Friday, 28 November 2014

Our Future Free from Racism

It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be able to share some of my thoughts with you so early in my tenure as First Minister.

Scotland has just lived through the most extraordinary flowering of democracy and political engagement any of us have seen in our lifetime.

The referendum campaign was an empowering, energising phenomenon which saw the revival of the town hall meeting and which took political debate into every home, workplace and community across Scotland.

And it proved that – despite the cynicism about politics which so often prevails nowadays – people can, and do, become politically engaged when faced with issues which really matter to them.

The Yes campaign which I was proud to play my part in may not have prevailed – but that huge political engagement has continued, not least with the massive surge in SNP membership which now makes ours the third largest party in the whole of the UK.

That is the spirit of democratic engagement which I will be looking to build on, as SNP leader and First Minister, in the days to come.

And I very much look forward to working with the STUC in those days ahead.

Our country remains on a constitutional journey, but I am determined that the Scottish Government pursues an agenda of social and economic progress in tandem with that focus on the constitution.

And, as the STUC marks our national day with this year’s theme of a Scotland free from racism, I want to reiterate just how important it is that we make Scotland a welcoming country for everyone who has chosen to make this nation their home.

Scotland’s civic ethos is an inclusive and progressive one, which helps ensure that welcome is extended to all who come here. But we must always be on our guard against racism and prejudice when it does rear its head, and the STUC is to be commended on sending out that unequivocal message.

Our Future Free from Racism

The STUC’s St Andrew’s Day March is an opportunity for the labour movement to look back at what we have achieved in the fight for racial equality here in Scotland.

Through big struggles we’ve come together and recast our society. 

Working together with BME communities throughout the UK and in solidarity with our brothers and sisters across the movement, we have made considerable advancements: 

  • The Race Relations Act
  • Equal Pay Legislation 
  • The Equality Act
  • Better representation of BME communities in Parliament – both at Westminster and Holyrood. 
We should all be proud of these achievements.

But as we remember the significance of battles won, we need to be united together in the fights we still face:
  • The rapid growth of UKIP and the politics of intolerance and bigotry. 
  • Rising Islamophobia spreading fear and hatred in the hearts of our communities. 
  • The persistence of racially aggravated violence on our streets. 
  • Almost half of BME young people are out of work, more than double the level of white youth unemployment. 
These are massive challenges, but we know that when we come together we are capable of incredible things. 

So as Scotland moves past two years of constitutional debate it’s time for the labour family to reimagine Scotland.

The referendum changed Scottish politics forever, but it doesn’t matter how you voted on September 18th. What matters is what we do now.

If you believe in combatting racism, creating sustainable and inclusive growth, a living wage and putting an end to the politics of fear – then we are in this fight together.

Next May the people of Scotland will go to the polls again where the choice will be between a Labour Party committed to creating jobs for young people through our Compulsory Jobs Guarantee, paid for by a tax on bankers’ bonuses, raising tax on the richest in society, increasing the Living Wage and delivering more powers to the Scottish Parliament or a Tory Party who will give more tax cuts to millionaires while delivering a cost of living crisis for everyday families.

When we meet again next year I want all of us to have worked together to consign the coalition government to the dustbin of history, and begin a new chapter in the struggle for equality.

Anas Sarwar, MP
Acting Leader of the Scottish Labour Party

Our Future Free from Racism

The scourge of racism cannot be looked at or dealt with without challenging every assumption that any individual or group wants less, needs less or deserves less than any other.  Thus we tackle racism as part of a hierarchy in society which values some human beings over others in varying degrees, and we learn from examining our own struggle, whoever we are, as we have lived it, and the struggles of billions against apartheid, caste divisions, wage discrimination, state violence, and other discriminations, from Ferguson to Fallujah, and from Gaza to the Congo.

We have to examine the NGOs as well as Parliament, and the ambition of those who come from movements for justice but end up at high salaries in high places imposing and hiding injustice.  We must overcome divisions at the grassroots to blow the whistle on every establishment that is based on maintaining the hierarchy of gender, race, religion, nationality, age, disability, etc.

