Sarwar ‘blown away’ by Police Scotland chief’s admission on culture within force

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has said he was “blown away” by the admission from Police Scotland’s chief constable that the force is institutionally racist and discriminatory.

Speaking to the PA news agency on Friday as he campaigned with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in Rutherglen, Mr Sarwar said the statement must be the first step towards change.

Addressing a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) on Thursday, Sir Iain Livingstone said: “It is right for me, the right thing for me to do as chief constable, to clearly state that institutional racism, sexism, misogyny and discrimination exist.

Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar
Mr Sarwar, left, was campaigning with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, centre, on Friday (Robert Perry/PA)

“Police Scotland is institutionally racist and discriminatory.”

Responding to the statement, Mr Sarwar said: “It blew me away actually, to be honest, because I didn’t expect him to make that statement.

“The reason why I say that is I’ve campaigned on racism and prejudice and hate for a number of years, as have many other colleagues from across different political parties, and actually to hear that very bold intervention from the chief constable, I think is a game-changer for us in Scotland.

“But it’s only going to deliver change if people action upon those words he said.”

Asked what action he would like to see, Mr Sarwar said the first step was the “realisation of the problem” – which he added Sir Iain had done on Thursday.

Sir Iain Livingstone
Chief constable Sir Iain Livingstone has admitted Police Scotland is ‘institutionally racist and discriminatory’ (PA)

Mr Sarwar went on: “Secondly, it’s empowering and resourcing individuals, that means those within the police who face discrimination, to have the confidence to speak over the discrimination they face.”

He also urged officers to “build a partnership” between communities and the police service.

“Policing only works by consent, it only works if you’re seen as partners with communities rather than opponents of communities,” he said.

Sir Keir, who previously served as director of public prosecutions south of the border and worked closely with the police during that time, said Sir Iain’s comments were “significant”.

Speaking in Rutherglen on Friday, Sir Keir said: “I think it’s a good thing that we can now have an open discussion about the structural issues that underpin what was said yesterday.

“Responsibility lies with the Scottish Parliament in relation to oversight, and I think there are now questions for them as to why it’s got to this stage and why this wasn’t dealt with earlier on.”

Oversight of Police Scotland is largely undertaken by the SPA, although some input comes from ministers, Parliament and other bodies.