Celebrating Black History Month

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A founding member of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Board and one of Scotland’s first black Police Officers says more has to be done to make Scotland’s emergency services “truly diverse”.

Robin Iffla has served Scotland’s communities for more than 40 years.

The son of a famous Jamaican cricketer who came to Scotland in 1951, Robin joined Central Scotland Police in 1978 – and was the only black person out of more than 1,100 recruits and staff.

Robin would go on to have a 27-year career in the Police Service, before joining the SFRS Board in 2012.

And while he believes that organisations have come a long way since the 70s, he says more still needs to be done to make sure that public services such as SFRS truly represent the communities they serve.

Robin has spoken of his own experiences to mark Black History Month. Launched on October 1 with the 2021 theme of ‘Proud to Be’, the campaign is calling on black and ethnic minority people across the world to share why they are proud to be who they are and celebrate their contributions to their communities and society.

He said: “There was a distinct feeling of being different. I had some very supportive colleagues but some not so much, and it could be challenging with members of the public.

“Today there are many more black and ethnic minority staff within SFRS and public organisations, but there’s still a way to go in terms of truly representing the diversity of people in Scotland.”

During his time on the SFRS Board, Robin became the Service’s diversity champion, and worked to build inclusivity, equality and fairness into the Service. He was also instrumental in bringing the Asian Fire Service Association conference to Scotland for the first time.

Robin’s father, Irvin Iffla, came to Scotland in 1951 on a one-year contract to play professional cricket – and never left. A decorated player, he has since been credited with reviving the fortunes of cricket in Scotland.

Robin was born in Stirling and started working with the Local Authority in 1974. When he joined Central Scotland Police in 1978, he was not only their first black police officer but their only black police officer for the next 21 years.

Robin is still heavily involved with Semper Scotland, an association that supports and represents all minority ethnic police officers and staff on issues of equality and race. He was the organisation’s first Chair and is currently their President.

Robin said: “There is more diversity within the population and in the workplace, yet some organisations need to do more to increase the diversity of their workforce. We are a multicultural country and with our demographics we should embrace diversity. 

“We are not only a multicultural but global society and people from all over the world chose to come here to live, visit, work and invest in Scotland.”

Speaking on what makes him ‘Proud to Be’, Robin said: “I’m proud to have been a part of the organisation that set the groundwork for the future of the SFRS. I am proud to be the son of a famous Jamaican cricketer who came here in 1951 and according to many transformed the sport.

“I’m proud to have served the public for more years than I can remember, to be a Deputy Lord Lieutenant for Stirling and Falkirk, to be someone who is trying to make a difference for equality, diversity and inclusion.

“I’m proud to be a husband and a parent to two great kids, and I’m proud to be a black Scotsman.”

Liz Barnes is the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Director of People and Organisational Development. 

She said: “Robin’s story is truly inspiring and as a founding member of our Board, his contribution and input into SFRS was invaluable. I am fully committed to championing fairness and inclusion, and we will continue to highlight what we are doing to increase the diversity of our workforce and how we can embed inclusivity in our employment practices and services.

“The theme for Black History Month this year allows us to really listen to those who have lived experience, both positive and negative, and learn from that to support our drive to be more inclusive.”

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