The Liberal Democrats have not been good enough when it comes to selecting candidates from Scotland’s ethnic communities, Willie Rennie has conceded.
The party has no candidates from a black or minority ethnic background standing for election in winnable seats on May 6.
Mr Rennie said his party has made progress in boosting the number of women candidates, after he was left feeling “utterly embarrassed” in 2016 when the five Lib Dem MSPs elected were all white men.
Since then, Mr Rennie said he has been seeking to change the Liberal Democrat candidate selection process in a bid to ensure greater diversity.
Boosting the number of candidates from an ethnic minority background will be his “next battle”, he added.
He said: “I am absolutely determined to deliver it as well, because it is just not good enough.”
His comments came as he was challenged on diversity in politics as he appeared on BBC Radio Scotland’s Call Kaye phone-in programme on Thursday.
Mr Rennie said: “At the last election in 2016 we elected five MSPs who were all white, middle-aged men, like me. And I was utterly embarrassed by that.
“I set about persuading my party to change the selection process, so this time round, as the starter, we have far greater diversity on gender, so there are top women in all the winnable positions, therefore we will have a much more diverse (group) in terms of gender.”
The Liberal Democrats do have candidates from minority backgrounds standing this year, but Mr Rennie said “in terms of winnable positions, to be frank, we don’t” .
He vowed: “That is my next challenge. We have not made that progress yet, we have made the progress in terms of diversity on gender, and I want to go further.
“We have been working actively in the BAME community to encourage good candidates to come forward and I am always on the hunt for good people to be able to stand.
“And it is my next mission to make sure we have greater diversity in terms of ethnic diversity in the top positions for the next elections.
“We have not overcome this challenge yet, and I am absolutely dedicated, I have been working with the community for years now and I want to make further progress on this.”
He insisted more work is required “to ensure that there is a smoother path for people from all backgrounds to be able to access the top positions in politics”.
Since being established in 1999, the Scottish Parliament has had just four MSPs elected from a minority background, all of whom have been male.
The SNP’s Humza Yousaf became the first person from the black, Asian or minority ethnic community to sit in the Scottish Cabinet when he was appointed Justice Secretary.
New Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar is the first person from a minority background to become a party leader in the UK.
Mr Sarwar also discussed minority representation during a briefing with journalists on Thursday.
He said all political parties, as well as the civil service and the media, need to work harder to be more reflective of society.
Mr Sarwar said: “I’m very proud to be the first ever person from a minority background to lead a political party in Scotland but that doesn’t mean the fight for equality is over, far from it.”