The sooner Scotland has control over the equalities framework the better


by Humza Yousaf

I’m glad the Christmas period is well and truly over and not due back for at least another 8 months.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Scrooge and definitely not the Grinch who stole Christmas but it’s the constant repetition which gets to me year on year.

I’m not talking about the TV, I actually quite enjoy watching Macauley Culkin getting one over on those pesky burglars and Christmas is as good a time as any to catch up on those classic episodes of ‘Only Fools and Horses’.

No, what gets to me is having to read the same misleading and dangerous headlines our right-wing press has to offer up at this time of year time and time again.

You know the one where Christmas trees have to be replaced by ‘festive decorations’ and Santa is banned from schools because he might offend the minorities.  It happens at Easter time too; hot cross buns are apparently replaced by fruit scones all in the name of political-correctness gone mad.

Funnily enough when Muslims and other minority groups are approached they usually shrug their shoulders and say they have never complained in their life about Rudolph or Santa Clause and are not offended by Christmas trees or mistletoe.  This may come as a surprise to some newspaper readers but even Muslims have been known to put up fairy lights outside their house at Christmas time.

Followers of European affairs will know that a xenophobic right wing tidal wave, with an undercurrent of Islamaphobia, is sweeping across Europe and has most firmly crashed into the UK.

People are queuing up to attack UK multiculturalism, while very few understand the definition other than it somehow suddenly becoming a scapegoat for all our nation’s social ills.

Unfortunately, the English Defence League and racist British National Party continue to grow from strength to strength in England, culminating in the stomach-churning scene of Nick Griffin entering the European Parliament as an elected representative.

Without being complacent about racism in Scotland, where undoubtedly elements of racism exist like any other nation on earth, we have to question why time and time again the EDL/SDL and BNP leave here with their tails between their legs.

I believe this is helped, in a large part, to our notion of civic nationalism.  This concept stretches beyond any party political affiliation we may hold and is embedded in the very fabric of our society.  The late and great Bashir Ahmad, Scotland’s first Asian MSP probably summed it up most concisely:

‘It is not important where we have come from; it’s where we are going together, as a nation.’

Many of us hail from other Celtic nations or Nordic heritage.  We are, as Willie McIlvanney termed us, ‘a mongrel nation’.  We will all also be familiar with the age-old saying, ‘We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns’.

I’m not trying to paint a false picture of a perfectly rosy garden.  Of course we have our problems; anti-Irish bigotry and sectarianism rear their ugly heads far too often, especially in the West of Scotland.  However, we also have our very own unique solutions.

Far too often in the UK we obsess over identities, making people choose one over the other.  Post 9/11 this scrutiny has intensified with most Muslims being asked at one time or another ‘Are you British first or Muslim?’

Civic nationalism allows us to accept Irish-Scots, Scots-Asians, British-Scots or whatever nationality we choose without questioning our loyalty to one or the other.

Having said this, ethos and the right mentality are, unfortunately, not always enough to eradicate inequality and racism, a legislative framework is needed.  Currently, equalities legislation is a matter for the reserved Government; they are moving in a dangerous direction, keen to impose their ‘muscular liberalism’ agenda.

Just as with many other reserved powers, the sooner Scotland has control over the equalities framework the better and only then will we be able to work fully towards a more equal and fairer society for all.

Humza Yousaf is a Glasgow list candidate for the Scottish National Party

Published with thanks to the Scottish Independence Convention{jcomments on}