Local Governance and BME Groups - Representation

Representation in Elected Office 

Without considering the critical lack of BME councillors in local authorities across Scotland, there cannot be effective improvements to democracy in Scotland for BME groups. The 2017 local elections saw fewer BME councillors elected than in the 2012 elections.

The 2012 elections saw just 17 candidates with a BME background elected, representing just 1.4% of the overall total, compared to 4.0% of Scotland’s population. This was progress from the 10 elected in in 2007, particularly with the election of 4 BME women councillors.

However, by CRER’s analysis, progress did not continue in the 2017 election; in fact, there was a regression. While 43 BME candidates stood for this election (an increase from 32 in 2012), this represented only 1.6% of candidates, with 6 of those standing as an independent. Only 16 BME councillors were elected of the total 1227 councillors (1.3%), representing a decrease both in number and proportion from the previous election. Of these 16, only 4 were women.

Only 8 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities have at least one BME councillor; the remaining 24 do not have any BME representation including, notably, Edinburgh City Council.

This decrease would be concerning enough if we were to see the BME population as a consistent 4.0% across all of Scotland. However, BME groups are markedly underrepresented in the four local authorities with the an above-average BME population (using the out-of-date 2011 Scottish Census figures): 0.0% compared to 8.0% in Edinburgh, 2.2% compared to 8.0% in Aberdeen, 3.4% compared to 6.0% in Dundee, and 8.2% compared to 12.0% in Glasgow.

While largely an issue for political parties address, it is worth examining the barriers BME individuals encounter to standing for and being elected to local office.


Representation in Local Authorities 

Outwith the issue of elected representatives, it is important to also consider the representation of BME individuals within councils themselves.

CRER’s analysis of local authority reporting for the Public Sector Equality Duties (Scottish Specific Duties) found that in 2013, only 1.0% of employees in Scotland’s local authorities had a BME background, compared to 4.0% of the population. After four year of action to achieve the equality outcomes set by councils in 2013 and to use data gathered about the employee composition, the percentage had only increased to 1.5%.

An analysis of the 2013 equality outcomes found that only 17 of the 32 produced an outcome which – at minimum – mentioned race. By and large, these outcomes related to recent migrants and issues concerning English language acquisition, which excludes BME communities long-established and educated in Scotland. No outcome focused particularly on improving BME employment within the council itself. The situation worsened in 2017, with only one council setting an outcome pertaining to improving representation of certain groups in the workforce, and none having an outcome particular to improving representation of BME groups.

To improve race equality – and therefore, democracy – within councils, consideration must be given to improving workforce representation for BME communities, and to making this a priority area for local authorities.

Why the contribution is important

The review of local governance aims to make democracy work better for everyone, and especially for those who feel left out. BME groups in Scotland have long felt disadvantaged, ignored, and left-behind in local governance. It would be remiss to consider improvements to local democracy without considering the race equality aspects.

by CRER_Scotland on November 26, 2018 at 02:49PM

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