Selma James

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Our Future Free from Racism

2014 has been a great year for Scotland, and one where we have celebrated and embraced diversity. Over the summer 71 teams from 53 members of the Commonwealth came together in Glasgow for the best ever Commonwealth Games, which saw sports successes alongside cultural celebrations.

It is quite right that Glasgow, where we made the pioneering decision to grant Nelson Mandela the Freedom of the City and James McCune Smith studied at the University of Glasgow, who was the first African American to receive a university medical degree, celebrated diversity at the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. We all came together for that anthem of universal brotherhood – Freedom Come All Ye, as sung by the South African singer Pumeza.

As people embrace diversity, it is disappointing to hear the hostile political rhetoric coming from certain political parties. There has been the terrible spectre of the ‘Go Home’ vans and the use of dangerous and inflamatory language from senior politicians such as ‘swamped’ and ‘inundated’ to describe immigration.

The two Westminster parties are fighting each other to out-UKIP UKIP. Politicians of all political persuasion have a responsibility to ensure that they don’t succumb to the temptation of populism for cheap political gain.

I am the proud son of immigrants, and am pleased that the Government I am part of and the party I represent believes that migrants from across the world have made outstanding contributions to Scotland and will always be welcome to our country.

It is vital that we all stand united in defiance of racism, and the St. Andrew’s Day rally is an integral part of this country’s anti-racism effort. I would like to say to all the elements who wish to divide us and cause hatred – you will never be welcome to Scotland, not now, not ever. No Pasaran.

Humza Yousaf
Minster for External Affairs and International Development

Monday, 24 November 2014

Our Future Free from Racism? International Students: milked like cows, treated like criminals

International students bring in tens of billions annually to the UK economy. They generate over 130,000 jobs. They are quite literally a lifeline to the further and higher education sector in Scotland the UK. If every international student were to pack up and leave, not only would colleges and universities be facing an unprecedented crisis, but the economy more generally would take an enormous blow.

You’d think, given how much the Tories tell us about balancing the books, that they’d be bending over backwards to make this country attractive and welcoming to international students. But something else is at play.

Once here, paying tens of thousands in fees, international students are treated like criminals. They’re prevented from working, they’re forced to register with the police, they’re subjected to racism and abuse, and – unless they’re rich enough – they’re kicked out once they finish studying.

To make matters worse, this Government’s reckless obsession with the private sector has put thousands of international students in jeapardy. Letting private colleges run rampant – at public expense – has brought a spotlight onto what’s called Highly Trusted Status – an institution’s ability to recruit students from outside the EU. When colleges and universities have this removed, as London Met famously did a few short years ago and dozens more did earlier this year, the students are told to get out. They pay the price for this Government’s ideology and their institutions failing.

But this makes no sense, does it? This Government’s back-of-a-fag-packet immigration policy is built, at best, on mistrust, at worst on outright xenophobia and racism. UK ministers focus more on pandering to UKIP than any objective approach to society’s needs. They’ve promised, indefensibly, to cut immigration to below 100,000, and international students are baring a huge portion of the brunt for that.

But immigrants, and international students, bring enormous value to our society – not just financially, but culturally and socially. It is in our interests – but even if it wasn’t, a country that’s colonised half the world hardly has the right to now tell people they’re not welcome here.

Our colleges and universities have a massive role to play in lobbying and arguing for an approach to international students based on fairness and tolerance, and it’s the student and labour movement that will make them do that.

