Scotland steps up efforts to support ethnic minority entrepreneurs
by Gemma Charles
New Start magazine
The Scottish Executive has renewed its efforts to encourage ethnic minority businesses after research revealed that government support is missing its target.
The executive has launched a national strategic group to help break down barriers faced by minority ethnic communities in the labour market.
The group, announced this week by communities minister Malcolm Chisholm, will consist of the Commission for Racial Equality, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and employers’ groups. It will aim to address the inequalities faced by ethnic minority entrepreneurs and examine difficulties that prevent all minority groups from realising their full potential in employment.
Rizwan Ahmed, project manager of the Glasgow-based Ethnic Minority Enterprise Centre, welcomed the move, saying that despite labour market shortages qualified ethnic minority people were still finding difficulties in finding work.
He added: ‘The Scottish Executive really should involve the grassroots organisations in this. We have seen various working groups before and nothing has come out of it.’
The group’s launch follows the release of the first study into minority ethnic businesses in Scotland. The research found that such businesses, which contribute between £500m and £700m to the Scottish economy, were either unaware of or reluctant to access targeted support.
Instead they were more likely than their white counterparts to draw on finance from family and friends when starting up and developing businesses.
The report found a ‘lack of awareness and, more important, basic knowledge of the level and type of services provided by mainstream agencies’. Micro credit and loan funds, which minority ethnic businesses could have used, had a very low take-up from these communities.
It called for initiatives to be developed to improve communication and engagement with minority businesses.
Richard Bent, co-director of the Scottish Centre for Enterprise and Ethnic Business Research, said the report was ‘positive’ and urged the Scottish Executive to focus on reaching out to minority-led businesses. ‘The real trick is to come up with solutions that engage people,’ he commented.
Minority ethnic enterprise in Scotland: A national scoping study, www.scotland.gov.uk