The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-12677, in the name of Jean Urquhart, on celebrating Scotland’s diverse communities.
In a world that is more interconnected than ever and in which historically our societies have developed as a result of the transnational mobilisation of cultures and peoples, it is intellectually moribund that we rarely hear politicians or the media make the positive case for immigration. It is with alarm that we are witnessing the development of increasing hostility, xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance towards immigrants. I am gravely concerned that the tone of public discussion about immigration is contributing to a climate of hostility and fear. In this regard, we risk facing a race to the bottom. It is, it seems, politically fashionable to oppose immigration and, increasingly, the whole concept of multiculturalism.
I am proud today to be one of those who are making the positive case for immigration, and who are highlighting not just the economic benefits but the cultural enrichment that flows from embracing it, rather than proposing an agenda that is set on creating resentment and division. I stand as an advocate for multiculturalism who recognises the benefits of viewing integration as a two-way process, in which we learn and develop from our fellow citizens who hail from other countries and who bring with them their own heritage and traditions. The world is a more interesting place and our communities are made more vibrant and outward looking if we encourage understanding and tolerance and adopt a welcoming attitude to immigrants as citizens in equal partnership.
We barely hear such arguments. Instead we are faced, on a daily basis, with a toxic barrage of headlines demonising immigrants and an increasingly xenophobic politics that stems from the UK Independence Party but now, it seems, is infecting the mainstream parties, particularly in Westminster. The whole debate has been shifted rightwards, as it becomes increasingly popular to make opposing immigration a political principle. Even those who might have stood up for multiculturalism in the past find it difficult to do so now. That tide must turn, and we must challenge ourselves to testify for a modern, inclusive and humanitarian approach to immigration.
Of course, Presiding Officer, the scapegoating of immigrants at times of economic crisis is nothing new. Throughout history, immigrants have been a useful section of society for powerful interests to blame in order to rationalise their own failures. Far better that our attention is focused on blaming immigrants for the lack of job opportunities and deteriorating living standards than on our unbalanced economy or corruption in the banking sector—or indeed the political establishment. The economic facts, which are rarely exposed, show that, rather than representing a drain on Britain’s finances, European migrants made a net contribution of £20 billion to the Exchequer between 2000 and 2011.
However, it is in these circumstances that organisations such as UKIP thrive. They build on the fears that emerge as a result of economic precariousness and on the anti-immigrant sentiment popularised by sections of the media. The two have a near-symbiotic relationship, all set within a policy framework that has been shifting away from embracing multiculturalism and immigration for many years, under successive Westminster Governments.
UKIP now advocates the scrapping of the racial equality laws, a move that would regress race relations by decades. Unless partisans of diversity and racial equality make the positive case for immigration—challenging though that may seem—we risk sliding down the slippery slope of an inward-looking xenophobia. That is a xenophobia that detracts from our culture, economy and the important sense of human solidarity that has always been the bedrock for making progress in society. I believe that the majority of our population can be won to such a perspective if only we unite our voices to amplify our case beyond the parameters of the current stale, stultified and one-sided debate.
We so often hear the tiresome mantra, repeated throughout the decades, that immigrants are “stealing our jobs”. We should ask why the jobs market is so poor, how it came to be that our society is so unequal and why access to well-paid jobs is so privileged. We hear of immigrants “taking our houses”, but we must ask why our housing stock is so inadequate and underfunded, and why we do not put the necessary investment into building more high-quality, affordable homes. Why not inquire further, with a critical mind, to unearth beneath the waves of anti-immigrant headlines just how much of a contribution they make to our country?
Let us talk about how much our communities have gained from immigration—all the doctors, nurses and public servants who help us in our time of need, and without whom we would be much worse off. Let us talk about the music scene or our constantly renewing creative culture and the extension of our palate into the world as each period of immigration—if embraced—emboldens our human need to experience more than ourselves, and to explore the things that we do not yet know about, in the pursuit of knowledge. Immigration, far from being a burden, is a gateway.
We in Scotland should know that. Surely it is part of our DNA. Scots are immigrants. They are dispersed around the globe, where they have found and created work and shared their culture and made their home in another country. We should be among the first to recognise that the flow of immigration adds momentum to the progressive aspects of human history, and excites the potential in all of us, regardless of where we were born. Thus, I share the Scottish Refugee Council’s concerns at the recent poll conducted by BBC Scotland on Scottish attitudes to immigration, and I have signed Christina McKelvie’s motion questioning the methodology, outcome and timing of the poll.
I was taken aback, listening to BBC Radio Scotland’s morning news programme a few days ago, to hear the Spanish immigrants in Inverness referred to as an “invasion”. For many, that confirms that the BBC is not acting impartially.
It is time for a wholesale change in approach to how we discuss immigration and realise its benefits. I do not just want our Polish friends to be able to learn English—I want Scots to be able to take advantage of the diversity in our population to learn Polish. Imagine how our nation might develop were we to cut through the headlines of the Daily Express and Nigel Farage’s false narrative and recognise the potential that exists.
Is it not time to move on as a society? We must stop repeating time and again the age-old fallacies around immigration, and move to a period of enlightenment where, rather than creating fear and division around difference and the scramble for resources, we work together to solve the economic problems we face and, at the same time, enjoy our distinctive and valuable cultural identities.
UKIP is said to be making a “bold stand” on immigration. The truth is the opposite. It is those who stand up for the rights of immigrants and champion the benefits that they bring to a multicultural society based on social progress that are the 21st century’s trailblazers.
Many members would have joined with Sheena Wellington at the formal opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 in singing the words of Burns:
“That Man to Man the warld o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.”
It is time to show that there is a difference between the Scottish Parliament and the Westminster Parliament, by making and profiling the positive case for immigration and celebrating Scotland’s diverse communities. Please support the motion.
