In a previous post: ‘Who’s Talking About Refugees With Disabilities?’, I considered UK government policy in particular, the reason being that I live in the UK and am aware that granting asylum and building community along with refugees, is the major humanitarian need of our time. History has taken one of those paradigm shifts that call for a complete overhaul of ‘business as usual’. My country of nationality is Scotland and so far the majority of people there are keen to welcome refugees; folks are launching and getting involved with all kinds of projects to try to create some kind of normality and happiness for and with new arrivals.
As many of you will be aware, Scotland remains under control of the Westminster establishment in London for the time being. Unfortunately this means that the UK Home Office has the final say regarding asylum. The Smith Commission recommended that the Scottish government manage the support of asylum seekers, but did not suggest overall control of the asylum process. This leaves Scotland, and Westminster, in a rather awkward position as they hold directly opposing views on the subject. Scotland has experienced an enormous socialist /social consciousness uprising in the last few years, not only due to the bid for independence, but because of the capacity for collective, grassroots action and caring against the harsh economics of a dangerously right-wing Conservative government. Scotland will always unite against the Tories, even if doing so under vastly different political banners. At a time when the most vulnerable in our society are being endlessly attacked through cuts to welfare and social spending, Scotland at large appears to feel compelled to open its doors and hearts beyond perceived borders.
We have some wonderful sayings/proverbs in Scotland that I think help to explain something of the national consciousness (not a term I use lightly and uncritically by the way!). Here are two I’d like to share:
“We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s Bairns”. We are all one family in the end. (Not to be confused with the ‘Better Together’ unionist slogan, ever!)
‘The bonds of milk are stronger than the bonds of blood.’ It’s not where you are born, it’s where fosters you, and where you foster in kind that matters.
These statements are more than just fluffy slogans in Scotland. As the diversity of political parity in the ‘Yes’ Campaign, and the voting regulations of 2014’s referendum proved; one only has to foster and dwell within the nation to be welcomed as a fully recognized and (hopefully) politicized Scot. My apologies if I am describing a country with no discrimination to speak of. Of course hate and violence are present around the subject of difference, and of course many are still marginalized; it’s not perfect, but it’s reaching forwards. I would argue that Scotland’s contemporary politics are developing in a manner that will prepare the country for this new paradigm of mass global displacement that we are moving in to.
Inclusive approaches and strategies are being formed between Scottish Government, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the Scottish Refugee Council, and with members of the asylum seeking and refugee community. Support in accessing housing, health and education along with benefits and work; well being is discussed freely and held as priority. Moreover, an inclusive and participatory approach is already establishing itself firmly.
Humza Yousaf MSP in his role as Minister for External Affairs and International Development from 2012 – 2014, had this to say about Scotland, and Scotland’s fostered refugee’s futures in the strategy ‘New Scots: Integrating Refugees in Scotland’s Communities 2014 – 2017′ (I’ve included a link to the strategy below):
‘In an independent Scotland, we will go further and end inhumane practices such as dawn raids and enable asylum seekers to work while waiting for a decision on their application. As we have made clear in our vision for an independent Scotland, we want to establish a progressive nation, which provides a place of safety and fair, sensible and humane policies on immigration and asylum.’
‘The Scottish Government maintains its strong ambition for equality in Scotland – for a society in which social justice, equality and human rights are at its heart, where advances are made by building on the assets of all of its people and communities. We want to ensure that everyone – no matter their race, religion, cultural background or any other personal characteristic – is given an equal opportunity to succeed in Scotland. We recognise that all partners have an important role to play if we are to make meaningful and measurable improvements to the lives of refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland over the next three years and beyond, and we are committed to working together to ensure that the implementation of the strategy delivers our ambitious outcomes.’
If only the Westminster establishment would drink some of the highland spring, wake up to our new age of global displacement, and avail itself of a similar heartfelt logic; not likely, bring on independence.