26 September 2023

SCOTLAND: PS challenged on lack of diversity

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A Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) says the Public Service is “one of the most chronically under-representative organisations in the country”.

Anas Sarwar MSP challenged Permanent Secretary for the Public Service, Leslie Evans (pictured) on the issue during a meeting of the Public Audit Committee.

Ms Evans conceded there was “much more to do” but said action was being taken to address issues such as the under-representation of black and minority ethnic (BAME) people in the Public Service.

Labour’s Mr Sarwar is one of just four BAME MSPs to have been elected in the 21 years of devolution – with the Holyrood Parliament never having had a female BAME representative.

“I welcome the signs of solidarity that you and others in the Scottish Government have shown in taking the knee and in showing solidarity with minority communities,” Mr Sarwar said.

“To be frank it will be actions that people will judge the Scottish Government on and officials on, rather than their words,” he said.

Speaking in the wake of Black Lives Matters demonstrations in Scotland, and the day after MSPs debated the issue in Holyrood, Ms Evans said she had redoubled her efforts and “focused the organisation even more sharply on this”.

“We have done a lot of work in trying to ensure that our recruitment — when we are able to externally recruit — reflects the diversity of Scotland and the diversity and inclusion policies of the organisation,” Ms Evans said.

“So we have done quite practical things there in terms of where we recruit, how we attract people, bringing people into the organisation before they decide to apply for a job to see whether it will work for them or not,” she said.

She said large-scale external recruitments had attracted a much more diverse set of applicants than previously.

“We now have the highest level of minority ethnic colleagues in the senior Civil Service than we’ve ever had … it’s gone from three per cent to four per cent,” Ms Evans said.

“I know this is not enough but it is working,” she said.

Edinburgh, 13 June 2020

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