Race and Ethnicity

Group of people from different backgrounds

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According to the EHRC, the protected characteristic of ‘race’ refers to a group of people defined by their race, colour, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origins. The term ‘country of origin’ is more often used in the public sector in Scotland rather than ‘national origins’. 

Ethnicity refers to the social group that a person belongs to or is perceived to belong to, as a result of a mix of cultural and other factors including language, diet, religion, ancestry and physical features traditionally associated with race (Bhopal, 2007).

A refugee is a person who has been granted leave to stay in the UK under the Refugee Convention and an asylum seeker is someone whose application for protection to the UK Government is pending (Gordon et al, 2010).

Some of the most vulnerable groups in the UK in recent years are refugees, asylum seekers and Gypsies/Travellers. Gypsies/Travellers are recognised ethnic groups and protected by the Equality Act. 

The Scottish Government has published a series of Equality Evidence Reviews to inform the development of the public sector’s equality outcomes. The reviews explore available evidence about the scale and severity of issues faced by people with protected characteristics, including ethnicity.


The Scottish Government Equality Evidence finder includes information on:

The Scottish Public Health Observatory website includes information on the health of ethnic minorities in Scotland.

The Census Data Explorer gives access to aggregated and anonymised results from census releases. The information is taken from the Scottish 2011 Census questionnaire and includes information on ethnicity, identity, language and religion.


The Christie Commission Report, the NHS Healthcare Quality Strategy, and Equally Well are all relevant to this population group. For further information, visit our policy page.


The Equality Act 2010 came into force in October 2010 and provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all. There are nine protected characteristics under the Act, one of which is race/ethnicity. For more information, visit our Equality Act page.


Updated July 2015

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