Community versus Home Office Immigration Enforcement

Molly Pollock looks at the contrasts between the actions of Home Secretary Priti Patel’s Home Office Immigration Enforcement department with the response of a community that Lakhvir Singh and Sumit Sehdevi had been a respected part of for 10 years, along with the inclusive multi-language proceedings at the Scottish Parliament as MSPs were sworn in and the new Presiding Officer, Green MSP Alison Johnstone who asked for an atmosphere of inclusivity, mutual tolerance and respect. Scotland has values.

This was the scene yesterday, the day of Eid, the worldwide Muslim religious holiday that marks the end of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan, when Pollokshields residents came out in their hundreds, perhaps even thousands, to stop a UK Immigration Enforcement van driving off with two of their neighbours who had lived in Scotland for ten years.

The scene was a peaceful one – young people, women with babies and young children, cyclists, faces of different colours, people of different and no religions. All stood together to thwart two of their neighbours being taken away during a UK immigration dawn raid. The two men were to be deported under Home Secretary Priti Patel’s clampdown to reduce the number of immigrants to the UK by requiring visa applicants to meet a set of criteria. The hostile environment created has caused anger especially in Scotland, and cities like Glasgow which was always a melting pot, as Scotland, in contrast, wants and needs to increase its population.

Boris Johnson recently wrote to Nicola Sturgeon asking that they work together as Team UK to kickstart the recovery after Covid 19

Scotland faces three population challenges for the future: maintaining a sustainable total population size; maintaining sustainable age structures within our population; and maintaining a sustainable spatial balance of our population across Scotland’s urban, rural, and remote locations.

Scotland’s population is increasingly older whilst our birth rate has been declining. Some of our communities are facing significant population growth whilst others, particularly on the west coast and in rural and remote areas, are facing depopulation as people move to larger towns and cities for employment and education opportunities. Immigration can help us address these problems.

Happily the Kenmure Street standoff which could have become ugly as increased police numbers, numerous police vans and mounted police circled the area, was defused by an agreement to let the two men leave the Immigration Enforcenment van, after ten hours inside, into the charge of the well-known human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar.

David Clark, an ex-Foreign Office adviser to Robin Cook, tweeted the following:

Something dying and something being born.

The union with rUK is dying – the attempt to remove two men and Pollokshields’ reaction testified to that, as did the events in the Scottish Parliament. The decision had been taken by the Home Office whose head is Priti Patel, to remove two immigrants from the First Minister’s constituency on the same day a new parliament of MSPs was being sworn in at Holyrood. Many believe the timing was not coincidental, especially as Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s justice minister, and our First Minister tried eight times to contact someone in the Home Office, appartently eventually fobbed off to a junior civil servant. Such is the regard with which the UK government treats Holyrood ministers.

The diversity of Scotland

The taking of the oath at Holyrood was, in comparison to the dawn raid, a happy, positive event, showing the diversity of Scotland’s MSPs, its communities and languages. It was an event,too, in which our MSPs didn’t go along wholeheartedly with the procedures set by Westminster. MSPs have to take the oath of allegiance to the queen or they won’t be allowed to take their seats, but this year many MSPs prefaced their oath by declaring that their allegiance was to the people of Scotland, indicationg the oath to the queen was being taken under duress. Yet another contrast, indicating that Scotland is forging its own path, diverging from that of Westminster, heading towards the kind of country we want to be with independence.

Nor was it only SNP and Green MSPs who made such a declaration – some Labour MSPs followed suit. More contrasts. Interesting as the Labour party, unlike many of its supporters, does not believe in Scottish independence. So a few brave souls getting on the wrong side of Anas Sarwar from the start.

The new Presiding officer is Green MSP Alison Johnstone who, in her acceptance speech asked for an atmosphere of inclusivity, mutual tolerance and respect. Let’s hope Douglas Ross and his Tories comply with that, or are made to comply with it. Though it’s doubtless too much to expect that Priti Patel might heed it too and reappraise her hostile environment.