THE killing of George Floyd by police officers in the US last month has triggered a worldwide conversation about racism, its roots and its impacts.

More so than at any other time for a generation a moment has emerged in which the world is challenging a societal malignancy which exists here in Glasgow just as it does in Minneapolis.

In Scotland, that must mean confronting and addressing the under-representation of BME citizens across the public and private sectors, the fact that racial crime remains our most commonly reported hate crime, and the varied incidents of discrimination and prejudice that Black and Minority Ethnic people experience in their daily lives. The Black Lives Matter campaign reminds us that discrimination based on skin colour and ethnicity is all too alive in our country and that we mustn’t let up on the fight to eliminate it.

The physical representations and reminders of historic racism and discrimination have also come under the spotlight. Black Lives Matter has for several years highlighted the continued existence and meaning of statues and monuments to US Civil War Confederacy and the way in which the attitudes of the past continue to make themselves felt in the racial inequality of the present day. It’s inevitable that as the campaign goes global so too do these debates.

In Glasgow, recent years have seen a growing awareness and recognition of our past. The city has started to look in the mirror and begun to accept the role which the enforced transportation and enslavement of millions of Africans and generations of their descendants played in allowing Glasgow to flourish.

For the last couple of years, the Glasgow City Government has been talking to organisations like the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights about how we as a city should acknowledge and respond to our historical role in the slave economy, colonialism and Empire. Last year, we commissioned an academic study into that period of our history and its continuing legacy to this day. Once this study is complete we’ll begin a public conversation about our options for addressing its findings, a conversation in which the voices of our BAME residents must take centre stage.

That conversation will encompass street names, statues, public buildings, financial bequests, our museum collections and the school curriculum and it will seek ideas for a permanent memorial to the people whose slave labour built the city’s wealth. But, most importantly, it will seek to address the continuing impact of this historical legacy and to ensure we act to make Black Lives Matter in the present day.

When I launched this study last November, it was pioneering within the UK. Given the eruption of the debate around statues and memorials world-wide, our evidence-based approach and commitment to consult now marks us out on a much bigger stage. To quote one of Scotland’s leading human rights activists, Prof Sir Geoff Palmer – himself the descendent of Caribbean slaves – we cannot change the past but we can change the consequences of that past: we can change the future. Glasgow is taking a step in that direction.

And we mustn’t allow ourselves to be pulled off course by those who would seek to use the past to reinforce the inequalities of the present and exploit the Black Lives Matter campaign to impose their own narrow world views and entrenched agendas.

The scenes from George Square at the weekend were shameful. They were not about defending statues or the Cenotaph; they were simply a display of racism and thuggery which should have no place on our streets.

It’s clear from my email inbox that many people have had their eyes opened by the Black Lives Matters protests and are taking it upon themselves to learn more about Glasgow’s historical connections with the slave trade. They are shocked by what they’ve found and motivated to seek change. That’s real progress.

I firmly believe the vast majority of Glaswegians – even if they have not given much thought to these issues before – want to engage in this discussion with open minds and in good faith. The work the council is funding will allow just that to happen. It will uncover and establish the facts (and clear up some myths and half-truths) and consult on a plan to acknowledge and memorialise the victims of our history and address its continuing legacy.

Discrimination takes many forms. History is multi-dimensional and remains deeply relevant for many, but it’s one part of a bigger picture. The ultimate aim of Black Lives Matter is to make Black Lives Equal and, together, we should keep our eyes on that prize. We have an opportunity as a city to learn, to listen and to respond and others are watching us. Let’s make sure we don’t lose this moment for change.

  • TAKE a bow Marcus Rashford. This young man, one of the most successful UK sports stars of his generation, hasn’t forgotten his experiences of relying on free school meals, food banks and the generosity of others.

His compelling case for additional support to help feed children in England whilst schools remain closed has forced the hand of Boris’s Tory Government.

Tackling food poverty was one of the early pledges of the SNP City Government. In our first ever budget we set aside several million pounds to address this and since then have funded a highly successful community-based holiday food programme.

News then that the Scottish Government has awarded councils £12.6m to feed children over the summer months is timely and welcome. Our plan now in Glasgow is to combine that support with our clothing grant and give families a single cash payment of £190 per eligible child. With the Covid crisis also widening the inequalities gap in our city, it’s a relief to know children and families who need it will get the help they need to put food on the table this summer.