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I am now thinking of just saying anything that comes into my head, because nothing that I know of in reality is anywhere close to the point that Liam Kerr espoused.
The business community was outraged and senior figures said that the plans were completely irresponsible and would damage the UK economy, because foreign workers are hired to fill gaps in skills that British workers cannot fill. So damaging and divisive were the plans that Amber Rudd’s own back benchers were deeply critical and sceptical. Our First Minister responded that she would absolutely stand four-square behind any company that refused to comply with a request to publish details of foreign workers.
Since then, Amber Rudd has somewhat backtracked on the proposals, but the damage has been done. When senior politicians spout such xenophobic rhetoric, we should not be surprised when we see a rise in hate crimes that are targeted at non-UK EU nationals who choose to live in this country. The reports of members of the Polish community who were attacked so brutally that they had to be hospitalised—in one tragic case, someone died—should send a massive warning to the UK Government that we need action to encourage inclusivity of our communities, not deeply divisive policies that can only harm the colourful tapestry of life in this country.
In sharp contrast, I was deeply heartened by the Scottish people’s response. The #WeAreScotland hashtag was not simply a three-word sentence; it was used as a way for people up and down the country to tell their story and tell others what makes Scotland their home, why they came here—it was clearly not the weather—and how much they love being Scottish, regardless of their varied and diverse ethnicities. Scottish nationals responded with statements of warmth, of welcoming and of thanks for foreign nationals who choose to bring their skills and culture here and greatly enrich our economy, culture and communities.
The truth is that, after the Brexit vote, many people contacted my office because things were so bad. My Westminster colleague Stewart McDonald and I had to send a letter to all the EU nationals in our constituencies to let them know that we are aware of their concerns, that we consider ourselves lucky that they have made Glasgow their home and that we are happy to welcome them for as long as we can. The unfortunate thing is that how long that will be for is not in our hands; it is in the hands of the Tory Government.
Surely no member of this Parliament can deny that one of the catastrophic fallouts of Brexit has been the rise in hate crime, but the problem is not just Brexit. The charity Muslim Engagement and Development, which is UK wide, noted the rise in hate crime towards members of the Muslim community after the Paris attacks. Devastatingly, those attacks seemed to trigger an upsurge in crimes that were aimed at people of the Islamic faith, with graffiti on businesses, verbal attacks in the street and, in some cases, worse. Although the hate crime figures after the Paris attack were much higher UK wide than they were in Scotland, the victim trends were similar across the board. Muslim women in particular were being singled out because it was easy to identify them if they were wearing a hijab.
Let me be clear that Islamophobic hate crime is not the only religion-based problem in Scotland. I will not get into the age-old one that we have had for a long time, but there have been a number of anti-Semitic incidents across the country. Verbal attacks and neo-Nazi salutes are not acceptable in Scotland in 2016. No person—be they Muslim, Jewish, Christian or of any other religion—should live in fear of physical or verbal abuse because of their beliefs.
Although Scotland woke up this morning to one of the biggest election shocks in recent history, we must accept the democratic will of the American people. However, reports of fear and alarm are already pouring out of the Muslim and immigrant communities across America and we are seeing social media posts of people removing their hijab for their safety.
Such fear and intimidation have no place in this open and inclusive Scotland. I am confident that everyone in the chamber will support me in that and support the Government motion. There will be no building of walls here in Scotland. Let us send out the message loud and clear from this place that Scotland is your home and your contribution is valued.