Good afternoon, Presiding Officer.
I thank Jackie Baillie for securing the debate. It is tremendous that she has taken the opportunity to lead a members’ business debate on the issue.
Just because Christmas is a time of good will and happiness for everyone, we should not allow that to confuse us about the extent to which the Home Office’s latest campaign has upset many among us in the community. In all my life, I never imagined that a British Government would allow one of its departments to be so cruel, crude, unkind and out of touch as to run such a campaign. I was ashamed, disappointed and shocked. I could not believe that, in this day and age, people would stoop to such levels, but they did. I hope that many other departments—not only in the UK, but elsewhere in Europe—will learn that such behaviour is unacceptable and that it will not be tolerated. It does not represent our people or our nation, and it certainly does not represent humanity.
It has been said that there is not enough evidence that the type of message that the campaign sends hurts people’s feelings. I do not need evidence to tell me that. Why? I have experienced that hurt for myself—I have real-life experience of it. I do not need to prove to any out-of-touch department or secretary of state that the campaign has hurt people’s feelings.
Many organisations—including the Scottish Refugee Council—and politicians around the world have advised the Government of the fact that its actions were ill designed and desperate. It is unbelievable that the safeguards that are in place in relation to equality issues and the legislation that is there to protect the vulnerable have failed to work in this instance. People talk about freedom of speech, but at the same time we have laws in this country to protect us against racial harassment, intimidation and bullying, and I am surprised that no one has gone down that route to take the UK Government to task over its campaign. Consideration needs to be given to the taking of such action, not just against the Home Secretary, but the people who put together the campaign.
Members have shared some of their experiences. When I was young, people would say to me, “Why don’t you go home?” I would say, “Well, I’m going home later on.” For me, home was Glasgow; it still is. However, people see you differently. That is the issue; that is the issue about harassment, prejudice and discrimination. We have to learn, live and teach and change the hearts and minds of people. Such a campaign does little to support or help with that. That is why it is important to challenge the campaign.
Even now, people will say, “Where are you from?” I say, “I’m from Glasgow.” They say, “Yeah, but I mean, where are you actually from?” I say, “Well, I’m from the west end—Maryhill.” They say, “No, no, I mean—”. I say, “Well, I was born in Govan.” They say, “No, I mean—”. I say, “What do you mean, you mean? I am telling you where I’m from—I’m from Glasgow.” However, that does not satisfy some people.
This type of propaganda encourages that type of attitude. That is why it is important for everybody to be absolutely clear about what they want to do. I hope and I wish and I pray that the fact that we are debating the issue will send the right signals to the UK Government and to all Governments around the world that we have to resist the temptation to go down that route. I commend the motion.