Tackling racism in Scotland

19 May 2019

Photograph: Margaret Banford

Moving beyond the mere recognition of a problem

The conference on Tackling Scotland’s Racism Problem took place on 10 May 2019 as a joint venture between the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, and the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights.

It was organised in the wake of the publication of Neil Davidson’s book No Problem Here: Understand Racism in Scotland early in 2018.

The book itself looked at the myths surrounding Scotland – namely that, due to its current attitudes of openness and welcome to people from other countries, structural racism is not a problem.

The book charts the path Scotland took through the empire and beyond, to show that racism is a problem which has to be addressed.

The book – which was available for purchase at the conference – directly confronts the idea that racism is more of a problem in England than it is in Scotland.

The conference itself took place in the St. Andrew’s building at the University of Glasgow. The speakers were a mixture of academics and third sector workers, which gave attendees a wide range of perspectives and ideas to engage with.

It was billed as a direct follow-on from the book in that it is not enough to simply be aware of an issue. Things have to be done.

Video: Margaret Banford

The conference programme said: “Drawing on contributions from practitioners, academics and activists, the conference will address issues including what policies have and have not worked in the past, if existing legislation is currently being underused, and how racism impacts on education, in terms of both course content and the careers of students, teachers and lecturers.”

As well as several panels for people to hear the views of both academics and workers, there was a panel arranged that comprised speakers from several political parties, including Gillian Wilson from the Green Party, and Fulton MacGregor from the SNP.

This allowed the parties to address the issue of racism, both how they dealt with it within their own parties, and how they would approach legislating against it.

It also allowed conference attendees to ask their own questions about political responses to the questions raised.

One of the scheduled speakers, Omar Khan, was late and therefore unable to deliver his presentation at the conference.

As a result, the planned breakaway groups weren’t formed and the conference timetable had to be rearranged, meaning the remaining workshop took place before lunch instead of afterwards.

The conference began with an address from the University of Glasgow rector, Aamer Anwar. He started the conference off by noting that there had recently been some problems concerning the Orange Walks which still occur in Glasgow every year.

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