Pro-Independence campaigners in Fife have called on the Labour leadership to disown “ill judged and deeply offensive” remarks on nationality and ethnicity by a Fife Labour MP.
Speaking at a referendum hustings organised by Unison Fife Retired Members on Thursday 17 April, Thomas Docherty MP claimed that in the event of a YES vote, for thousands of families where one parent was born in Scotland and the other was born somewhere else in the UK “everyone is going to have to decide which of their grandparents is going to be a foreigner to them”.
The comment has brought immediate condemnation from local Yes campaigners. Councillor Peter Grant, who represented YES Scotland at the meeting, said, “These remarks are not only ill judged but deeply offensive. The vast majority of people living in Scotland will have friends or family who weren’t born in the UK.
He said: “I have relatives who were born in England and have lived there all their lives. I also have relatives who are citizens of Independent countries including Ireland, the USA, Australia and Sri Lanka as well as friends in several Independent countries in northern Europe.
“No-one will ever tell me to think differently of them because they were born in a different country, and no-one can tell me to think differently of my English relatives either before or after Independence. The idea that children should be told they have to categorise their granny and grandad according to their nationality or ethnicity is one that chills the spine.”
Councillor Grant added: “The No campaign can’t even claim that this was an innocent remark that came out wrong in the heat of the debate. It was practically the first thing Mr Docherty said, the first and presumably most important reason he could give for voting No, the beginning of his opening speech that he’d had loads of time to prepare. I condemned his comments at the time and he had plenty of opportunity afterwards to correct what he said.
“He chose not to, so we must assume he stands by his appalling comments. I’m now calling on the No campign, and the Labour leadership in particular, to say whether they stand by Mr Docherty.
“We all know there’s at least one British political party who in the past have used the word ‘foreigner’ as a term of contempt. I never thought I’d see the day when a Labour MP shared the same sentiments.”
Docherty recently came under fire after comments he made at another public meeting in which he referred to Panama as a “Banana Republic”. The remark followed attacks on the Scottish Government’s currency share plans which Labour had tried to liken to Panama’s use of the US Dollar.
However, pressed on the insulting term, the Labour MP claimed he used it, “…because it’s a Latin American Republic which produces bananas.”
The latest comments from the Labour MP follow other similar ‘identity fuelled’ attacks on pro-independence figures by opponents of independence. This week respected actor and author Alan Bissett found himself targeted by Unionists who tried to claim the artist’s support for independence is based on ethnicity.
One pro-Union commentaor, Ian Smart, issued a thinly veiled threat against the artist claiming Bissett was now “fair game” after Smart had accused the Yes campaigner of being anti-English.