'Vote seeking' claim over MSP's security question

By Stephanie Brickman, December 29, 2010

A Labour MSP in Glasgow has denied suggestions that he has exaggerated the threat of antisemitism in order to win Jewish votes.

Local leaders are furious over the action of Ken Macintosh - whose Eastwood constituency is six per cent Jewish - in submitting a question to the Scottish Parliament asking whether Scotland would follow the lead of the British government, which has pledged £2 million to improve security at Jewish schools. There is only one Jewish school in Scotland, Glasgow's Calderwood Lodge Primary.

The question is the fifth submitted by Mr Macintosh in the past year on antisemitism and community security.

Glasgow Jewish Educational Forum's Jeremy Stein saw "no evidence of a rising trend of antisemitism. The situation in Scotland is unquestionably more favourable than in England. Scotland is a more cohesive society with a shared identity as Scots that goes across all sections of society.

"The school isn't even in his constituency," he added. "Is it appropriate for Ken Macintosh to raise questions regarding security at Calderwood in such a public forum when this might heighten anxieties? It's conceivable that he sees electoral advantage in attacking the Scottish government because he's seeking the votes of the Jewish community."

Mr Macintosh accepts that "antisemitism isn't on the scale it is elsewhere, but that's partly to do with the size of the community. However, that doesn't mean it's not a problem. We mustn't be blind to our failings. There's been a long running campaign on racism and a longstanding problem with sectarianism but it struck me that antisemitism was being treated as a lesser problem and being dismissed. I've seen enough over the years to know it is there and we must speak out."

A spokeswoman for East Renfrewshire Council, the local authority responsible for Calderwood Lodge, stressed its vigilance on security matters. "If there was any intelligence that suggested a threat, we have contingency plans that are implemented as a matter of course. In the aftermath of events at Dunblane, school security in Scotland became a priority and the security measures in place are very good."

Last updated: 2:51pm, December 29 2010