Scottish minister’s pledge

Scotland’s Education Secretary has pledged to do more to protect Jewish students on university campuses in the country.

Mike Russell, who holds the education portfolio in First Minister Alex Salmond’s cabinet, told a Jewish community delegation that there was no place for intimidation at universities.

He said he would make an immediate attempt to arrange a meeting with Edinburgh University officials following complaints about incidents on its campus last year.

Anti-Israel activity at Scottish universities has contributed to Jewish students quitting their courses in despair, it was claimed in December.

Students do not have the right to intimidate and prevent free speech

Mr Russell addressed the issue in a meeting with Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities; Paul Morron, vice-president of Glasgow Jewish Representative Council; and Nicola Livingston, chair of Scottish Jewish Student Chaplaincy, last week.

The minister said that while students “had a right to demonstrate, there is no right to intimidate and prevent free speech”.

Mrs Livingston warned that all Scottish universities must remain “alert” against anti-Israel incidents which could “sour the atmosphere for Jewish and Israeli students studying in Scotland”.

The delegation was joined by Stewart Maxwell MSP, who helped arrange the meeting because, he said, he was concerned to hear of Jewish students’ fears.

“Universities should be places in which ideas, of all kinds, can be discussed freely. I was dismayed that invited guests were not allowed to put their case; shouting down an opponent is not a victory for reason and does nothing to further any cause or bolster any argument,” he said.

Mr Borowski said anti-Israel sentiment had undermined Scottish Jews’ sense of security, “so it was important to hear the minister assert that members of the Jewish community should never be held responsible for, or suffer as a result of, events in the Middle East”.

Last updated: 11:45am, March 7 2013