That the Parliament believes that Scotland’s diversity should be celebrated and rejects the negative attitudes expressed in the media and politics toward immigration and immigrants; also notes with concern the impact of these attitudes in the context of the approaching general election; believes that there should be recognition of the very real and positive contribution made by immigrants from all over the world to Scottish society, culture and history; also notes that the Scottish population is comprised of a rich mix of peoples and cultures from all over the world and believes that all immigrants and their descendants are an integral part of the Scottish identity; calls on politicians and the media to stop the demonisation of immigrants, and calls on media outlets to take a more responsible approach toward their reporting of immigration to Scotland and the UK.
I am delighted to be able to speak in this important debate. I thank Jean Urquhart for lodging the motion and, if I may say so, for delivering an eloquent speech in introducing it. The Scottish Government will support her motion and all the amendments.
It is important that, from all sides of the chamber, we send a loud and clear message from this Parliament about the need for diversity, the need to treat immigrants properly and the need to treat one another fairly. As Jean Urquhart finished up by saying, at the end of the day we all live together on this planet. Scotland has been described by Tom Devine, our most eminent historian, as a mongrel nation, and that is the kind of spirit in which we are conducting the debate.
I start by emphasising the Scottish Government’s view that diversity is a strength and something that should be celebrated and welcomed. Scotland is becoming a more ethnically diverse country. The emergence of an increasingly multi-ethnic population has been warmly welcomed by the Scottish Government for a number of reasons. It helps with the growth and prosperity of our country and gives rise to a younger workforce, many members of which have international connections, which in turn boosts innovation and enterprise. More important, it enriches our culture, creates a more diverse Scotland and helps to ensure that our dynamic, progressive country continues to evolve.
Our work to create an equal Scotland reflects that diversity. We want to ensure that all people who live here can flourish, regardless of race, religion or any other differentiating characteristic. Despite the cuts that we have suffered in recent years, between 2012 and 2015 we have provided more than £60 million of funding from the equality budget to help tackle inequality and discrimination. More than £8 million of that money supports initiatives that address issues of racial equality.
Celebratory events such as last year’s multicultural homecoming programme and this week’s Islam awareness week provide us all with fantastic opportunities to meet and learn about one another and, even more important—as Jean Urquhart said—to learn from one another. They help to dispel ignorance, to break down stereotypes and to challenge and change attitudes by celebrating equality and diversity.
Scotland is a multifaith and multicultural country. There is no place for prejudice or discrimination, either in Scotland or in any other part of the world. Everyone without exception deserves to be treated fairly and to be able to achieve their potential in the place where they live. Like Jean Urquhart, we challenge the claims that were made in last week’s BBC Scotland poll that suggested that attitudes to immigration are similar on both sides of the border. I think that there is clear evidence that a much more tolerant approach is taken in Scotland than in other parts of the UK.
Scotland needs immigrants because of our ageing population and to fill skills gaps. It is not simply a case of welcoming immigrants; we need them. We were able temporarily—as an exception to reserved work permit rules—to allow people who graduated from Scottish universities to remain in Scotland for a short period to get work experience. That highlights the importance of the Scottish Government being able to set a different policy on immigration to meet the needs of Scotland. We would like a similar plan to be instated by the UK Government.
We will always welcome people who want to come and live in Scotland. We know that minority ethnic people still experience barriers or negative attitudes that result in unequal opportunities, and that racism and discrimination come in many shapes and forms. None of us can afford to be complacent about the outstanding challenges that we face, given that such backward attitudes still exist to some degree. Racial discrimination and harassment are still too common an experience for minority ethnic people in Scotland today. That treatment can range from verbal abuse to sickening acts of extreme violence.
David Coburn MEP’s shameful comparing of Humza Yousaf to the convicted terrorist Abu Hamza is nothing short of disgraceful. [Applause.] His totally unacceptable smear cannot be excused as UKIP banter or a joke. It is racist, it is Islamophobic, it is just plain wrong and it has rightly been condemned by all parties in the Parliament. I therefore hope that the amendment in my name about David Coburn will be agreed to unanimously. David Coburn does not represent the views of the Scottish people, and I think that, as an MEP for Scotland, he should seriously consider his position. There is no place in Scotland or elsewhere for the depiction of Muslim people as terrorists.
I also very much welcome Jean Urquhart’s comments about xenophobia and particularly the launch of her not my xenophobia campaign. It is too easy for the media and politicians to make xenophobic and deeply offensive comments without being called to account for them, and this campaign can make a great contribution to tackling the issue by highlighting such comments and forcing those who make them to face up to what they have done. I very much hope that that will make them think about the consequences of their actions and make them change their future behaviour.
In our work to develop a new strategic approach to race equality in Scotland, one of our priorities will be to tackle discrimination and hate crime to ensure that everyone is free to fulfil their potential. We will focus on shifting negative attitudes, celebrating the different contributions that people make in Scotland, fostering good relations and tackling discrimination, racism and hate crime.
I hope that my opening remarks have made clear the central importance of race equality and Scotland’s diverse communities to the Scottish Government. However, although we have made some good progress, there is much more that needs to be done. I welcome opportunities such as this to progress this important work, and I look forward to continuing to work in partnership with our key stakeholders, including all parties in this chamber, and communities over the coming year.
I move amendment S4M-12677.2, to insert at end:
“, and unites in condemning the recent comments by David Coburn MEP”.
I thank Jean Urquhart and John Finnie for bringing this important debate to the chamber and for the launch yesterday of the not my xenophobia campaign, which I am happy to support. It is important that we address immigration and diversity issues with more positive language, and it is a real worry that we should find ourselves today having to defend the very idea of taking a liberal approach to immigration and immigrants.
