Prejudice against ethnic minority Scots ‘persistent’, study finds

An anti-racism march in Glasgow in March 2019. A study by the University of Edinburgh has found that racism remains persistent in Scotland. Picture: John Devlin
An anti-racism march in Glasgow in March 2019. A study by the University of Edinburgh has found that racism remains persistent in Scotland. Picture: John Devlin
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More than one third of black people and other ethnic minorities living in Scotland have experienced discrimination in the past two years, research has found.

The findings – in line with similar studies published in 2015 and 2017 – suggest discrimination levels north of the Border have remained persistent over a six-year period, despite political action to address the issue.

More than one quarter of those surveyed by the University of Edinburgh and pollsters Survation said they felt incidents of discrimination in Scotland have become more frequent.

Labour MSP Anas Sarwar, chairman of Holyrood’s cross-party group on tackling Islamophobia, described the findings as “deeply concerning”.

He added: “Scotland is not immune from hatred and prejudice, and this research shows how much work we still have to do.

“Every Scot should look at this data and recognise that the fight against discrimination is a fight for all of us.”

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Researchers asked a statistically representative sample of more than 500 black and ethnic minority people in Scotland a range of questions exploring whether they had been affected by racial discrimination.

Instances of discrimination may include name calling, the use of inappropriate language, incidents on public transport and prejudice in the workplace.

Discrimination at work could include unfair assumptions about an employee’s ability in relation to promotion, and employers not wanting a particular racial profile to become the public face of an organisation.

Of those who had experienced discrimination, 25 per cent said it had happened when applying for a job, while 18 per cent said it had affected their promotion chances and another 18 per cent their attempts to seek equal pay.

More than one third – 35 per cent – reported experiencing discrimination while using transport services and 20 per cent while accessing healthcare.

A significant majority – 89 per cent – of those who said they had experienced discrimination felt this was because of their perceived ethnicity. Some 66 per cent felt it was also based on their perceived religion.

Lead researcher Professor Nasar Meer, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science, said: “This survey builds on others in previous years and points to a persistent trend of racial discrimination black and ethnic minority Scots.

“It is encouraging that black and ethnic minority Scots still have faith in Scottish institutions to tackle racism, but this trust has decreased over time. Although levels of non-reporting have improved, they still remain high so more targeted support is needed to help overcome this.”

Mr Sarwar added: “Racism on public transport and in the workplace is an all-too-common experience for black and minority ethnic people in Scotland.

“In the coming months, the results of the first public inquiry into Islamophobia will be released, and we will examine ways to tackle the prejudice and hate that exists in our society.”

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A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Racism and discrimination have no place in a modern and successful Scotland and we will continue to take decisive action to tackle it including our campaign with Police Scotland to tackle hate crime, which explicitly calls out racists.

“In addition to our Race Equality Framework, which sets out our long-term goals, our Race Equality Action Plan outlines more than 120 actions we are taking over the course of this Parliament to secure better outcomes for minority ethnic communities in Scotland.”