions does cover the whole of the UK. As well as raising concerns over the diversity of the civil service in Scotland, the data also reveals Scotland has the widest gap in economic inactivity between white and non-white communities anywhere in the UK.
In Scotland, 23 per cent of whites were classed as economically inactive, compared to 35 per cent of non-whites. Experts in racial inequality said the Scottish Government should deliver a parallel process that “plugs into” the UK-wide audit to help public services drive down inequality.
Scotland’s minority community doubled in the ten years to the last census in 2011, rising to 4 per cent of the population. It is now likely to significantly higher.
Mrs May is understood to have written to Nicola Sturgeon asking the Scottish Government to take part in the audit last year.
However, a Scottish Government spokeswoman said it was developing its own approach to publishing inequality data that will “better reflect Scotland’s circumstances and needs”.
“After discussing concerns with stakeholders, the Scottish Government chose not to be involved in the UK Government’s Race Disparity Audit agreeing that participation was not in the best interests of the people of Scotland,” the spokeswoman said.
A senior Whitehall source criticised the refusal to engage with the exercise, claiming it was evidence of a “grievance agenda” and the Scottish Conservative equalities spokeswoman Annie Wells said the decision was “unacceptable”.
“The point of the audit is to establish a new benchmark in data – and to challenge and expose injustice,” Ms Wells said.
“There’s no good reason why Scottish public bodies should opt-out, and it speaks of a real arrogance that Nicola Sturgeon decided not to engage.”