Immigration is not a new topic; the subject has sparked political debate and provoked forthright views on all sides for decades, if not centuries. Although we have made huge strides in tackling overt racism in our society over the course of my lifetime, it feels that, over the past five to 10 years, we have gone backwards, certainly when it comes to discussing immigration.
We should at least acknowledge some of the reasons for that. Populations are ever more geographically mobile, while at the same time—in our country, at least—they are less socially mobile. The world is shrinking before our eyes, and successive generations think nothing of upping sticks and making a new home for themselves on the other side of the globe.
Most of that movement is to be celebrated. Indeed, various studies have shown the economic benefits that immigration has brought to the United Kingdom. For example, research from University College London that was published four months ago by the Royal Economic Society demonstrates that European immigrants to the UK have paid far more in taxes than they have ever received in benefits. According to the report’s authors, such migrants help to relieve the fiscal burden on UK-born workers and positively contribute to the financing of public services.
Change in any community can also bring tensions and pressures, and it is important that they are addressed for what they are. If people express concern about being priced out of the labour market and about their wages and conditions being undercut, that has to be addressed in economic terms, not in terms of people’s nationality. Poverty wages are unacceptable whether they are paid to immigrants or native citizens, and exploitation by unscrupulous employers is unacceptable whether the employee is from this country or not.
Others’ complaints about the pressure on public services should be addressed in terms of our public service, not in terms of someone’s country of origin. The health service is under pressure but, as we all know, we are more likely to be treated by a doctor from a different country than we are to wait behind someone from another country in the doctor’s surgery. One think tank recently estimated that 11 per cent of national health service staff and 26 per cent of NHS doctors are non-British. Our national health service—this country’s pride and joy—could not begin to operate without immigration.
The difficulty is that for some in politics and some in the media—and at this point I make it clear that I do not believe that Jean Urquhart’s motion is condemning all involved in both; indeed, like the Government, we will be supporting all the motions and amendments before us today—the impact of immigration on our society is a fear and an anxiety that they can play to instead of addressing directly. Where things get complicated is how we react in turn.
If we overreact and condemn as racist every person who expresses their worries, we will provoke the very backlash that we are trying to address. People need to have and to hear the political language that expresses their anxieties, not be told that they are wrong. The real test of our political leadership is to give people the opportunity to discuss their vulnerability and highlight our common humanity rather than pander to any sense of otherness.
Quite simply, diversity makes Britain stronger. We are richer, stronger and a better country because we have welcomed people from across the world. In Scotland, we are fortunate to live in a vibrant society that has, for the most part, a welcoming approach to immigration.
Outside our two biggest cities—Glasgow and Edinburgh—the East Renfrewshire Council area, which is my local authority area, is Scotland’s most ethnically diverse area. I am proud of the fact that I live in such a tolerant and multicultural community, but I am not blind to the hostility and negativity that can lurk in the very same neighbourhoods.
In 2013, more than 4,500 racist incidents were recorded by Police Scotland. That equates to around 90 recorded racial incidents per week.
I was reminded how far we have come at a dinner earlier this week, when the Rt Hon Peter Hain spoke about his family’s efforts during apartheid and the role that Scotland played at that time. However, in 2013, the employment rate for people from minority ethnicity groups in Scotland sat at 56 per cent compared with an overall employment rate of 71 per cent. That is not right.
Scotland’s national ethnic minorities organisation, BEMIS, recently concluded:
“we should be striving for a Scotland where ethnic minorities are not only passively recognised, but where they are actively incorporated into the way Scotland is imagined to be now and in the future.”
We should be tackling overt racism and the dog-whistle politics of the immigration debate, but we must also do much more to ensure that our society reflects those who live in it. Our neighbourhoods have changed and our communities are the better for it, but we need to tackle poverty, close the employment gap and reduce inequality for those from an ethnic minority background. There is a long struggle still ahead.
I move amendment S4M-12677.3, to insert after “Scottish identity”:
“; believes that more can be done to prevent immigrants being exploited or treated unfairly”.
We are very happy to support the motion and the other amendments.
The American author, poet and civil rights campaigner Maya Angelou famously noted:
“in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”
I do not think that the vast numbers of people who walked the streets of Glasgow during the Commonwealth games and Scotland’s festivals last year could possibility disagree with that, such was the rich display of cultural and social diversity.
In particular, I was struck by what was happening in many of Glasgow’s schools, in which pupils speak a multitude of different languages nowadays. They celebrated diversity and worked towards improving cultural awareness. Indeed, some adults have much to learn from those children, who intuitively reject insularity, prejudice and intolerance of the way that others choose to live their lives.
I note exactly what Jean Urquhart’s motion says and I have every sympathy with her sentiments, especially about the repugnant comments—as the minister has said, they are repugnant—from David Coburn, which have absolutely no place in any democratic society. However, we have to be very careful not to imply that it is all the sections of the media and politicians who are making the inflammatory remarks about immigration and immigrants, because that is not true. Indeed, in recent weeks there have been some measured debates about immigration, which is clearly a very difficult issue. We need to respect that. It is true that there has been some completely unacceptable media sensationalism and a very small minority of politicians have undoubtedly made completely unacceptable remarks over the years, but they are not the majority by any means. That is demonstrated in the Scottish Parliament. We lodged our amendment to provide that balance.
Ken Macintosh rightly said that immigration is a sensitive topic. Anything that we can do to ensure that our debate is based on fact and good-quality evidence is helpful.
The analysis of the 2013 British social attitudes survey showed that the lowest level of racial prejudice in the country was in London, which is the most culturally diverse city in the UK. Furthermore, the survey highlighted that the largest rises in racial prejudice over the previous decade occurred in Scotland and north-east England, which are the areas with the lowest levels of diversity. Indeed, London was the only area with falling racial prejudice over the previous decade. Perhaps that tells us something, but it hides substantial regional variations. We have to be very careful about how we temper the debate.
