Working Group Remit
1. To explore new ways of working with others and enable the Working Group to play a key role in addressing current and future health and wellbeing issues affecting communities.
2. To provide leadership, facilitate productive conversations and access to educational resources within local communities around significant health and wellbeing challenges.
3. To provide a platform to enable local communities better communicate their health and wellbeing needs and priorities.
4. To influence the wider health and wellbeing agenda in Scotland.
Tackling Health Inequalities in Scotland, January 2016
YAS welcomed guest speaker Dr Kat Smith, Reader, Global Public Health Unit at the University of Edinburgh, as part of a collective discussion aimed at exploring possible approaches towards tackling HI in Scotland. The session aimed to harness the collective expertise of YAS members, RSE Fellows and other key stakeholders in order to help provide a steer and focus, and help inform future direction of travel.
Dr Smith presented her work, which examines how academic research on HI affects policy and practice in Scotland and England. Her research considers the recent historical context surrounding the issue of HI as part of the Labour Agenda, and the current government’s policies.
There is a consensus in academia that while there is a lot of policy activity around Health Inequalities, but very little progress has been made. There is also agreement on the types of policies that effectively address the root causes of HI. However, policies that address these issues are not often advocated by organisations. Instead, “downstream” policies that address the results of health inequalities are often advocated and introduced; these policies often address behaviours such as smoking, drinking, and poor diet. Because of past failures to significantly alter HI, there is a sense of “political embarrassment” surrounding the issue that makes it difficult to meaningfully address.
This was a highly informative background on the topic. And following group discussion, the event closed with a commitment from the working group to host another event later in 2016, which would help YAS determine priority HI areas of focus in future.
Addressing Hate & Violence, July 2013, Edinburgh: Report here.
A workshop event took place on 8th July 2013, bringing together over 50 stakeholders comprising community activists, representatives from Police Scotland, central and local government, academia as well as members of faith, gender, sexual orientation and race groups. Co-coordinated by working group members Asif Ishaq and Jeffrey Murer, the event has a particular focus on societal wellbeing. Delegates discussed their experience of the challenges facing Scotland’s diverse communities and explored possible approaches to build stronger communities.
The workshop brought together representatives of communities who had not met before, but connected those often regarded as in-tension or conflict. This workshop was an introduction to subsequent planned events by the RSE YAS in conjunction with key partners and stakeholders.
Future events will seek to involve marginalised communities in the hope that it will encourage constructive dialogue and lead to greater tolerance and acceptance among diverse communities.
The Scottish Approach to Comm-unity, March 2015, Edinburgh
The working group hosted a workshop at the Royal Scots Club on 2 March 2015, which brought together representatives of the Muslim Council of Scotland, the Church of Scotland, Police Scotland including the Scottish Muslim Police Association, Scottish Government, the Young Academy of Scotland, and a number of local NGOs and researchers from the Universities of St Andrews, Strathclyde, and Glasgow Caledonian. 22 people participated in the day-long event which focused on community engagement, cross-community tensions, and hate crime in Scotland.
Much of the discussion reflected on perceptions of radicalization, especially in light of the attacks in Paris on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. This led to further discussions on the politicization of speech, including questions as to whom has free speech and what are the responsibilities of the press in reporting conflict.
A member of the Muslim Council of Scotland said: “Imams are afraid of speaking out because they don’t want their words to be picked up and used in narratives out of context. But then they are accused of not speaking out. We need to address questions of care not to destroy someone’s language, otherwise we end up with no speech.”
A representative a Muslim youth organization from Glasgow further added on the topic of radicalization: “Young people feel really uncomfortable with the word “moderate”. Many prefer more emotional and energized voices. Many feel apologetic about being Muslim, rather than seeing this as a strength. This is the current problem in the Muslim community: how to turn cultural tradition into pride rather than humility. But the worry of “radicalization” makes that very difficult.
A representative of a different local NGO stated that a recent survey in the UK suggested that nearly 60% of British people believe that Islam is incompatible with values of the West. She asked, “how are we supposed to be members of the community, how are we supposed to contribute, when we are seen as not fitting in before we do anything at all?” This raised further questions as to how the police and Scottish Government interact with the various Muslim communities in Scotland to reinforce their belonging.
The workshop had both sessions of all participants and break-out sessions in which it was possible to have more engaged and intimate conversations. These sessions raised questions as to the role of the media in both improving community relations and being held to account when they sensationalize stories and inflame community tensions.
The workshop closed with a discussion of where to go in the future. It was noted that members of the business community and the private sector should be invited to future events. There was a focus on how does the police address these concerns if there is little diversity of understanding of the Muslim experience in Scotland. While the meeting and the participants were upbeat, a concern permeated the workshop. It appears that Scotland is more inviting to Muslims than England, as expressed by many of the participants; nevertheless, there was worry that things could easily turn worse. Scotland still needs to work very hard to incorporate all of its communities into a rich and varied whole. This was the desire of all of the workshop participants.