Nicola Sturgeon on immigration: defending the unpopular truth

Nicola Sturgeon drawing

On the morning of the Brexit referendum result, there were immediate political reactions. David Cameron resigned, even though he said he wouldn’t when asked what would happen if Brexit won, and Jeremy Corbyn called for Article 50 “to be invoked immediately”, because that’s how sensible a leader he is (read this bit sarcastically, please).

Unlike those two, Nicola Sturgeon had a different message on that morning. She made it her top priority to offer some solace to EU nationals living in the UK and Scotland in particular, to reassure us that we were still valued, and to repeat that Scotland had rejected the Brexit rhetoric and remained an open and welcoming nation for all who chose to call her home.

Of course, these were just words, but for any EU national waking up to the realisation that the UK had, somehow, rejected us as a valuable part of society, these words were more than welcoming. They gave us a pause to gather ourselves, and be firm in the conviction that not everyone was a xenophobe – there are people who see immigrants as the three-dimensional human beings that they are, and it’s very crucial that some of those people are our elected leaders themselves.

Labour and Conservatives play with immigrants’ lives

The only minority that the Conservative Party will ever truly care about are its millionaire donors and their big business friends. I have come to expect no sympathy or respect from them in this country, and I wouldn’t want it – the Tories have destroyed the lives of thousands of people with disabilities, forced people to become homeless, and implemented profoundly homophobic laws only a few decades ago.

But I always expected Labour to be better than this – to be fair, it isn’t a high bar to surpass, after all. Especially with someone like Corbyn, I expected their supposedly Socialist values to extend beyond the people native to these islands, for Socialist solidarity should know no bounds.

Alas, Labour too left me only disappointed, as they increasingly tried to appease the xenophobic sentiments present in some of their demographic by playing with their antagonism towards immigration – something perfectly encapsulated in their “Controls on immigration” mug. (You can read my thoughts on Corbyn’s betrayal of the Left in another recent post on this blog – click here)

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No, you’re not the only one cringing at this…

Scotland is not perfect, but she’s so much better than her neighbours

Scotland has a very particular relationship with bigotry, reflected in its problems with sectarianism, whose tendrils spread to things as supposedly benign as football. However, there have been significant improvements in the last two decades, not only regarding sectarian hatred, but also the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals, racism, and the treatment of immigrants who have made Scotland their home.

I have only read and heard about the old Scotland – which I know still exists, if you know where to look. But I have lived in this open Scotland, where we have a Parliament in Holyrood with lots of women and openly LGBTQ+ politicians, some of them leading their respective parties.

I have also witnessed the Scottish Government’s repeated support of immigrants living in this country, claiming that immigration is positive for the country, and not the other way around. And that is not an easy message to put out there – you just have to see how the pro-immigration video below, put out by the Scottish Government in the summer, accrued more dislikes than likes on YouTube.

It takes a great amount of courage for a politician to say the uncomfortable truths, rather than the things voters want to hear. Labour, Tories and Lib Dems have shown themselves for what they are and done very little to make a positive case for immigrants, the majority of which contribute massively to the UK’s economy. Only parties like the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens have done something in that regard, and EU citizens in the UK should be well aware of that.

Time and time again, when I tweet about immigration, I receive much more support from fellow Indy supporters than the hatred spread by trolls. The events and marches I have attended have been filled with flags from all nationalities – no one needs to be born in Scotland to have the same love for it running in their veins. I know this all too well, how this wee country and its people resonate with my heart more than any other place on earth.

Fighting the bigoted media

Glorified toilet paper like the Daily Mail and other rags have poisoned this country’s discourse on immigration. They ensured that immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, benefit scroungers, homeless people, prostitutes and drug dealers all got blended into this immigration concoction, the source of all problems in the UK, rather than the actual truth: the inept management of this country by New Labour and Austerity-Max Tories.

However, times like these also allow for more assertive shows of courage in the face of adversity, and that was the case with The National newspaper last edition of 2018: a magnificent pro-immigration front page. Such shows of empathy for immigrants are so rare in our public discourse that this made me very emotional when I first saw it.

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31st of December 2018’s edition of The National – Scotland’s only daily pro-indy newspaper

It’s not just trash like the Daily Mail that is to blame for all the negative rhetoric surrounding immigration – look no further than the BBC to see how they have different words for the same things. A foreigner here is always and always an immigrant, whereas a Brit abroad is always an expat – a euphemism that somehow tries to expunge British citizens from the stereotypes manufactured for and applied to everyone else.

Immigrants are as good and bad as everyone else

If we are able to bring the immigration debate to basic facts, than there are only a couple of points to be made that bear any relevance. The first is that, as studies show, immigration is financially positive to the UK, contributing more than it costs. Secondly, immigrants are not more or less prone to criminality or any other vices – they are people, just like everyone else, who took the very big decision of moving to a different country for a myriad of reasons. Some of us may indeed be rotten, but don’t judge such a diverse group of people on a few bad a apples.

There’s so much to be gained from immigration, not only from EU, but from everywhere else. And in Scotland, skin colour, ethnicity, religion or nationality should have no bearing on one’s Scottishness. As I never tire of repeating, we’re all Jock Tamson’s Bairns. And if you treat immigrants with the dignity and respect we deserve, you will be pressed to find more loyal citizens and neighbours than us.

Some people are also seemingly unaware of the anxiety clouding the lives of all EU citizens living in the UK (as well as UK citizens abroad), as my recent phone in to BBC Radio Scotland made clear:

Thank you, Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP, and the other few politicians and parties standing by what is right. I will gladly return your support when the time comes for #IndyRef 2.

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