The main message of the pupils I met in Glasgow was that they were clear that it is usually ignorance about other cultures that leads to intolerance. They were in no doubt whatsoever about the importance of education when it comes to a better understanding and to dismissing the stereotypes that can be so harmful and become the nourishment of the bigots and the racists.
I had the privilege to be in Parliament on Saturday morning to witness the model United Nations, and I was very impressed by the young people who were debating what to do about the current issues in Islam. They spoke with tremendous affection for Islam and their understanding was far greater than that of many who have taken to the newspapers and social media in recent times. There was a genuine understanding about the cohesive society that we are all seeking.
How diverse are our communities in Scotland? The short answer across the board is that they are not particularly diverse. The 2011 census showed a doubling since 2001 of Scotland’s minority ethnic population to 4 per cent, which is less than one third of England and Wales’s ethnic minority population. Of course, that hides the regional disparities.
One of the things that we can do is lead by example. I am absolutely convinced that the reason for bringing the motion to Parliament and the reason why we have had such an unnecessarily inflamed debate about the topic is because people have not been careful about the language that they have used. They have been guilty of an intolerance that has no place in a democratic society.
We have to be mindful of what we are seeking to do. This is perhaps one of the most complicated and complex political issues that we have to deal with. That makes it even more important that, rather than being carried along on a tide of emotion, we speak with tolerance, understanding and the ability to seek out the facts.
We are happy to support the motion and the other amendments.
I move amendment S4M-12677.1, to leave out from “in the media” to end and insert:
“within some quarters of the media and politics toward immigration and immigrants; is concerned about the divisive impact of such attitudes, especially during election campaigns; notes that the Scottish population is comprised of a rich mix of peoples and cultures from all over the world who are an integral part of the Scottish identity, and therefore believes that there should be recognition of the very real and positive contribution made by immigrants from all over the world to Scottish society, culture and history.”
First, I thank Jean Urquhart for bringing the motion to Parliament today and for the tone that she set for the debate. I very much welcomed that.
Diversity of the peoples who make up the population of Scotland is for me one of the reasons why our country is such a wonderful and exciting place to live and work. How boring the world would be if we were all the same. Diversity gives us all, as individuals, the chance to gain a new perspective on the lives of others in our own society, as well as on other cultures and societies around the world.
Every one of us in this chamber is different and has had different life experiences; those experiences make us the people we are. Celebrating our differences as well as our common interests helps to unite us all as the people of Scotland.
Within my constituency of Stirling, we have interesting, diverse and thriving Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, African and Polish communities. All those communities have managed to keep their traditions alive while integrating into the increasingly diverse community of Stirling. One of the privileges of being an MSP is being able to meet people from all sorts of backgrounds. On the whole, that has proved to be a pretty positive and nourishing experience for me, but I have had darker and much more negative experiences.
Following Friday prayers recently, I was standing on the pavement outside the Islamic centre in Stirling, chewing the cud with some of my Muslim friends, when a car full of young white males drove by. The obscenities and racist taunts that spewed from the mouths of those young white males made me at once angry and deeply ashamed. Although obviously disturbed by the incident, my Muslim friends shrugged it off because it was not an unusual experience for them, but their reaction served to make me feel even more ashamed.
I have no doubt that the attitudes of those young men will have sprung from ignorance or a lack of education, but that is no excuse for them and their behaviour. Equally I have no doubt that their attitude and behaviours will have been coloured by some media output—I stress the word “some”, as other members have done—that has portrayed Muslim immigrants in particular in a negative fashion.
Of course, the reality is that the Muslim community are as much a part of the rich mosaic of people that makes up Scotland as any other people living among us. The same goes for the people from eastern Europe and, increasingly, Spain who have recently come to Scotland in order to make a new and better life for themselves and their families while, at the same time, contributing significantly to the economic and social wellbeing of Scotland. As Jean Urquhart said, many of our forebears left Scotland to go to the ends of the globe in order to improve their and their families’ lot.
I say to those who want to be involved in racist taunts that those who have chosen to live in Scotland and make it their new home are now our ain folk and we must stand with them as we would with any others. It is our job as politicians, parents, brothers and sisters to ensure that we fight back against prejudice and racism from whichever source it comes.
Liz Smith quoted Dr Maya Angelou, the celebrated American poet and civil right activist, but the full quote is interesting. She said:
“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”
What she was saying is that education and learning are the tools that we need in order to root out our own prejudices and the racism that exists in our society, from whichever poisoned well it draws its strength—and that includes David Coburn, in the context of this debate.
Many organisations do fabulous work across Scotland, particularly with young people, to address preconceptions and mistruths that are often spread in relation to diversity. Much great work is being done, but much more still requires to be done. Let us get on with that, united and together.
Good afternoon, Presiding Officer. It is an honour to talk about celebrating Scotland’s diverse communities. As many members know, I have been involved in equality and diversity for more than 40 years, so I have some experience in the field.
I find the motion interesting, as it discusses
“negative attitudes ... toward immigration and immigrants”, no doubt in response to UKIP and the negative media stories. However, as the UKIP MEP’s shameful comments about my fellow Glaswegian—that is the important bit: Glaswegian—Humza Yousaf showed, we also have to deal with the plainer issue of downright racism.
Sadly, there are still major issues for people from ethnic minority communities who are born and brought up in Scotland. The most recent figures showed an increase of 3 per cent in the number of racist incidents recorded by Police Scotland. There are about 90 per week, which is far too many.
