Welcome to a pioneering project which begins here in Leith but – with luck – will spread much further.
Leith Open Space Group is launching this new community website with news of the Opening Doors shadow scheme. Our aim is to encourage greater ethnic minority representation in both local and national government. But at the same time the scheme will also enable our politicians to gain new insight into the communities they represent.
Welcoming pioneers at New Kirkgate Centre on 5 October
Malcolm Chisholm, Minister for Communities, welcomed the chance for two-way communication when he met the six shadows who are helping to launch what we think is the first scheme of its kind in Scotland. “I feel I have learned a lot already just by meeting you this afternoon. I am doubly lucky as I will benefit both as MSP and in my role as Minister for Communities,” said Malcolm as we sat round the table in the New Kirkgate Centre on Thursday, 5 October.The shadow scheme is a direct response to our two multicultural Open Space events in Leith in November 2005 and May 2006. At both events people asked how we can overcome obstacles that prevent ethnic minority communities taking a more active part in politics.
We’ve got a lot to learn. Although 2% of Scotland’s population are from minority ethnic groups there is no such representation in the Scottish Parliament. Opening Doors is based on schemes run by Operation Black Vote in Bristol and Westminster which has been successful in encouraging ethnic minority candidates to stand for election.
Subash Punn, Mark Lazarowicz MP and Kasia Raszewska
Our four-month project – running from October to January – will provide a glimpse of the political process in debates and day to day issues in the constituency. For at least two shadows, that will mean a trip to London to see our MP Mark Lazarowicz in action at the House of Commons as well as sitting in on surgery sessions and attending public meetings. For others there will be a chance to see behind the scenes at City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Parliament – as well as observing the real grass roots democracy of community councils.
So warm thanks to Asha, Celina, Doris, Kasia, Shaheena and Subash for opening the door and to the politicians they will shadow. Joining Mark Lazarowicz and Malcolm Chisholm in the scheme are local Councillors Phil Attridge, Trevor Davies, Dougie Kerr and Gordon Munro.
Following the example set by Operation Black Vote, both politicians and their ‘shadows’ will be invited to keep a diary recording what they learn from the experience (click here to read the OBV journal of the week). Extracts can be posted on this website so you can follow their progress and, if you like, take part in discussion about topics raised during the project.