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Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 19th December 2013.

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Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I congratulate Jackie Baillie on securing the debate and I recognise that a number of MSPs have put forward motions on the issue and run campaigns. James Dornan, who spoke earlier, has been particularly robust in the campaign in Glasgow. I commend them all for that.

I very much welcome the opportunity to speak in and close the debate. There were some fantastic speeches from across the chamber from members who touched on their personal experiences, which I will also do.

There was almost universal condemnation of the campaign. It is a campaign so iniquitous, cruel and shameful that it is hard to believe that it came from a Government department. It is a campaign that genuinely—as Patrick Harvie said—threatened to derail much of the progress that we have made to reduce the levels of racist bigotry that we have seen in the past. It probably has derailed some of that progress.

Scotland has a long history of welcoming people from all over the world, whether they are visitors, students, migrant workers or asylum seekers. We want to be a progressive and socially responsible nation that provides a place of safety and fair, humane and sensible policies on asylum.

In response to Alex Johnstone’s comments, I do not believe—and certainly I do not think that any member in the chamber believes—that anybody in the Conservative party, for example, is a racist. That is not the point that we are trying to make at all. The point that we are trying to make is that that phrase—that language—has been taken from the National Front; it has been taken from the British National Party. It is a phrase that has been used by racists up and down the country over the ages and over the years and there is no way that anybody in Government, be they a minister, a cabinet secretary or even a civil servant, would not have known the impact of using that language and why it was so hurtful and so offensive.

Mr Malik was spot on in describing how it made him feel. Much like him, having grown up in Glasgow—having been born and bred in Glasgow—I have been called every name and every racist slur under the sun. I have been called the four-letter word for a Pakistani; I have been called a black b; I have been called anything that people can imagine from when I was in primary school to, most recently, a couple of weeks ago on social media. However, the one that gets to me the most—the one that hurts the most and the one that really grinds against the grain the most—is when I am told to go home. As Mr Malik was saying so correctly, when I have worked hard for this country, when this is my country, when I was born and bred here and am just as Glaswegian and just as Scottish as anybody else, and somebody tells me to go home, I think, “What the—”. Dinna worry, I stopped myself. I think, “What right do they have to tell me to go home?” It does hurt.

I respect that perhaps Alex Johnstone agrees that the language that was used in the campaign was not fair and not sensible and, more than that, it was offensive.

We cannot take that campaign in isolation. Members have touched upon this point. There is a sense that when it comes to issues of asylum and refugees as well as immigration—we do not want to conflate them but there are similar themes around both issues—there is a trajectory and the UK is regressing. We have heard EU commissioners saying that the UK is now being viewed as a nasty country.

That is the trajectory that the UK is on. My appeal to colleagues in the Labour Party is honest and sincere. There is no difference—not an iota—between Jackie Baillie and me in our belief about how asylum seekers and those who are seeking refuge in this country should be treated. We believe that they should be treated humanely and compassionately. However, I am genuinely worried that the UK political parties, including Jackie Baillie’s party, are on the wrong trajectory. I know that she says that that is not true, but I genuinely think that they are going in the wrong direction. I also believe that they are pandering to the UKIP agenda.

Diane Abbott, who is a very senior member of the Labour Party, said:

Ed Miliband has made two speeches on immigration in recent months ... all parties need to be careful of ‘dog whistle’ politics on immigration where the text is fine but the underlying message is one that is not so fine.

The rise of Ukip has made people panicky about immigration but the truth is that the fear of immigration is just that—it is fear. The more immigrants who live in your area the less likely you are to worry about it.”

I will come to a point that Kezia Dugdale made.