SADIQ Khan’s comments about the proximity of racism and nationalism have been treated to much explanation by Scottish Labour and with derision by many Yes supporters (Dugdale forced to step in over Khan’s racist jibe, The National, February 27). There needs to be a calmer look at the debate as it is likely to recur in various forms in the months ahead.
Much of the generality of what Sadiq Khan said is reasonable but needs to be contextualised. His ignorance of the Scottish historical cultural and political scene allowed him to be thrown into a debate that I am sure he did not anticipate. His Scottish advisers should have suggested caution but perhaps their instincts were disarmed by the prospect of a major London figure saying what some within the Labour Party may feel.
Serious debates about racism need to consider the impact of class. It is disconcerting to see people of Asian and other origins condemning migrants and refugees when they came as such a generation or so ago.
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Government leadership is also a factor in public debate. The Scottish Government has given an admirable lead in this respect inpromoting civic nationalism and welcome of migrants, overseas students and refugees. Contrast this with the sudden rise in anti-Semitic and racist incidents in Trump’s United States.
Building a civilised society of diversity and tolerance is slow and difficult and Scotland still has much to do. Racism in all its forms is disabling and debilitating whatever the skin colour of those targeted. The anti-Irish racism and sectarianism that has been around for over a century and the exclusions it has produced, continue to afflict the most vulnerable people in Scottish-Irish communities. Hostility to Polish people and other Europeans increased in the lead up to the European referendum.
A future independence referendum looms – let’s try to conduct this in a more rational and respectful manner.
Maggie Chetty, Glasgow
I TRIED not to follow too much of the Labour Party conference in Perth last weekend, it seemed more like a wake than a party. And many more fluent than I have already discussed Sadiq Khan’s controversial – and misguided – words on racism and nationalism.
However, there’s one observation which others may have missed. TV coverage of the event included a couple of shots from the back of the stage, and I remember thinking at the time that something looked wrong. I was sure that the Perth concert hall was bigger than the cameras were suggesting.
The TV and press images show that the Labour Party front stalls had nine rows of seats. However a quick look at the standard seating plan shows the front stalls have fifteen rows of seats. Even after removing nearly 200 seats from the busiest seating area in the room, the Labour Party struggled to make the hall look even vaguely full. The press images also managed to avoid showing the balconies, which have seats for another 400 or so. It’s a racing certainty that there weren’t enough delegates there to justify opening the balcony.
What a cheeky trick, to make out that the conference is taking place in a hall for 1,300 or so, but on to have seating available for 600. And that smaller number of seats was only half-full... How the mighty have fallen!
On this evidence, I can’t see a genuinely “Scottish” Labour Party making any sort of recovery until it exists in an independent Scotland. Indeed, there’s a strong argument to be made that none of the currently unionist parties can recover electorally until the exist within, and are supportive of, an independent Scotland.
Which does beg the question, if they seek power in Scotland, why are the so anti-indy?
David Patrick, Edinburgh
WE share the concerns over the rise in the number of pupils in Scottish schools with additional support needs (ASN), which now affects almost one in four pupils and was a focus of an roundtable event at the Education and Skills Committee of the Scottish Parliament yesterday.
The 44 per cent increase since 2012 in the number of pupils with ASN, such as dyslexia, autism and learning disabilities, is against the background of a fall of 11 per cent in the number of ASN teachers, accompanied by a five per cent decreases in the number of specialist support staff.
As an organisation we fully support of the presumption of mainstreaming, that those with ASN be supported in a mainstream classroom environment. However, it is difficult to see this being effectively achieved if there is not adequate support being provided in the classroom.
In addition, it also makes it difficult to close the educational attainment gap if these children and young people with ASN are not getting the full care and support they need.
Our hope is that the Scottish Government takes note of these figures and that, working with local authorities, there is adequate investment to deliver vital staff resources. A starting point for this would be to commit a proportion of the Scottish Attainment Fund, the aim of which is to transform the lives of disadvantaged children, to target the needs of those with ASN.
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition: Tom McGhee, Managing Director, Spark of Genius Duncan Dunlop, Chief Executive, Who Cares? Scotland Sophie Pilgrim, Director, Kindred Scotland Stuart Jacob, Director, Falkland House School Niall Kelly, Managing Director, Young Foundations Liz May, National Co-ordinator, Action for Sick Children Scotland
THE article on Maeshowe by Hamish MacPherson (The myths and mysteries of Maeshowe, The National, February 28) was right to criticise the programme about Neolithic Orkney on the BBC entitled Britain’s Ancient Capital.
The constant references to Stonehenge in Neil Oliver’s attempt to make Britain an ancient entity was irritatingly highlighted by his omission of any reference to the substantial Neolithic monuments of Ireland at Newgrange and of Brittany at Carnac.
These examples all being in stone, which in the case of Stonehenge was in part brought from Wales, at Carnac includes the largest monolith of them all, and at New Grange is quartz, argues against Hamish Macpherson’s conclusion that the lack of wood in Orkney was a factor.
The use of stone was to achieve permanence and is explained by the astonishing findings of a Scot, Professor Alexander Thom in the 1960s. He established by surveys of the henges associated with monuments such as Maeshowe, that they were all set out on an identical unit of measurement which had to have a mathematical basis as it was so accurate.
Later researchers have related this dimension, known as the Megalithic Yard, to various astronomical phenonoma, even suggesting that by the use of henges, Neolithic peoples understood the geometry necessary to allow them to estimate the diameter of the Earth.
This knowledge applied to the monuments also, which were not specifically tombs: New Grange for example has internal passages which relate to the 40 year cycle of Venus.
A simple henge can be created by marking the four main compass directions and adding the points at which the sun rises and sets on the longest and shortest days. The Neolithic peoples were much more sophisticated than this and lived in world that was nearer a megalithic Europe than Neil Oliver’s clumsy artificial construction.
Iain WD Forde, Scotlandwell, Kinross-shire
I disagree with Eddie Jones. I think that rugby ceased to be rugby as I knew it when the legislators introduced the ruck and maul.
Both these tactics seem to me to be legalised obstruction and unfair.
John Kelly, Edinburgh