Despite forming more than 4 per cent of the Scottish population, people from minority ethnic backgrounds make up only 1.1 per cent of local authority staff. Similarly, in 2013-14, only 1.1 per cent of modern apprenticeship starts were from the minority communities. One of the poorest performers is our fire service. Performance had been improving during the Strathclyde Fire and Rescue days but, now that the service is Scotland wide, only 0.8 per cent of our fire service staff are from the minority communities.
Let us talk about poverty. Figures show that people from minority communities are significantly more likely to live in relative poverty. In 2013-14, the figure was 25 per cent, compared with only 14 per cent for the white British group. The Scottish Government’s recent report on severe poverty states that people from ethnic minorities are at greater risk of severe poverty and deprivation. It is shameful to think how poorly minority communities are being served today.
As this week is Islam awareness week, it is a good time to embrace diversity, but Scotland still has a long way to go. I want change in education and employment outcomes for minority communities—not just poster campaigns that say that we should be nice to each other, but delivery on the ground, which is more important.
I appreciate any campaign that aims to challenge anti-immigrant attitudes. I call on all my colleagues in all the parties to look again at the public sector equality duties. Scotland has the potential to lead the UK in putting an emphasis on requiring public authorities to take action to tackle inequalities, instead of simply reporting to us on them year in, year out.
Before I demand equality in service, let me truly wish all of us the best of luck in working across Scotland to achieve equality and to defeat inequality, not only in race but in education, employment and all aspects that affect our citizens in Scotland. We are a nation and we need to be strong, and the only way that we will be strong is if we protect, love, support and look after one another. Let us do that together.
I am proud to say that, back in the 1990s, one of the SNP branches in my constituency put forward an amendment to recognise not the people of Scotland but the peoples of Scotland. That is a starting point from which members across the parties take our bearings in the debate. Having said that, I believe that we now understand how difficult it has been over Scotland’s history to live up to that potential.
Professor Tom Devine’s view about Scotland being a mongrel nation has been mentioned, and that was our thought when that amendment was proposed. His history of Scotland describes how the integration of Irish people, Lithuanians, Italians, Poles and Chinese, through to the present day, with the small Jewish population and now many people from African countries, has to some extent been prefigured by the difficulties that we have in celebrating diversity and promoting a living-together approach. I do not want to use the word “integration”, because we are talking about something more profound than that, but that is how the issue was thought of in the 19th century. Tom Devine points out that those people came from deprived and distressed communities that were brought low by corruption, discrimination and economic problems. They came to Scotland, a land of economic possibilities, and then they met the problems of becoming part of this multicultural nation, and some of them had difficulty in doing so.
I will mention particularly the recent coverage of the Spanish people in the Highlands. The slip of a word by the BBC is one thing, but the poll that it conducted earlier than that on immigration was flawed indeed. The coverage of Spanish migration to Inverness and of the migrants learning English was quite interesting. On the morning radio programme, Philomena de Lima, who is the director of the centre for remote and rural studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Inverness, said that we have to have a lot more research into the host community, how it sees such things and how it is attuned to thinking about the adaptation of people from many places, but that was not included in the television version of the same story.
One of the keys to talking about ways in which we can break down barriers and allow people a better chance to integrate is to recognise that many of the people who come here—European Union citizens coming here through free movement—are prepared to work hard and to earn regular pay in places such as fish-processing factories. That work might not be particularly well paid, but they will work regularly because they want to send money home or they want to bring their families here. That part of what they do for Scotland is a vital ingredient of our diversity. The fact that other Scots will not do those jobs is something for the host community to think about carefully. It needs to adapt to the fact that there will always be jobs at various levels. It is too much to say that it is easy for us to promote living together and integration.
Education is the key. It has helped many groups of people to move forward. If we are to move forward from where we are now, we must learn from some of the things that have happened in the past. There is plenty of space in Scotland for unity and diversity and for all the peoples of Scotland.
I call Christian Allard, after which we will move to the closing speeches.
Thank you, Presiding Officer. That is not the last thank you that I will say—I have to say a lot of thank yous in my four minutes. First, I thank the Scottish Green Party and the independent members for bringing the debate to the chamber. It is timely, and it is important that we debate the issue.
We must debate immigration. We must debate it regularly and not just at election time. We have to see the two sides. We have to consider immigration, which is people coming in, and emigration, which is people going out. It is important that we do not debate just one of those in a vacuum.
Many members have spoken about the BBC. I perhaps have to dampen my views about the BBC a bit. I heard the programme that Jean Urquhart spoke about, which was on Monday morning. It was absolutely appalling. I am not talking about the contributions—it was a phone-in, so a lot of people were calling and airing their views. They have to air their views—it is important that they do so—but what was appalling was the presenter, Kaye Adams. The way in which she portrayed and related things was appalling—she agreed with some comments that nobody with any sense would agree with.
I am annoyed about that, because the BBC is a fantastic organisation. When the BBC was mentioned in the previous speech, I could have intervened to say that BBC Alba is a fantastic channel, and I will be on it this week or next week, speaking in French. BBC Alba loves languages; it discusses them a lot and it wants to have people participating who live in Scotland and who speak different languages. There is good and there is bad. I would say to Kaye Adams, “No, thanks—not any more.”
However, I would like to thank “Scotland 2015”. We had an important debate on immigration on Tuesday last week. Even if the opinion poll was perhaps not as good as it should have been—Christina McKelvie was absolutely right about that—we had a good debate.
I was sitting next to this UKIP MEP. Members would be surprised to know how quiet he was. There was consensus among members of the panel, and the audience was good and diverse, but there was something that I was shocked about: he did not expect me to be there. He expected our Minister for Europe and International Development to be there.
