Humza Yousaf's claims of bias against his two-year-old child should disturb us all - Scotsman leader comment

For those of us who want to believe Scotland is a progressive, egalitarian nation, the front page of yesterday's Daily Record newspaper was worrying.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has complained to watchdogs amid concerns over discrimination at a nursery that refused a place for his young daughter. PIC: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

It told of Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf s concerns that his two year old daughter had been discriminated against. A nursery near his home said it had no spaces available for her, while telling applicants with non-ethnic names that spaces were, indeed, available.

The nursery vehemently denies any suggestion of discrimination. It points to the diversity of past and present children and staff, and says it is "open and inclusive to all".

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Mr Yousaf has urged the Care Inspectorate to find out why three applications for children with ethnic names were refused while three applications for children with Scottish-sounding names were successful. The nursery has refused to explain to Mr Yousaf how that happened.

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Humza Yousaf demands investigation into nursery over alleged discrimination clai...

One potential conclusion could be that an unconscious bias is at work - that the people reviewing those applications might not have intended to reject those with ethnic names, but nevertheless did so because of deep-seated prejudice.

This sort of insidious bias can be found across society, but especially in recruitment processes where a variety of variables must be assessed in a complex process, before a decision is made. When decisions are tight, a bias - even articulated in as simple a sentiment as "he'll really fit in" - can go against people of an ethnicity, gender or other characteristic different to the recruiter.

That such a bias could be exercised against children as young as two years old should disturb us all. This would represent both a great injustice, and an enormous barrier to progress - both for the individuals affected, and for our society as a whole.

Worrying as they are, however, perhaps the accusations should not surprise us terribly. Warnings of such prejudice - both for ethnicity, but also for reasons of religion and nationality - have been sounded loud and clear for years across Scotland.

So Mr Yousaf and his family deserve immense credit for coming forward with their story, and their evidence. We hope the investigation will be thorough. Only by confronting discrimination, in all its forms - and both conscious and unconscious - can we truly become the egalitarian nation we aspire to be.

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