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Can all-white leaders send signals to young minority ethnic people that diversity is improved?

The John Smith centre is attempting to remove barriers to access in public life with half a million pounds of taxpayers’ money.

However laudable that sounds, the aim of risks being undermined by the centre’s leadership. Indeed, all eight people on the board are white and this might be a severe barrier for a group aiming to make a “meaningful difference”. Nonetheless, one of the board members is Kezia Dugdale, the former Scottish Labour leader, together with Ruth Davidson and former MSP Andrew Wilson, among others.

The new centre is named after former Labour leader John Smith. Image credit: Mirrorpix/Daily Record

Yet, no one should doubt their commitment to improving trust in politics and public service by taking on this initiative.

The project will help around 50 people through a professional and personal development programme, which includes mentoring and living wage placements in the public and charity sectors.

But can an all-white group of leaders send the right signals to young minority ethnic people that diversity is being improved?

It’s important to break down obstacles for young people, as the centre aims to do.

They need to look closer to home and sort out a distressing lack of representation at senior levels at the same time.

Image credit John Smith Centre

Meanwhile, ministers in Edinburgh are now calling for the lifeline scheme to be extended across the UK, as the Scottish Government estimates 61,000 jobs could be saved if the furlough scheme is extended for another eight months. The price tag is a hefty £850 million but, as a paper published yesterday concluded, it could “pay for itself”.

Christmas is going to be hard enough this year, with the threat of coronavirus placing a strain on the whole country. But for many of the families helped during the furlough period, the holiday season could be anything but festive.


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