David Linden – 2022 Speech on Black Maternal Health Awareness Week

The speech made by David Linden, the SNP MP for Glasgow East, in Westminster Hall on 2 November 2022.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Streatham (Bell Ribeiro-Addy) on securing the debate and on opening it so well.

I was not due to speak in this debate on behalf of the Scottish National party; it was supposed to be my constituency neighbour and hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East (Anne McLaughlin), who has sadly been incapacitated and remains in Glasgow. I hope that those present will bear with me.

I speak primarily from my position as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on premature and sick babies, because our APPG has looked into the issue of racial disparities in maternal healthcare, as well as inequalities more generally in maternal healthcare and neonatal services. These topics merit more attention from the Government. As hon. Members have said, there have been numerous debates, questions, early-day motions and all those kinds of things on this topic. The benchmark for whether the Government are getting this right is whether we will be back in this Chamber in 10 or 15 years’ time to have the same conversation. I certainly hope we will not.

The Birthrights report, “Systemic racism, not broken bodies”, outlines the systematic racism in maternity services. That report confirms the devastating fact that black, Asian and mixed-ethnicity women are more likely to experience baby loss and illness, or to become seriously ill, and have worse experiences of care during pregnancy and throughout childbirth. I want to advocate for the report’s conclusion, which calls for a commitment to anti-racism by all maternity and neonatal services, and a commitment to ensuring that there are more black and brown women and birthing people decision makers in the wider maternity system. We have to look at the ticking time bomb in the neonatal and maternity workforce; that absolutely has to be in the mix. The report also calls for a safe and inclusive maternity and birthing experience for all parents, which I think we would all want to get behind.

Healthcare is devolved in Scotland, which is largely why I do not want to impose too much in this debate. However, the SNP Scottish Government believe that there needs to be an open and honest conversation about race and institutional racism right across these islands—Scotland is not immune—in order to identify solutions that will lead to equality and positive outcomes for black and minority ethnic communities. Members have asked a number of questions of the Government; for the sake of brevity, and so as not to repeat what has been said, I will just say that I would like to hear the Minister respond to those, particularly the seven points made by the hon. Member for Putney (Fleur Anderson).

I am very grateful to the hon. Member for Streatham for securing this debate and giving us an opportunity to focus on this issue. Most importantly, I am looking forward to hearing what the Government have to say, and to seeing what best practice can be rolled out in Scotland, because no part of these islands have a monopoly of wisdom or ideas.