I REMEMBER shortly after the 1997 election my dad took me to the annual Pakistan Welfare Trust Dinner held in Renfrewshire’s Normandy Hotel, and Mohammed Sarwar, just recently elected as the UK’s first Muslim MP, was the Chief Guest that year.

The moment he walked in and was introduced, the room erupted – pure, unbridled euphoria.

It didn’t matter what political party you supported, as a community, there was palpable feeling that things had changed for ethnic minorities and their participation in politics. Sadly, over the past 20 years, we have made little more than a few more cracks, as opposed to smashing the proverbial glass ceiling.

I am proud of the achievements the SNP have made over the last two decades. The election of the late Bashir Ahmad as Scotland’s first ethnic minority MSP in 2007 was a moment that will live in the hearts of our community forever. The election of Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh as Scotland’s first non-white female MP another important milestone. I am delighted to have also played a small part in our history as the first ethnic minority to win a constituency seat in the Scottish Parliament and subsequently appointed as the first ethnic minority to Government and Cabinet. However, let me be equally clear, as proud as I am of our party’s achievements, we must go further.

The Scottish Parliament is woefully unrepresentative of Scotland’s diverse communities. In two decades of devolution, across all parties, the Scottish Parliament has had only four non-white MSPs. And even amongst those four there is painfully little diversity – all four are male, all four from Glasgow, all have ancestral links to the Asian cub-continent and even within the sub-continent we all hail from the Punjab. It is frankly a stain on our country’s conscience that we have never elected a woman of colour to our nation’s Parliament, and every party, including my own, needs to take a long hard look at ourselves.

It is not good enough to simply say that we have had trailblazers in the past, that simply does not wash with our minority communities.

With almost all candidates from the SNP selected for a snap General Election, it saddens me to say that there is not one ethnic minority amongst them – that is not good enough.

I am tired of just talking about encouraging more diverse candidates to come forward. There has to be a forensic examination of our processes as a party to ensure there are no structural barriers in the way for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people, particularly women, who want to participate in the front line of our politics.

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This is a problem that every political party must face up to, the fact that the Conservatives, LibDems and Greens have never had a single BAME MSP elected in the history of the Scottish Parliament is a terrible indictment. However, I have a responsibility to ensure

the party I belong to, and love, is doing all it can to be a truly multicultural movement.

This week, at SNP Conference, we have the chance to make some real and radical change so that we play our part in making our national Parliament truly representative of the people it serves.

I will be seconding a motion on Monday, supported by Young Scots for Independence, that calls on the party’s NEC to explore what measures can be put in place to ensure we have a more diverse pool of candidates come the next Scottish Parliament elections.

As a party we have always been willing to learn and to grow, we must continue on the journey of making our Party, movement and Parliament representative of those we seek to serve. The time for talking about more diversity in our politics is over, we need deeds, not words. I hope conference backs our motion.