Holyrood set to welcome first Muslim/ BAME woman MSP

27th Nov 2020
Holyrood set to welcome first Muslim/ BAME woman MSP

(Photo courtesy of Kaukab Stewart)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Holyrood is expected to usher in its first female Muslim/BAME Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP) in six months. Kaukab Stewart, who is of Pakistani descent, won the SNP selection contest for Glasgow Kelvin on November 6.

Stewart, a Glasgow-based teacher and current co-convener of the SNP BAME Network, is set to succeed outgoing MSP Sandra White who has held the seat since 2011; Stewart is all but guaranteed to make election history on May 6, 2021.

Speaking to The Muslim News, Stewart, said while being the first BAME woman MSP “would be an achievement” there is “still have some way to go to ensure that our parliament is truly reflective of our nation.”

Stewart became the first BAME woman to stand as a candidate in the first Scottish Parliament elections back in 1999 said, “I have been a teacher for nearly 30 years now and am acutely aware of the barriers faced by young people in realising their ambitions. I will make a substantial contribution to breaking down barriers, tackling bigotry, including Islamophobia and promoting race equality.”

As of the latest figures, minority ethnic groups represented 4 per cent of the Scottish population. With only two MSPs from ethnic minority backgrounds (1.5 per cent of parliament), there is still further to go to represent these interests.

In a statement to The Muslim News, a spokesman for the SNP said, “We made sure, wherever possible, that party members had the opportunity to consider candidates from diverse backgrounds. More people from BAME backgrounds entered contests than ever before.

And now there is a great opportunity for the first woman of colour to be elected to the Scottish Parliament, this represents progress, but we accept and there is more work to be done.”

Adding, “As the SNP lead the campaign for independence it is vital that we apply the same values of fairness and equality in our processes as we aim to have across all institutions and public life in a future in Scotland.”

The current tally BAME parliamentarians in Holyrood is set to increase by one if as expected Stewart and current Justice Minister Humza Yousaf (Glasgow Pollok MSP) win their elections along with Labour’s Anas Sarwar.

In September, 26 MSPs (a fifth of parliament) confirmed they will not seek re-election, the elections are seen as an opportunity to make the parliament more diverse and inclusive. To date, just six BAME people have ever been elected in Scotland to either Westminster or Holyrood, with Sarwar and his father Mohammad Sarwar and SNP’s Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh the only BAME MPs.

Along with Sarwar, the MSPs from ethnic minorities have been Hanzala Malik, Yousaf and the late SNP MSP Bashir Ahmad – all of them men of Scots-Pakistani heritage.

Earlier this year, Yousaf, branded the record of “no black MSP ever, no female BAME MSP ever” as “frankly a failure of all of us, regardless of party”.

The SNP’s selection contest saw 22 BAME candidates participating — the highest number to date, however, all but Kaukab failed to make the 73 constituency candidate list.

Michelle Campbell, who is biracial of East African descent, drew with fellow Renfrewshire councillor Natalie Don in a vote to determine who replaces controversial MSP Derek Mackay as SNP candidate for Renfrewshire North and West.

On November 23, members of the local branch will have a second ballot to decide who will stand next year at the Holyrood elections.

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