Record levels of racism prompt Scottish initiative

December 18, 1998

Only 1.3 per cent of the Scottish population are ethnic minorities, compared with 5.5 per cent for the UKas a whole. This smaller proportion, coupled with the absence of serious race riots, leads many Scots to believe that Scotland does not suffer from racism.

But Moussa Jogee, deputy commissioner of the Commission for Racial Equality, says the number of racist incidents reported to the police in Scotland reached an all-time high of 1,100 last year. The CRE for Scotland is also receiving growing calls for help with racial discrimination cases.

The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council has joined forces with the CRE in a bid to promote racial equality, hosting a conference for further and higher education. It was targeted at senior managers, and there was disappointment that only a small minority of the 100 delegates held senior posts.

"We need the commitment of senior management: please be visible and stop delegating," said Rowena Arshad, director of Edinburgh University's centre for education for racial equality.

Richard Shaw, principal of Paisley University, warned against complacency and minimalistic compliance with the legal obligation to oppose discrimination.

"What we've really got to look at is an active policy, as opposed to one that just has things in place," he said. It was tempting to see "customer satisfaction" as a lack of complaints, he added, but if institutions fostered a culture in which it was possible to complain, they should expect some to emerge.

David Bleiman, assistant general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, warned that contract research staff faced particular problems. There had been cases of ethnic minority staff on fixed-term contracts being rejected when a post became permanent.

"Very clear, crude harassment does occur, which one would hardly believe would happen among educated people," he said. "But fixed-term contracts place people in a very weak position to complain. If you welcome complaints, you have to recognise that somebody on a fixed-term contract has a lot to lose, because so much hangs on the relationship between the employee and the line manager."

Alistair Tyre, principal of Langside College, said research and monitoring were crucial. The Scottish Council for Research in Education has highlighted the lack of projects on access to higher and further education by ethnic minority groups.

Namasiku Liandu, an academic at the University of Abertay Dundee and chair of the Scottish Trades Union Congress black workers' committee, recently attempted a survey of ethnic minority staff in 25 higher education institutions. Only seven have replied.

"Crude analysis of these replies shows that there are 1 blacks employed in five of these institutions," Mr Liandu said. "The other two said it was not possible to provide the information in the form required. Of these 1, only 51 are academics."

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