Select Committee on Scottish Affairs Minutes of Evidence



APPENDIX 1

Memorandum submitted by West of Scotland Racial Equality Council (CRE 2)

  Since it's inception in 1971 the West of Scotland Racial Equality Council (WSREC) (formerly West of Scotland Community Relations Council) has worked in partnership with a great number of organisations and public bodies, both voluntary and statutory. Currently, the WSREC convenes two major forums; the Unitary Authorities Racial Equality Forum (UAREF), and the Unitary Authorities Racial Equality in Education Forum (UAREEF). Both are attended by 12 Local Authorities (the latter by respective Education departments), Strathclyde Police and the Crown Prosecution Service which comprise regionally the "West of Scotland". The WSREC covers approximately a third of Scottish Unitary Authorities (see Annex 1). In addition, the WSREC works in close partnership with Strathclyde Police and the Scottish Prison Service, each of which second Officers to the WSREC respectively on six month and 18 month rotation. Additionally, the WSREC works closely with the Crown Prosecution Service, which facilitates the secondment of two WSREC officers to the service on a part-time basis. The WSREC also works closely with four Health Boards, which cover the West of Scotland. This partnership helps to fund a half post over three years. A further project, the Glasgow Youth Anti-Harassment Project (GYAHP) due to conclude in March 2002, was funded through the Glasgow Anti-Racist Alliance, a Scottish Executive/Glasgow City Council initiative. There is also the mentoring project, a half post over three years, which is run jointly with RPS Rainer/CRE backing.

  Such partnership is possible for one very important reason: the WSREC takes its mandate from 120 affiliated organisations, most of which are minority ethnic organisations based in the West of Scotland (see Annex 2[3]). For 30 years the WSREC has worked at a grass-roots level, supporting people from an immensely diverse range of ethnic backgrounds. Furthermore, this work is undertaken in a geographical region with an indisputably unique social dynamic, which is generated via a distinct historical trajectory. From Irish migration in a rapidly industrialising 19th century, to the rapidly de-industrialising post-war context in which migration from the "New Commonwealth" was situated, the growth of Scottish Nationalism and Irish Republicanism have created an exceptionally challenging context for anti-racism over the last 30 years. Consequently, the WSREC community—based network is a crucial element in the determination of harmonious community relations in the West of Scotland. Post-Lawrence and post-Oldham, never has such a network been more vital.

  "Race" issues: racism, racial inequality, discrimination and harassment took centre stage throughout the UK in 2001. Whilst riots in the North of England in April seemed to mark the beginning of last years "events", debate over refugees seeking asylum and the Governments dispersal programme have for a long time placed the media spotlight firmly on "immigration issues".

  Nowhere has this spotlight been more apparent than in Scotland where the issue of dispersal was the centrepiece of much controversy throughout 2000-01.The tragedy of Kurdish asylum-seeker Firsat Dag, murdered in August in Sighthill—a chilling reminder to many minority ethnic Scots of their own vulnerability—provided the catalyst for demonstrations in Glasgow.

  The killing of Surjit Singh Chhokar and the damning report of Dr Jandoo concerning the handling of the case by the Scottish judicial system need no elaboration here. However, publication of the report coincided with a heightened racialised climate elicited by "global events". There is no doubt that the events of 11 September led to an increasing stigmatisation of peoples from certain minority ethnic backgrounds.

  In 2001, the WSREC has been very active throughout the West of Scotland. Our wide network has meant that when Muslim gravestones were vandalised in Cambusnethan cemetery, and Carfin Mosque was subjected to an arson attack, we were there supporting the Muslim community in North Lanarkshire. When seven Scottish Asian schoolgirls were being racially harassed, spat upon, and told to 'go back to Afghanistan', on their way home from school, the WSREC was able to work in partnership with Strathclyde Police to mount an undercover operation which led to apprehension of the perpetrators. When a Gypsy traveller family based in Argyle and Bute, needed help to fight for disabled access for the youngest daughter we acted as advocates for the family with the local authority. In 2000-01 the WSREC took 186 formal cases of racial harassment and 89 cases of racial discrimination (see tables 1 & 2). However, there are many instances in which the WSREC helps communities, which are not documentable in a `formal case' sense. For instance, clients needing general welfare advice covering health or social work issues and counselling for victims of discrimination and harassment. It is generally felt that with security of tenure and constructive support the WSREC could reach more deeply into communities enabling a more realistic picture of the problem of racism in the West of Scotland to emerge, ie we could double our case load.