I think that what happened in the rest of the week was this. The UKIP MEP could not develop his argument live on television because he had the wrong SNP MSP next to him. He had a Frenchman there—a migrant—but he did not want to talk about migration. He wanted to talk about Islamophobia and about what is happening today and to blame a particular religion all over the world. My skin was too white, and I did not have the right religion, so he did not engage. That might explain what happened afterwards.
I want to say thank you to the press. The press thereafter has been fantastic. I wish to mention one particular journalist, Alan Roden of the Scottish Daily Mail, who took the phone call from this MEP and who could not have been clearer when he came on television. He was extremely clear that the phone call, which was only a 15-minute chat, was not a joke. Nobody was laughing. He was not laughing and David Coburn was not laughing—it was not a laughing matter. Mr Roden said:
“It was not banter in a pub ... it was a chat between a journalist and a politician.”
We have to remember that some of our Scottish press are just fantastic, with very much the same spirit as the Parliament today. We should be proud that the Parliament and our Scottish press have produced a fantastic reaction to what happened this week.
Today’s discussion about celebrating Scotland’s diverse communities is a welcome opportunity to highlight in the chamber the importance of a vibrant community life. In the Lothian region, which I represent, there are many active local communities working inclusively that set an example to us all. In addition, we should celebrate the fact that immigrants of various nationalities continue to make a wonderfully diverse cultural contribution to Scotland.
However, the debate also provides an opportunity to discuss how we can enable local services to be more flexible in the face of rising populations. I express my support for Liz Smith’s amendment, because the media should act responsibly and truthfully, but we should also ensure that the Parliament does not direct blame in a generalised, blanket fashion.
When I visited the Broomhouse centre in Edinburgh, with its cafe, kitchen, teaching room and various other facilities, it was clear to me that I was seeing community spirit at its best, with people of many nationalities in training. Whether they wanted a cup of tea, a hot lunch or an embroidery class, all comers were offered the warmest of welcomes at the centre, which is situated at the heart of the local community. Most important, the centre provides in-work training to many locals and other people who would otherwise struggle to gain extensive work experience. That inspiring and inclusive example of providing for and giving back to all members of the community is exactly what we should be celebrating today.
It is welcome to have the chance to celebrate the contributions that immigrants have made to Scotland’s culture, whether they arrived last century, last month or last week, from around the world or from closer to home. As a former consul for Iceland, I have expansive knowledge of the fantastic expertise that Icelandic people have brought to these shores in culinary matters and music, among other areas. There are numerous other examples that we could reference, such as unique shops that have been opened by Scandinavian immigrants, South African chefs at popular restaurants, Spanish classes held by teachers from across the Spanish-speaking world and, of course, all the brilliant international contributions to Edinburgh’s arts scene during the festival and throughout the year.
I could go on with many more examples, but the point is that there is much that we should celebrate. After all, the Italians were about the first race to come here, and the cafés, restaurants and fish and chip shops that were all started by them some 100 years ago are welcome. Of course, they are not considered immigrants any more.
I will touch on the issue of increasing local populations and how Scotland’s communities are impacted by and respond to that. Whether it is caused by immigration, internal migration, new housing developments or demographic changes, that increase can present local services across Scotland with significantly increased demand. However, the causes and the results of increased demand can vary significantly between different cities, towns and villages. As a result, it is apparent that the best way to respond is to grant local areas and their councils the flexibility to adapt and respond to each demand in the way that they think is most suitable.
It is important that the media report on immigration accurately and responsibly while ensuring that they do not casually stray into the aforementioned xenophobia. However, we must not seek to demonise the entire media. As Liz Smith’s amendment states, it is only some quarters of the media that we need to be wary of.
I reiterate my conviction that inspiring examples of community spirit, such as the Broomhouse centre, should be celebrated in the chamber and across Scotland. I hope that we can all share in celebrating the diverse cultural contributions that are made by immigrants across Scotland. We should also consider that local authorities and local services need to be allowed the flexibility to assess local needs, set local priorities and deliver local improvements. I agree with the sentiments that are expressed in every amendment and urge all members to vote for them.
I suspect that when Jean Urquhart decided on the topic for today’s debate, she had little idea just how topical it would be. However, I thank her for lodging the motion and for launching her campaign. As she knows, I was unable to be at the launch yesterday, but she has my whole-hearted support.
This has been a consensual debate and one that has been very much worth having in order to demonstrate that Scotland’s Parliament is united in its view that new Scots enrich our country, and that the increasing diversification of our country and, indeed, our Parliament are most welcome.
Of course, that view stands in stark contrast to the views of David Coburn MEP—or, as I like to call him, that ignorant racist—which should have no place in modern Scotland. Sadly, however, they are held by a minority of the population, as Mr Coburn’s election demonstrated. As elected representatives, we have a duty to challenge those views whenever we can; the debate has given us an opportunity to do that.
Members who know my constituency and my affection for it know that it is enormously diverse—and all the more joyful, creative and dynamic for that. I draw Parliament’s attention once again to the excellent work of the Maryhill Integration Network, which has since 2001 worked with the local population and new Scots to help with integration and support. It does that by bringing people together to celebrate what they have in common, rather than focusing on what might make them different. It recognises that language can be a barrier, so it encourages sharing of food, dance, music and culture in order to bring people together. Over the years, I have had the privilege and pleasure of attending many of the network’s events and celebrations. It is wonderful to see people who do not share a spoken language finding that they share the language of food, dance or music and that they can work and learn together. We need more organisations like that and we need to ensure that we support them and resource them properly.
I am also proud that my home city, Glasgow, is the only local authority area to which asylum seekers and refugees are dispersed—but that, of course, brings with it its own challenges.
