As if the impact of Brexit were not bad enough, the fallout from the UK Conservative Party Conference last week plumbed new depths.
In a thinly disguised display of xenophobia the UK Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, suggested that employers across the UK should be compelled to produce lists of “foreign workers” on their books in order to shame them into employing more British staff.
This was a reprehensible attack on people who are here legally, who are contributing more to the economy in tax and spending than they are receiving. In many cases they are doing jobs in certain sectors, such as agriculture, where employers have difficulty recruiting local labour. They may be filling highly skilled, professional positions where we have recruitment or skills gaps. Or they may simply be exercising their legal rights to freedom of movement and employment as European citizens.
Forcing employers to produce such lists – or even suggesting that it’s a good idea – smacks so much of fascism that its frightening. By even suggesting proposals such as these the Tories are vilifying every foreign national living and working in the UK regardless of their legal status.
Notwithstanding recent indications from the Home Office that they are pulling back from the idea, the mask has slipped and we should be very concerned at the direction of travel indicated by such announcements.
The arguments for or against tougher immigration controls were used and exploited by the Leave side and the right-wing media during the BREXIT campaign, playing on people’s fears and emotions. I am sure, however, that many who voted Leave will be surprised by how much and how quickly this government have lurched further to the right.
Fortunately, Scotland remains a country with a progressive, tolerant, pro-European attitude. Once again we saw the First Minister lead the opposition to the unacceptable and intolerable sentiments coming from the UK Government.
Speaking in Parliament Nicola urged Scots to reflect on who we are in Scotland today, to celebrate our differences and treat others with respect. In a powerful message that reflected the inclusive and diverse nature of our society she stated:
“We are more than 5m men and women, adults, young people and children, each with our own life stories, family histories and our own hopes and dreams.
“We’re the grandchildren and the great grandchildren of the thousands who came from Ireland to work in our shipyards and in our factories. We are the 80,000 Polish people, the 8,000 Lithuanians, the 7,000 each from France, Spain, Germany, Italy and Latvia, who are among the many from countries beyond our shores that we are so privileged to have living here amongst us.
“We are the more than half a million people born in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who have chosen to live here in Scotland”
“Whether we have lived here for generations, or are new Scots from Europe, India, Pakistan, Africa and countries across the globe we are all of this and more. We are so much stronger for the diversity that shapes us. We are one Scotland. We are simply home to all those who have chosen to live here. That is who and what we are.”
As the descendant of immigrants and a proud Scot, that is who I am. I will work tirelessly for all, and I will always stand against all forms of intolerance and racism whenever and wherever it manifests itself.