Scottish Social Attitudes Survey

– in the Scottish Parliament on 6th October 2016.

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Photo of Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie Scottish National Party

4. To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government’s response is to the recent Scottish social attitudes survey, which shows that levels of prejudice in Scotland are falling. (S5F-00336)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

I welcome the findings from the survey. It is encouraging to see that Scotland is becoming a more inclusive society with more people embracing and valuing diversity.

However, we should not be complacent. It is completely unacceptable that some groups in society still face prejudice. We need to continue to work together to eradicate discriminatory attitudes in Scotland and I assure the member that the Government is absolutely committed to doing so.

Photo of Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie Scottish National Party

I thank the First Minister for her answer and commitment.

This week, the Tory party conference saw the most disgraceful display of reactionary, right-wing politics in living memory, with the Tories hinting that they will target foreign workers and name and shame businesses for not hiring British employees. Perhaps we saw an early glimpse of that from the Scottish Tories in recent weeks when they questioned Christian Allard’s right to take part in public life. How will the First Minister work to ensure that we build a tolerant, inclusive Scotland where people are judged on the contribution that they make to our society and not on the place where they were born?

The First Minister:

We do that by standing strong and, I hope, united in defence of that inclusive and tolerant society. We should value people by the contribution that they make here not where they were born or, indeed, the colour of their passport.

That work is undermined by some of the rhetoric that we have heard from the Tory conference this week. Theresa May’s speech yesterday was endorsed by Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French far right. Nigel Farage said yesterday that “virtually everything” that Theresa May said in her speech were things that he had said over the past few years. All of us have an obligation to stand up against intolerance, prejudice, discrimination and xenophobia in all its forms. I hope that everybody in this Parliament will do so.

Photo of Ross Greer Ross Greer Green

The First Minister has already called out the hateful and disgusting rhetoric that came out of the Tory party conference this week. Perhaps the most sinister of their proposals was that of Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, that companies will be forced to disclose the proportion of their workers who were born outside the United Kingdom. Will the First Minister and the Scottish Government support businesses in Scotland who refuse to comply with such a disgusting proposal?

The First Minister:

I would absolutely stand four-square beside any company that refused to comply with any request to publish details of foreign workers. What I find particularly offensive is the idea that companies will be named and shamed for the foreign workers that they employ, as if there was something shameful about employing workers from other countries. It is absolutely disgraceful.

I know that Amber Rudd went on the radio yesterday morning and tried to row back from the proposal by saying that it was not something that the Tories were definitely going to do. I think that it is about time that the Tories stood up and said that it is something that they definitely will not ever do because it would be downright disgraceful and disgusting, and this Government would have absolutely nothing to do with it.

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

First, I associate myself with the First Minister’s comments about the Tory party conference. All of us on this side of the chamber would fully agree with her on that point.

We welcome the broad findings of the Scottish social attitudes survey, as well as figures out last week that show that hate crimes in Scotland have fallen over the past year. However, we cannot be complacent. Bad things are, too often, still happening in Scotland. For example, in the past year, Islamophobic hate crimes have increased by 89 per cent. Prejudice and hatred have no place in any of our communities and certainly not in any part of our society. What specific action will we take to highlight the issue of Islamophobia and to reduce hate crimes?

The First Minister:

First, I agree absolutely with Anas Sarwar’s comments; indeed, I said in my first answer to the question that we must not be complacent. There is no disagreement whatsoever from me on that. The Government continues to work with faith communities and through all of our equality work to combat discrimination and, in particular, the rising trend of Islamophobia.

Last Friday, I spoke at an interfaith event organised by the Ahl Al-bait Society, where I made specific mention of the need to ensure that, while we continue to welcome the fact that hate crimes have fallen, we do not in any way become complacent about that.

I know that Anas Sarwar is very familiar with the range of work that we do to seek to bring people together in communities and to make diversity something that we celebrate as a key strength of our country and not something that we fear and exploit. That will always be the way that this Government conducts itself. I hope that, in doing so, we will continue to have the unanimous support of everybody in this chamber.