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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-08139: Alex Rowley (Mid Scotland and Fife)

Scottish Labour

Date lodged: 16 March 2017

To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on the findings in the report, Removing Barriers: race, ethnicity, and employment, that unconscious bias training is not a solution and can mask underlying negative attitudes towards people from a minority ethnic background; whether it offers any other anti-racist training besides unconscious bias training to its staff; whether this training is (a) face-to-face or online and (b) conducted by Scottish Government staff or by external trainers, and whether the effectiveness of this training is evaluated.

Answered by: Derek Mackay 24 March 2017

The Scottish Government puts employee engagement and workforce development at the heart of its organisational transformation programme (SG2020) and underpinning People Strategy. We are committed to giving all our people the opportunity to shine, to nurturing talent at all levels and to having a diverse workforce reflective of the communities we serve.

Diversity and equality by its very nature is not a ‘one size fits all’ policy or initiative. A fairer, more inclusive society, community or workforce is one where everyone feels confident to play their part. We approach increasing diversity and inclusion in the organisation in the round. We agree that of itself, unconscious bias training is not a solution. We make use of unconscious bias training within an overall approach to become a more open, capable and responsive organisation.

All of our Director Generals are diversity “allies”, engaging directly with staff and supporting our many diversity networks. Our diversity networks are supported by senior civil service volunteer “champions”, raising awareness and creating dialogue about diversity and inclusion in our organisation. We gather data from our staff and support and challenge teams to enable everyone to be themselves at work. We do also offer access to online Civil Service Learning equality and diversity training, which is created and evaluated by UK Civil Service Learning. Our Diversity and Equality team regularly engages with staff across the Scottish Government. They raise awareness of the Scottish Government Diversity and Equality ambitions and plans and encourage engagement with the wider equalities agenda within teams, both as members of staff and as policy makers to the people of Scotland. The Removing Barriers report recommends that the ‘Scottish Government works with public bodies to undertake their own review of equality and diversity training which is offered to employees and to use the specific duty of assessing and reviewing practice in the Equality Act 2010 to drive this work forward.’ We are in the process of reviewing and improving the equality and diversity training and development that is offered to SG employees as part of our work to increasing diversity and inclusion in the organisation.

We take positive action to improve our diversity. When we recruit into the organisation, we are deliberately focussing on increasing applicants from underrepresented groups. We are currently recruiting our second Graduate Development Programme cohort. This has included close liaison with our internal Race and Equality Network and with external BME groups. As a consequence of this targeted marketing, the number of BME applicants rose from 10% (148 of 1474) in 2015 to 12.4% (347 of 2790) in 2017. The selection process has also been updated to reduce barriers and features positive action for BME applicants.