Gordon Maloney
President of NUS Scotland

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Our Future Free From Racism

“Our Future Free from Racism” - I’m only slightly embarrassed to confess that in recent months I seem to have adopted Twitter as my new home from home. When I recently posted - I mean 'tweeted'- about the St Andrew's Day March and Rally on November 29th one of my followers, based in the USA, replied with the following (what seemed to me at least) rather flippant statement: “The day racism ends is the day the right-handers start killing the left-handers. Or vice versa.” I admit I am still not entirely sure what he meant by this less than 140 character riddle but I refuse to believe that our future cannot be free of racism. To believe otherwise would be fatalism and cynicism personified, as well as a crime against humanity. But, to make this future a reality we do need to be vigilant and challenge racism wherever and whenever we see it – whether in the street, at our workplaces, in football grounds, on the pages of newspapers or in Parliament. The author Brian Niro (2003:1), in his book Race, argued that this concept and idea was a monster. He went on to say that “Race… is a monster because of the manner in which it has been employed for the justification of a systematic oppression and for the wholesale murder of huge populations.” And indeed, from the slave trade to the Nazi death camps, this notion of ‘race’ has been employed in the most murderous of ways. And yet it is still not consigned to the vaults of a shameful history. From the deportation of Roma in France and Italy, to the ‘everyday’ racism captured on mobile phones on public transport, we have a duty to stand-up and make ourselves heard, as citizens of a world that can be free of racism. We need to say loudly, and with purpose and intent, "not in my name".

Colin Clark
Professor of Sociology and Social Policy
University of West of Scotland &
Board Member of CRER

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Our Future Free from Racism

Last year I wrote in support of the St Andrew's day March and Rally, looking ahead to a landmark year for Scotland and for Glasgow in particular.

Both the independence referendum and the Commonwealth Games were rare opportunities for Scotland to present its values and its hopes for the future to the wider world.

Now, as Scotland’s year in the international spotlight draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on what lessons we can take from these events, and how we work towards a Scotland free from racism.

The Games were first and foremost a spectacle of sport, with the efforts and talent of the athletes front and centre. But it also offered us the chance to show ourselves as a welcoming and inclusive nation that we are and I was particularly proud of the Pride House initiative, building links with human rights activists across the Commonwealth.

The referendum campaign opened up public debate in Scotland like nothing seen before, and people really have been exploring what kind of country they want to live in. Underpinning this were questions about what it meant to be Scottish, and I think it is a testament to everyone involved that this was overwhelmingly framed in a positive and inclusive way, not along narrow lines of ethnicity or place of birth.  

Though it has been such an extraordinary year, we should not be complacent about the direction of politics. Scotland is far from free of racism, and we must address the big challenges we face. The xenophobic UKIP have just elected their first MP, following their win in this year’s European elections. The rise of right wing and extremist parties across Europe and closer to home is something that we have a responsibility to take on, and Greens will never let UKIP’s ugly brand of politics go un-challenged.

Patrick Harvie
Co-Convener of the Scottish Green Party

Monday, 17 November 2014

Our Future Free From Racism?

Launching the findings of our Scottish Government funded inquiry into Being Jewish in Scotland, we said,  “If, twenty years from now, a future Scottish Government were to commission a future SCoJeC to conduct a similar study, we would hope to be able to report a drop in levels of intolerance, a greater sense of mutual understanding between Jewish and non-Jewish people.” Fourteen months on, sadly, the signs are not encouraging.

Then, despite some reports of ignorance, ill-will, and blatant antisemitism, most people’s experience was largely positive. But the recent dramatic upsurge in antisemitism has had an effect – more than 50 incidents were reported between July and September 2014 in comparison to 14 in the whole of 2013. Increasingly, people tell us that the extent to which they, as Jews, are held responsible, targeted, and even demonised for the actions of the State of Israel – whatever their personal views on the Middle East – has left them worried, depressed, and unsafe. Several have said they would no longer wear a kippah or Star of David in the street, feel forced to hide their Jewish identity in the face of hostility, and no longer feel welcome in Scotland. Most tellingly, the person who had previously told us that “Scotland is a darn good place to be a Jew”, now writes, "Feel alienated and no longer Scottish first, then Jewish. Feel Jewish only. Have to be very guarded when speaking to people..… My son asked on Friday evening if we could leave Scotland.”

A Scotland that is free from racism because it has made minorities unwelcome would not be worthy of celebration. The First Minister reassures us that “we will not tolerate any form of racial or religious prejudice”, and One Scotland envisages a country in which “individuals and minority groups feel valued”, but sadly that’s not our experience – it remains an aspiration, not a fact.

Leah Granat
Research and Publications Officer, 
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Our Future Free From Racism

We have learnt a lot over the past year about Scotland and the people who make this country great. In looking to our future, we have explored our shared past, discussed our common values, and celebrated our differences. For the overwhelming majority the debate was respectful and mature.

