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Tuesday, 4 September, 2001, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Race relations in the spotlight
Scottish Parliament chamber
The Scottish Parliament will debate the race issue
Efforts to improve race relations will be on the agenda in the Scottish Parliament next week, it has been confirmed.

The equal opportunities committee has issued an invitation for all those with an interest in the issue to gather at Holyrood to discuss the way ahead.

The finishing touches to the preparations for the event to mark 25 years of the Race Relations Act were made on Tuesday as the parliament returned from its summer recess.

Asylum seekers protest
Asylum seekers have faced problems in Sighthill
Committee convenor Kate MacLean said the summer of discontent in Glasgow had highlighted the fact that Scotland still has a racial problem to solve.

The civic participation event will be held on 14 September.

Ms MacLean said the gathering was organised after MSPs were approached by the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE).

"While our committee will be proud to help celebrate this important occasion, we also want to play a meaningful role in helping shape the next 25 years under the amended Act," she said.

The new Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, which includes a general duty on public bodies to promote race equality, was introduced in April.

It is important that in the light of recent events, we take the opportunity to assess progress on racial equality and debate the way forward

Dharmendra Kanani, CRE
The Holyrood event is being billed as an opportunity for ethnic minority communities to discuss the impact of the Act and suggest further ways to improve race relations.

Dharmendra Kanani, the head of the CRE in Scotland, said it was appropriate to commemorate the Race Relations Act in the same year "which sees the introduction of the most significant extension of that legislation".

"It is also important that in the light of recent events, we take the opportunity to assess progress on racial equality and debate the way forward," he said.

He said this was particularly important because Scottish institutions would have "a major role to play" in implementing the new duties under the 2000 Act.

Kate McLean
Kate McLean chairs the committee
"It is significant the parliament, where there is an issue about lack of ethnic minority representation, should take the lead in commemorating the Race Relations Act," he said.

"With this event, the parliament is demonstrating a commitment to progress on equality which we hope will provide the impetus for driving racial equality forward across Scotland."

Last month, demonstrations followed the death of the Kurdish asylum seeker, Firsat Dag, in the Sighthill area of Glasgow.

Scotland's Justice Minister Jim Wallace met residents and asylum seekers to hear their respective concerns.

He said that there could be no excuse for the physical and verbal abuse that some asylum seekers had suffered since arriving in the country.

See also:

28 Aug 01 | Scotland
Wallace told 'Sighthill needs help'
13 Aug 01 | Scotland
City appoints asylum row mediator
10 Aug 01 | Scotland
UN condemns asylum seeker attacks
10 Aug 01 | Scotland
More asylum seekers flee city
08 Aug 01 | Scotland
Stabbed asylum seeker's anger
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