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by Staff reporter
13 May 2021
MSPs need to 'grow a backbone' to tackle racism in Scottish society

MSPs need to 'grow a backbone' to tackle racism in Scottish society

Lawyer Aamer Anwar has said MSPs need to "grow a backbone" in order to tackle racism in Scotland.

In an interview with Holyrood, Anwar said it was “basic hypocrisy” from Scottish parliamentarians that they could speak out about the death of George Floyd in America but say so little about the death of Sheku Bayoh in Fife.

Bayoh died in police custody in 2015 after being restrained by officers. His death is subject of a public inquiry.

Anwar, who is representing the Bayoh family,  accused MSPs of cowardice over the issue.

He said: “There was a handful of individuals from the Labour party that spoke up, like Claire Baker.

“I can't remember anybody from the Liberal Democrats speaking up initially. I couldn't remember anybody from the Conservatives speaking up. I think there was a handful from the Greens. But there was almost silence in terms of a response, in terms of political support, it just wasn't forthcoming, and to a certain extent, that is the fault of the propaganda that came out from the very start from the police and the media, and it then takes so much time to explain to people the facts.

“But I see it as basic cowardice from our politicians, that failure to speak up, to question, to interrogate, because how can you speak up about George Floyd in America but not speak up about Sheku Bayoh in Fife? It’s rank hypocrisy to call out the name of George Floyd, but not to call out the name of Sheku Bayoh."

In the exclusive interview with Holyrood, Aamer said that Scots like to believe that there is no problem with racism in Scotland but that wasn’t true.

“I think there's almost this mythical thing in Scotland that racism is a problem in England but we’re fine. We like to talk about the abuse of human rights by the Tories in England.

"We like to talk about their abuse of asylum seekers. We like to talk about Priti Patel, and all of that as if we are exceptional. I say, why don't we have a look at what's happening on our own doorstep, we have the scar on this nation."

Anwar said many people of colour in Scotland felt as if the "clock in being turned back" and he said it was an "abject disgrace" that until this election, there had only been two Asian MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.

He added: "This isn't just about deaths in custody, this isn't just about racist murders, it’s about the racism that perpetuates in our institutions, jobs, in the education system, in political parties, in our communities, it’s about the daily grind of the corrosive impact of racism."

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