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by Louise Wilson
25 May 2023
First Minister welcomes ‘monumental’ admission Police Scotland is 'institutionally racist’

First Minister welcomes ‘monumental’ admission Police Scotland is 'institutionally racist’

First Minister Humza Yousaf has welcomed the chief constable's admission that Police Scotland is institutionally racist.

He said the statement from Sir Iain Livingstone was "monumental” and “historic". Livingstone is believed to be the first police chief in the UK to acknowledge discrimination in the police force.

Livingstone made his comments at a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority on Thursday morning, following the publication of an interim report on discrimination in the force.

The review found “instances of ongoing discrimination against minoritised communities, including first-hand accounts of racism, sexism, and homophobia.”

Questioned on the matter at FMQs, Yousaf – who admitted he was stopped and searched by police on multiple occasions as a young man – said: “There is no doubt that institutional racism exists in our society and I want to take a moment just to say, as a person of colour, the statement from the chief constable is monumental, historic… It’s so, so important we now see action in terms of what can be done to dismantle those barriers.”

Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, raised suggestions that officers often felt unable to come forward with concerns. He urged the First Minister to "vow to change" the complaints system that "lets down" officers.

Ross also said "frontline pressures" on Police Scotland's budgets was "limiting the ability to change its culture". He said: "Police officers are being asked to do too much with too little."

Yousaf insisted the recommendations of the police complaints handling review by Dame Elish Angiolini were being worked through, with a bill to be lodged later this year.

He also said the government had increased police funding “year on year” since 2016.

Scottish Labour's Anas Sarwar also welcomed Livingstone's comments, saying the intervention significant. He added: “There is not a single organisation or institution that is immune to prejudice – so what we must see is not just the words, although they are important, but it must inspire action.”

He then went on to attack the SNP's record on transparency, accusing the government of creating a culture of secrecy.

Sarwar pointed to figures showing a dramatic rise in late freedom of information request responses, adding: "The SNP despise transparency. At every turn, they cover up failure instead of confronting it."

Yousaf accused the Scottish Labour leader of "relying on insinuation, relying on trying to throw as much mud as he possibly can and hope that some sticks". 

He said his government has a "very good" record on FOI responses and was continuing ensure it was “the most transparent government on these islands”.

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