- 04 June 2020
By Bob Doris MSP
Several constituents have contacted me regarding the appalling circumstances surrounding the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota on 25 May. I share the alarm and disgust of constituents at his death, as well as disgust at subsequent comments by US President Donald Trump who - not for the first time - has cynically turned up his rhetoric feeding institutional racism in the United States. I have been urged to unreservedly condemn the murder and the comments of Donald Trump. I absolutely do so.
I have also signed two parliamentary motions on this matter and I have included copies of these at the end of this email. Furthermore I have sought to highlight and support the excellent Crowd Funder launched by Matt Crilly to actively support and provide solidarity to student protestors in Maryland. A link to that Crowd Funder can be found at https://gf.me/u/x6h25x
Some constituents have asked about race relations in Scotland and the UK and they are absolutely right to do so. Just because the sheer scale of the problem in the USA does not present itself in Scotland, there is no case for claims that racism does not exist here or meeting the issue with complacency. For example, I will be closely following the progress of the Public Inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh, the details of which are available at https://www.gov.scot/news/inquiry-into-the-death-of-sheku-bayoh/
Some constituents have also asked me what role I have played politically or locally to break down barriers and challenge racism. With the support of the former Glasgow Anti-Racist Alliance, now renamed the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights CRER), I established Scotland’s first ever cross-party group on Racial Equality within the Scottish Parliament. I served as the group’s convener for a number of years. Today the convener is Fulton MacGregor MSP.
I also engage regularly with community groups led by BAME people within the constituency I am proud to represent. These include Glasgow Afghan United, African Challenge Scotland, the Maryhill Integration Network and the Glasgow Chinese Culture & Welfare Association. I would like to stress that my work with these groups has been meaningful, ongoing and not tokenistic. I would also stress that the vast majority of my engagement with BAME constituents is with individuals and families who directly contact me during my day to day work across the Maryhill and Springburn constituency.
A number of constituents have also asked more specific questions, including about arms sales to the United States and the tragic death of Belly Mujinga. I have responded to these separately further down this page. My apologies, therefore, for the extended length of this message but I believe it is important to provide a comprehensive response.
I want to thank you for taking the time to raise this critical issue with me. I am grateful to you and every constituent who has written to me on this matter and would like to take this opportunity to stress that I always want to listen to constituents, particularly those from BAME backgrounds, on issues of racism and discrimination. I will always want to constituents’ experiences on this topic. If you are a constituent and you wish to raise any further issues with me on this or any other matter, please let me know and I will always do what I can to help. You can get in touch at http://bob-doris.scot/contact
I hope you and those around you are staying safe and well.
Scottish Parliament Motions
Motion Number: S5M-21893
Lodged By: James Dornan
Date Lodged: 02/06/2020
Title: Black Lives Matter - Condemning President Trump's Recent Tweets
Motion Text: That the Parliament condemns in the strongest possible terms what it sees as President Trump's hateful, cavalier and alarmingly racist comments about the protesters who have taken to the streets after the reported murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 25 May 2020; believes that George Floyd's death has once again demonstrated disturbing levels of police brutality towards the African American community and has acted as a catalyst for protests demanding justice both across the US and the wider world; considers that African Americans continue to live in a climate of potential violence at the hands of US law enforcement personnel, with recent studies suggesting that around 100 African American men per 100,000 are at risk of being killed by the police, more than double the risk relative to their white counterparts, and strongly believes that Black Lives Matter.
Motion Number: S5M-21894
Lodged By: Fulton MacGregor
Date Lodged: 02/06/2020
Title: Death of George Floyd
Motion Text: That the Parliament is shocked and appalled at what it considers the abhorrent death of the American, George Floyd, at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis; believes that this incident is symptomatic of ongoing prejudices faced by black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities; notes that the actions of the police officers involved have resulted in mass protest and civil unrest throughout the US at the time of the COVID-19 global pandemic, to which people from BAME backgrounds are often already exposed to the worst of the health and economic consequences; further notes that demonstrations have taken place in cities all over the world with the powerful message that #BlackLivesMatter, and reaffirms its position that there is no place for racism in Scotland or anywhere else.
Specific Questions raised by some constituents
The UK should immediately suspend the sales of teargas, riot shields and rubber bullets to the US. They are being used to terrorise citizens and we are complicit.
Under the current arms export control regime, the UK government must not grant licences for the export of arms and equipment that might be used for internal repression. The UK must never act as an enabler for such abuses and the SNP will press the UK government to investigate whether UK-made arms and defence equipment have been used for internal repression in the United States and, if so, to take immediate action and end them.
On the 3rd June 2020 Ian Blackford, the leader of the SNP Westminster Group, raised this issue with Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions, noting that “the UK exports millions of pounds worth of riot control equipment to the US, including tear gas and rubber bullets” and called for the UK Government to urgently review such exports.
The First Minister has also http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=12671&i=114637&c=2259268#ScotParlOR">said she “will make appropriate representations to the UK Government” to ensure that this matter is urgently addressed.
