Fight for race equality is ‘bigger than party politics’

Anas Sarwar said politicians must no longer only speak up when abuse is aimed at members of their own party.

A Labour MSP has called for party politics to be left behind in the fight for racial equality in Scotland.

Anas Sarwar said politicians must no longer only speak up when abuse is aimed at members of their own party.

Speaking on Good Morning Scotland on Saturday, Mr Sarwar also called for a race disparity audit to be carried out to ascertain the levels of representation of the BAME community in Scotland’s institutions and private sector.

The Labour MSP, who has frequently worked alongside SNP MSP and justice secretary Humza Yousaf, said: “Some things are beyond party politics.

“This is bigger than Labour versus Tory versus SNP, it’s bigger than yes versus no, it’s bigger than leave versus remain.

“I don’t care which one of those camps you are in, I’ll work with you if you’re an anti-racist and you want to fight for a safer society.

“But, at the same time, we’ve got to accept that for too many people silence is an option. Silence can’t be an option.

“Sadly, in our politics, too many of our colleagues – I meant this in my own political party but every other political party as well – judge their condemnation or their solidarity based on the politics or perceived politics of the perpetrator or the victim.

“We can’t have that any more. We either call it out no matter where it’s coming from or who it’s against, or we don’t.

“If you do judge it on that basis then, I’m sorry, you’re part of the problem.”

His comments came as protests continued across the world calling for racial equality following the death of George Floyd in the US on May 25.

A debate in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday designed to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement ended with the justice secretary reciting the final words of Mr Floyd.

During his own speech on Thursday, Mr Sarwar listed a number of positions in Scotland not held by anyone from the BAME community, including head teachers, heads of public sector bodies and principals of colleges and universities.

Asked what could be done to improve the situation, Mr Sarwar listed a number of possibilities including a race disparity audit, more mentoring for people in the BAME community and anonymous CVs.

He also said there could be scope to bring in the so-called Rooney rule, a regulation used by the governing body of American football which means a member of the BAME community must be shortlisted for head coaching positions.

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