But on occasion there was prejudice and intolerance. That is damaging to us all and there is no place for it in modern Scotland.

Since last year’s rally, we have lost a giant in the global fight against racism with the passing of Nelson Mandela. The circumstances in which he was fighting prejudice and intolerance may have been hugely different, but a belief in the power of education to change the future transcends all.

The anti-apartheid icon said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I could not agree more; because from the poorest of countries to the richest of nations, education is the key to moving forward in any society.  

I said that the debate on our constitutional future was respectful and mature. I was proud that nowhere was this better demonstrated than when I spoke to young people. Extending the voting franchise to 16 and 17 year olds was seen as a risk by some but Scotland’s young people proved their critics wrong.

That is why I have no doubt that we will build a truly liberal, open, welcoming Scotland. A Scotland where individuals are judged on their character, not their colour; on their person, not our prejudice. A country which shows no tolerance to narrow-mindedness and where equality stands front and centre.

With the eyes of the world on us, people across Scotland have shown that they want substantial and meaningful change which is bold and ambitious. I say to those joining the rally today that we need to be as bold and as ambitious in our vision for a future free from racism. From the young people I met during the referendum campaign, that future is in good hands.

Willie Rennie
Leader, Scottish Liberal Democrats

Monday, 10 November 2014

Our Future Free From Racism

2014 has been an amazing year for everyone living in Scotland – the passion and excitement of the Commonwealth Games gripped everyone and resulted in a record tally of medals for Scots. Glasgow, as the Games hosts excelled itself providing a safe, welcoming and friendly venue, and the international stance taken on equality – most notably on LGBT rights – set the tone for all future Games. A Game changer indeed!

And the mass participation in the referendum did Scotland proud -even if you didn’t agree with the result no-one could say that Scots approached their future half-heartedly.

Unfortunately not everyone in Scotland seems to share the vision of an open, equal, and fair Scotland. Last year nearly 5,000 racial incidents were reported to Police in Scotland. That’s 5,000 people, who for one reason or another took it upon themselves to abuse, frighten or harm their fellow countrymen and women, simply because they come from a different heritage. Sadly, most people recognise that the 5,000 reported incidents are only a fraction of the true extent of racism in Scotland – many more incidents are likely to have gone unreported.

Scotland has much to be proud of, but the continued presence of racism on our streets, is also a source of national shame. The true legacy of the Games should be a country that’s free from discrimination and bigotry. And just like we all stood up to support Scotland at the Games we should all stand together to defeat racism in all its forms.

Racism isn’t an issue that you can be neutral about. 

Alistair Pringle
Scotland Director
Equality and Human Rights Commission

Friday, 7 November 2014

Our Future Free from Racism

This has been a momentous year for Scotland. The referendum, the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup – the eyes of the world have been on us like never before.

I never doubted that as a people we would rise to this challenge; that we would do Scotland proud.
And so it has proved. Last year I wrote that the Commonwealth Games would be a key demonstration of the value of progress and I think it’s fair to say that they were the most stirring success and a potent reminder of sport’s power to unite.

These truly were the friendly games – perhaps the friendliest – and Glasgow was abuzz for the duration
Every country was warmly welcomed, every competitor respected. Around the world, people were treated to a fun, inclusive and tolerant Games.

This image will have been viewed around the globe and its power should not be under-estimated.

The challenge is now to build on this; to promote our shared vision of a future free from racism.
This won’t be easy, but I am up for the fight and it’s clear the STUC is too.

And quite frankly, the message is clear - whether prompted by skin colour, religion or nationality, discrimination is completely unacceptable in modern Scotland.

Yet, while we’ve come far, Scotland’s not there yet. Simply put, we cannot be complacent and we mustn’t ease up.

We still, to our collective shame, have pockets of intolerance here in Scotland and we can’t shy away from this or try to sweep it under the carpet.
That’s why it is so important that rallies like this continue to take place and I am extremely proud to offer this longstanding event my wholehearted support. 

Ruth Davidson
Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party