On Monday, I met a group of wonderful women from a selection of countries. One of the difficulties that they identified was the shortage of ESOL—English for speakers of other languages—classes. They were, in the main, educated women who want to work here and make new lives for their families, but their first hurdle is to acquire the language. That difficulty is brought into focus by looking at some of the numbers. There are now 130 different languages spoken by the children in Glasgow’s schools, and some schools have as many as 40 languages. Every year, 1,500 foreign nationals arrive in Glasgow and need to be integrated into the school system, which is the equivalent of more than one additional classroom per week.
To support that, Glasgow City Council employs 110 full-time-equivalent English as an additional language teachers at a cost of some £5 million per annum. That is estimated to be the same as the total number who are employed in the rest of Scotland, but it is still not enough because the women whom I met this week and the mums and dads of the school-age children need help too, and the organisations in my constituency that provide ESL—English as a second language—courses are inundated with people who need them in order to help them to find their way in Scottish life and in our communities. They need the courses so that they can play their parts in building the strong and diverse communities that we all want, but some organisations that have previously operated an open-door policy now have waiting lists.
The pattern of immigration has changed over the years—I recall when Chilean people came to Scotland because of the political difficulties in Chile—but the number of people who are coming to our country is not changing. People are fleeing Syria and others are escaping from Eritrea, where conscription to the army for more than 10 years is the norm and where young people see no future for themselves unless they can leave their country. It is clear that we have to do more to support those communities.
The motion is correct in identifying the importance of the context in which we have the debate: the general election. We all have a duty and responsibility to challenge the views of people who seek to drive a wedge between the communities in this country. They must not be allowed to succeed.
The tone of the debate has been excellent and has shown Parliament in its best light, especially as we are all united—right across the chamber—in the sentiments that we are trying to express through the motion and the amendments.
Patricia Ferguson’s last point was important because—as we all know—seven weeks tomorrow, we all go to the polls for the Westminster general election. As Jean Urquhart’s motion demonstrates, it is very important that in the heat of that election campaign we all stick together to promote exactly the values that we have all been sharing this afternoon, and that we conduct ourselves in a civilised manner that will do our nation proud.
I am very conscious of the other points that Patricia Ferguson raised in relation to the challenges and pressures that are sometimes put on public services when we have a high—and in some geographical areas, a concentrated—number of people coming in to Scotland. We have to face up to those challenges. They should in no way be seen as reasons for not encouraging people to come here and to emigrate to Scotland. Actually, the challenges represent a good opportunity for us to demonstrate our commitment not only to welcoming those people, but to ensuring that they have a chance of getting a decent job, a decent house and a share in the public services that they contribute to the cost of providing.
As was pointed out by a number of members, in all the work that has been done—quite a lot has been done in recent years—on the economic contribution of migrants to the UK and to Scotland, every single one of the studies has shown that migrants’ contribution is very positive indeed. I think that we all know instinctively that that is the case.
Ken Macintosh mentioned the number of immigrants who work in the NHS—in particular, doctors. It is a very high percentage indeed. Of course, that goes back to a long tradition between countries including India and the UK, in which people come here for training and some go back to provide very high-quality medical services in their own country. This is what it is about: it is about being in a global economy, being a global people and being involved in the world. We benefit ourselves and others through such historical and future relationships.
There are two points to be made about the kind of prejudice that Bruce Crawford gave an example of when he mentioned what he witnessed recently in Stirling. First, the reality is that there is still too much of that kind of behaviour happening in Scotland, on too regular a basis, so it behoves us all to do everything that we possibly can to stamp it out. It requires a multifaceted approach. It is partly about bringing some people to justice, partly about education, partly about changing culture and partly about adopting policies that will lead to greater integration and better understanding among the different communities. The work of organisations including Interfaith Scotland, BEMIS and the Scottish Refugee Council is absolutely crucial in relation to that. All those organisations make an enormous contribution to achieving that objective, but we must be determined to eliminate the kind of prejudice that Bruce Crawford witnessed in Stirling.
Secondly, we have to ensure that, in encouraging people to come to Scotland, we do so on the basis that they come here as full citizens—I use the word “citizens” in the fullest sense of the word—and that they play their full part in every aspect of Scottish culture, Scottish life and the Scottish economy, right across the board, which will mean that we have the kind of diversity that we have.
If we go back to the history of Scotland, we are all descendants of immigrants because, by definition, our ancestors had to emigrate to Scotland for us to be physically here today. That is what Tom Devine meant when he said that we are a mongrel nation. We are all descendants of immigrants, and that is to the benefit of Scotland. This country is not owned by us just because we happened to be here earlier, or because we are from an earlier generation of immigrants who arrived before the current generation.
We have an international reputation for being a very tolerant nation, a seafaring nation, an internationally aware and conscious nation, and a nation that punches above its weight in its international contributions in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. That is all part of the same fundamental philosophy in which we all, on all sides of the chamber and throughout Scotland, believe: in the words of Rabbie, “We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns.”
In that spirit, the debate has been very good. It sends out a loud and clear message to the David Coburns of this world, and to people such as those in the example that Bruce Crawford mentioned, that the kind of ignorant prejudice that they have shown is not acceptable in modern Scotland and will not be tolerated. We want people to come to live and work here as immigrants, and we must treat those people as equals in every aspect of our lives.
On behalf of the independent and Green group, I thank members for their contributions to the debate, which has, as many have said, been consensual and constructive. I also thank the Scottish Refugee Council for the briefing that it provided, in which it referred to the
“politically and ideologically charged terrain of identity and immigration” that we have been discussing.
My colleague Jean Urquhart opened the debate by talking about the
“transnational mobilisation of cultures and peoples”, and the cabinet secretary picked up the same point in his closing speech. It was ever thus. There has always been movement, and the debate has been about the tone of public discussion on immigration and whether that has contributed to the hostility and fear that exist towards sections of our immigrant community.
Jean Urquhart and many other members made a very positive case for immigration. I do not think that that is a bold case. It should be the default position that we welcome people.