The BAME report into excess COVID-19 deaths has shown that a disproportionately high number of BAME people have been exposed to and suffered from coronavirus compared with white people. There must be action and change to rectify this failure and ensure everyone is protected from the virus.
I agree. The SNP is taking concrete action in Government to advance race equality, tackle racism and address the barriers that prevent people from BAME backgrounds from realising their potential.
Before I provide further information I would like to stress that Scotland’s First Minister has again http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=12671&i=114637&c=2259268#ScotParlOR">pledged (3/6/20) to redouble the Scottish Government’s efforts to do all we can:
“Public Health Scotland released some initial analysis of the impact of Covid — two weeks ago today, on 20 May, if I am getting my dates correct — in which it said that it had undertaken an initial analysis “to investigate whether COVID-19 outcomes vary by ethnic group”. It said in that report that “further work is required” and that, based on the available data to date, “the proportion of ethnic minority patients among those seriously ill with COVID-19 appears no higher than the proportion in the Scottish population generally,” but it caveated that by saying that “further work is required.” Further work will be done, and, “in parallel, work will be undertaken to explore and understand emerging patterns” from other parts of the UK. That is work that we take very seriously, and I know that Public Health Scotland will be keen to understand it and report its understanding as quickly as possible.”
I also note that in March 2016, the Scottish Government published the Race Equality Framework for Scotland. The Framework sets out how the Scottish Government aims to progress this ambition over a fifteen year period from 2016 to 2030. The Scottish Government have appointed a Race Framework Adviser, Kaliani Lyle, to advance race equality and tackle racism. She will provide strategic independent expertise, insight and advice to the Scottish Government in taking forward the actions in the Framework.
The Race Equality Action Plan Programme Board met last month to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on Scotland’s BAME communities, which cuts across all portfolio areas and requires co-ordinated action. They will play an active role in overseeing and supporting cross-portfolio activity to inform and support the work.
The Scottish Government are putting equality and human rights at the heart of their response to Covid-19 and have acted to provide support to those groups and communities that need it most from its £350 million community support fund. This has included over £2.3 million to support increased helpline / online support for a range of groups, including BAME young people, and £100,000 to support older people from BAME backgrounds to get support with hot meals, grocery deliveries and regular telephone check-ins.
The investigation into the death of Belly Mujinga needs to be reopened and action MUST be taken. Her death was preventable, and her family will suffer her loss for a lifetime. They need justice.
My thoughts are with Belly Mujinga’s family at this tragic time and I would like to express my sincerest condolences to the family and friends of frontline workers who have died as a result of Covid-19.
Responsibility for both transport and criminal justice matters in Scotland rests with the Scottish Parliament. Belly died in England, where both of these key political issues are dealt with by the UK Parliament so my power to intervene in this case is very limited. However, I am clear that spitting or coughing at frontline workers, or indeed anyone else, is a deplorable act and any person who commits such an act must be dealt with robustly. Scotland’s justice system provides for protection for all workers under our robust laws on assault, threatening and abusive behaviour and breach of the peace. It is also worth noting that the Scottish Government are in ongoing discussions with the transport sector and trades unions on safety measures to ensure Transport Workers can work with confidence and in safe environments.
There needs to be further investigation into the death of Sheku Bayoh, who died in police custody here in Scotland. We cannot look on in horror when these issues occur under our own noses.
The Scottish Government recently announced the terms of reference for the independent public inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh. Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf MSP has said that the statutory public inquiry will examine the circumstances leading up to the death of Mr Bayoh, the post incident management process and subsequent investigation into his death. The inquiry will also establish the extent to which Mr Bayoh’s actual or perceived race played a part in events.
Mr Yousaf said: “When I announced in November that a public inquiry was to be held, I said then that it is imperative that the circumstances leading up to Mr Bayoh’s death and the events that followed are examined in full and in public. I am pleased that today brings us a further step closer to that.”
The COVID-19 pandemic, including lockdown restrictions, has had an impact on the ability to take forward aspects of work for the public inquiry as resources have had to be focused on essential coronavirus priorities. Progress in certain areas, such as work to identify premises, will be affected by the current restrictions; the Scottish Government will continue engage on these matters with Lord Bracadale and the Justice Secretary will provide further updates in due course, including the appointment of assessors and confirmation of the setting-up date.
We need to publicly denounce Trump, on an individual level and as a country as a whole. Nicola Sturgeon’s support of Black Lives Matter was a great start, but the UK government need to be pressured to do the same and to challenge Trump on his declaration of war on the US people.
I absolutely agree. On the 2nd June 2020, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon expressed her “total solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement” and said “we need to find ways of allowing people to make their voices heard and to make the points that many of us want to be made and to be heard right now but to do so in a way that is safe and is not putting people protesting or wider communities at risk.”
On the 3rd June 2020 Ian Blackford, the leader of the SNP Westminster Group, raised this issue with Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions, noting that “in the seven days since George Floyd was murdered, the UK Government has not offered words or support or a recognition of the pain caused, but has instead shuttered itself away in the hope that no-one would notice.”