Scottish Government to examine possible ‘Rooney Rule’ to boost civil service diversity

Written by Richard Johnstone on 22 February 2019 in News

First minister Nicola Sturgeon says she “is absolutely determined to increase the number of people from ethnic minorities who work in the organisation”

Photo: David Anderson

Scottish Government permanent secretary Leslie Evans is set to consider the introduction of a new rule that will require at least one person from an ethnic minority background to be interviewed for every civil service job.

In first minister’s questions yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon was asked about taking steps to improve the diversity of staff in the Scottish Government.

Labour MSP Anas Sarwar told Sturgeon that minority communities were “chronically underrepresented in the civil service and public sector bodies”, highlighting research showing only 1.8% of civil servants were from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic background and only in 10 people in the most senior posts were from a BAME background.


He called on Sturgeon to ask the Scottish Government to undertake “a full and regular audit” of the diversity of both the civil service and Scotland’s wider public sector?

He asked: “Will she support the implementation of the Rooney rule, which means that at least one person with an ethnic minority background is shortlisted when a vacancy arises?”

The Rooney Rule was first introduced in the NFL American football league in 2002. Named after Dan Rooney, the former owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and former chairman of the league's diversity committee, it requires league teams to interview ethnic minority candidates for head coaching and senior operation jobs.

Its use has since be adopted by other organisations as part of a drive to improve diversity, including social media companies Pinterest and Facebook.

Replying to Sarwar, Sturgeon said she would ask Evans to consider Sarwar's proposal. “I will be happy to write to him, or I will ask the permanent secretary to write to him, on how we will take forward those specific points”.

She said that the Scottish Government was “absolutely determined to increase the number of people from ethnic minorities who work in the organisation”.

She added: “They are underrepresented in the Scottish Government at the moment, as will be the case for many organisations and employers. Just as it is important that we redress the imbalance in gender, it is vital that we redress the imbalance that affects people from ethnic minorities.

"As an employer, the Scottish Government is absolutely committed to doing so and to encouraging other employers to take similar action.”

About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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