I am grateful that the cabinet secretary spoke in the debate. He talked about sending a loud and clear message, and I think that the Scottish Government has, by participating in the debate in the manner in which it has done, sent a very strong message that is welcomed by members in this part of the chamber and, I am sure, on all sides.
The cabinet secretary used the term “mongrel nation”, which has featured in a number of speeches in today’s debate, and he spoke about diversity as a strength. We certainly see diversity as a strength. It would, as one member said—I will come to his contribution in a moment—be a boring world if we were all the same.
The cabinet secretary also spoke about diversity continuing to evolve, which is correct. He name-checked the not my xenophobia campaign that my colleague Jean Urquhart launched yesterday. I thank everyone for their support for the campaign, which is very welcome.
Ken Macintosh represented the Scottish Labour Party at the campaign launch yesterday, and we are grateful to him for that. He spoke today about political leadership, which was displayed yesterday and today. He spoke about the use of language and how important that is, and about his concern that things are perhaps going backwards. He spoke about racist incidents but, significantly, he also brought some facts into the equation. I cannot remember the detail, but he spoke about the amount of tax paid by immigrants relative to benefits claimed, the facts of which are very much contrary to the perception that is held by some and portrayed by others.
I am grateful to Liz Smith and the Scottish Conservative Party. She quoted a very nice phrase about the beauty and strength of diversity, which I think we would all recognise. She also spoke about the importance of education, which has been a recurring theme throughout the debate, and the requirement for us to understand the facts, which mean that we should be welcoming people.
We heard from Bruce Crawford—it was indeed he who said that it would be boring if we were all the same. We certainly sensed his pain when he related an unpleasant incident that he had been witness to in his constituency; that is the shameful face that we do not want to see.
We heard from Hanzala Malik, who spoke about his 40 years working in diversity. I loved his reference to Humza Yousaf as a fellow Glaswegian, because that is the obvious identity that he shares with his colleague. He spoke about real poverty, and finished by mentioning the need to protect, love and support. That is terribly important. People may be uncomfortable using those words, but they are precisely the terms that we should be using.
Rob Gibson spoke about the phrase “peoples of Scotland”, and how it had once featured in an amendment. The amendment was in fact lodged by a young Jean Urquhart, and that is indeed an important phrase. He also quoted Professor Tom Devine, as did other members, and he mentioned Philomena de Lima. I know Philomena, who is an academic at the University of the Highlands and Islands and who has done a lot of research. She has made important points about the “host community”.
I look forward to hearing Christian Allard speaking French on BBC Alba, which will be worth listening to. He talked about the need for regular debate, and there certainly is a need for that.
I will make passing mention of something that has not been mentioned in the debate so far, which is the reports of a hunger strike inside Dungavel. That is certainly alarming to me, and I hope that members will follow the Scottish Trades Union Congress and demand access to the centre to visit the detainees. That is of concern.
It is evident from what we have heard that the Parliament thinks that we should celebrate diversity. There has been wide recognition that negative attitudes are expressed. I wonder whether it is a chicken-and-egg situation and whether the media coverage has been driven by the politicians or the politicians are responding to the media coverage. We know that those who demonise immigrants choose their words carefully and are wary of falling foul of the legislation that they would like to abolish.
We have all agreed that there has been a positive contribution. I believe that there is such a thing as society, and I think that Scotland is much the better because of its rich mix of peoples and cultures. The same cannot be said of some of the lurid headlines. I will not do them credit by repeating them, but it is important that we do not become complacent. The evidence on the way that communities treat the Gypsy Traveller community shows that there is no opportunity for us to be lax in how we react to the issue.
On the Government’s amendment, the EU process pretty much determines who five of the six Scottish members of the European Parliament will be. Scotland had the opportunity to elect a highly talented immigrant woman from Africa as the sixth representative: the Scottish Green Party’s Maggie Chapman. Instead, Scotland chose an ignorant individual, who has been mentioned. In the meantime at least, Scotland will have to live with the embarrassment of being represented in Brussels by a party that I am not alone in considering to be racist. The strapline for Maggie Chapman’s campaign was:
“For a just and welcoming Scotland”.
The contrast could not be starker.
I thank the Labour Party for its amendment. As I sit on the Justice Committee, which is dealing with the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill, I am aware of the levels of exploitation and of that fact that it applies equally to people who have not been trafficked. A recurring theme in the evidence to the committee has been the pre-eminence of immigration matters in the decision-making process. Again, I wonder whether that is being driven by the political agenda.
As has frequently been mentioned, language is terribly important. For example, many people who have been trafficked and involved in the production of drugs are referred to as “the accused”, when they are witnesses. The reporting of things is terribly important, which is why I raised with the UK Border Agency the way in which it portrayed its raids. I asked why, when it made high-profile raids but the people who were arrested were subsequently found to be innocent of the charges, it did not change its website. The UKBA told me that, because it did not release individuals’ names, there was no detriment and that it did not envisage a situation in which an update would be required. Of course, the detriment comes from the negative associations and stereotypes, which I think are very unfortunate.
I will finish by talking about the Highlands, which are a much richer place culturally than they were when I was young. As many members have said, our health and care services would collapse without immigrants. The concept of citizenship has been touched on, and rights and responsibilities go with that. Scotland’s demographics show that we need immigration. The people and music of the Highlands are the way I like them—we have a very rich mix. To the Spanish people who I am told are invading Inverness, I say one thing: fàilte a h-uile duine—you are all very welcome. Scotland’s landscape is beautiful. I looked up the term “belonging” and found the lovely quote that it is being
“part of the landscape, like a tree.”
I like trees and forests. Let us reject negative attitudes and celebrate our diversity. Let us be that just and welcoming Scotland.