Table 1

FORMAL HARASSMENT CASES BY ETHNIC ORIGIN 2001

Ethnic Origin

Number
of Cases

Per Cent
of Cases



Afro-Caribbean

13

7



Chinese

19

10



English

2

1



European

18

10



Indian

21

11



Irish

4

2



Middle Eastern

12

7



Mixed Race

10

5



Pakistan

70

38



Scottish

8

4



Other

9

5



Total

186

100

 

Table 2

DISCRIMINATION CASES BY SERVICE 2001

 

Cases

Per Cent



Education

9

10



Employment

22

25



Health

10

11



Housing

11

12



Police

7

8



Social Services

11

12



Prison

6

7



Other

13

15



Total

89

100

 

  The WSREC has worked in partnership with the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) since 1971 (formally the Community Relations Commission, pre-1976). We welcome continued partnership with the CRE, and recognise the importance of the organisations role. Moreover, this partnership is invaluable to the maintenance of a grass root—corporate anti-racist programme in Scotland.

  The WSREC also welcomes much of the move to modernise and believes very strongly that effective anti-racist work requires continuous review and development.

  To this end, the WSREC works very hard to stimulate and support staff development. We work in partnership with the University of Paisley, running a "Professional Practice in Racial Equality" Course, which all staff are encouraged to attend. Two members of staff are currently on a Postgraduate Course in Equality and Discrimination at Strathclyde University; another staff member is working towards completion of a Law degree at Strathclyde University, and another member of staff is on the Doctoral programme at Glasgow University conducting independent research for a PhD in his chosen field: "the dynamics of minority ethnic exclusion in Contemporary Scotland". Together with 30 years of experience of tackling racism in the West of Scotland, the WSREC is a major force for the achievement and maintenance of community harmony in the West of Scotland, with few credible competitors in the region.

  It is therefore ironic at a time when the WSREC's role should be valued and celebrated that the CRE has been threatening to cut our funding. This threat has caused untold stress and misery to staff at the WSREC and our affiliated members. The CRE currently fund two full posts and two half posts, three posts in total to an annual cost of approximately 100,000. This is the CRE's contribution to our work which covers 12 unitary authorities. Furthermore, this is reviewed annually with the constant threat of cuts. There are currently 14 members of staff working at the WSREC. This includes the two secondees from Strathclyde police and the Scottish Prison service. Only three WSREC posts are permanent- one full-time, two part-time. These staff members are the WSREC's administration team funded by Glasgow City Council. The majority of our staff are working on short-term contracts, 12 monthly and six monthly. Excluding the secondee's, only the CRE posts and Glasgow City Council posts have pension rights. However, the CRE pension contribution has been under threat for the last 18 months. The WSREC survives by scraping "bits of money" from our other partners.

  If we compare the conditions experienced by WSREC staff with those of the CRE in Edinburgh, a major contradiction is evident. Where we exist in a constant state of insecurity, CRE staff have permanent contracts, with secure pension rights and have just moved to plush new offices. Yet, it is not clear that this privileged position is matched by the mandate which the WSREC enjoys in providing a fully accountable and sensitive approach to communities in the West of Scotland. Whilst we are very happy to share our good practice with the CRE and to work in continued partnership it is not clear that the CRE in Edinburgh are prepared to reciprocate in a manner which is not undermining. The great irony here, unfortunately, is that in a post-devolution Scotland the CRE runs the risk of being out-of-touch with the West of Scotland's unique social dynamic. The WSREC would therefore welcome a positive development in the WSREC/CRE relationship, and are very prepared to work with the CRE to overcome its unrepresentative position in post-devolution Scotland.

  Furthermore, the CRE have expressed publicly that the Amended Race Relations Act will reduce race complaints. However, it is the experience of the WSREC that the opposite is generally true. As people become more aware of their rights, complaints increase. The skills and mediation required in working towards resolution of race cases is highly complex and requires a degree of sophistication and sensitivity toward community relations which a corporate legislative body has neither the experience, ability or network to provide. It is our view that the WSREC will need extra funding, permanently secured by Government, to ensure that as minority ethnic people living in Scotland become more aware of their rights, the correct support is available: support provided by an organisation whose understanding of the regional dynamics of race relations in the West of Scotland is second to none.

 

Annex 1

 

Unitary Authorities Racial Equality Forum

  Local Authorities

  Argyll & Bute

  East Ayrshire

  East Dunbartonshire

  East Renfrewshire

  Glasgow

  Inverclyde

  North Ayrshire

  North Lanarshire

  Renfrewshire

  South Ayrshire

  South Lanarkshire

  West Dunbartonshire

  +

  Strathclyde Police

  Crown Prosecution Service

Maggie K. Chetty

Director

February 2002

 


3   Not published, available from West of Scotland Racial Equality Council. Back

 
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