Nicola Sturgeon: ‘I stand with you against antisemitism’



Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has recognised the fears of the Jewish community over rising antisemitism, telling a meeting at Glasgow's Giffnock and Newlands Synagogue complex that one instance of antisemitism was one too many.

Hearing anyone say they did not feel loved in Scotland "breaks my heart", she told a capacity audience of 300 during a lengthy Q&A session on Monday night.

"You are Scottish. This is your home. If you feel like that, part of my job is to work with you to change that."

Ms Sturgeon also condemned "anyone who threatens the existence of Israel. It has a right to exist and a right to exist peacefully."

She accepted that the cases of antisemitism recorded in Scotland did not tell the whole story, but highlighted the strengthened law on hate crime and the commitment of Police Scotland to apprehend offenders.

A questioner who spoke emotively about a community living in fear received the most heartfelt applause of the evening.

Ms Sturgeon responded: "What I want to do is understand what the fears and anxieties of this community are and stand with you - not apart from you." But ultimately, the task was to "educate and challenge" those who perpetrated hate. "What I can do is make sure that I take the messages I give to you to any audience I speak to in Scotland.

"The diversity of this country, above all else, is what we should cherish and value and we give up at our peril. This community is a vital part of that diversity. If we take the Jewish community out of Scotland, Scotland is a poorer and less desirable place to be." She applauded the contribution made by Jews to Scottish life down the years.

The 22 audience questions also included a number on the aftermath of the "no" vote on Scottish independence.

She assured the meeting that the exchange was "not a one-off. This is something I'd like to do regularly with community."

Speaking to the JC afterwards, Ms Sturgeon said that " given the gravity and seriousness of some of the questions, this might be a strange thing to say but it was pretty uplifting. This is a community that are scared in many respects but are nevertheless determined to stake their claim to the country they live in and say to me that they want these concerns addressed. I hope that the message I was giving them of solidarity was well received."

As for concerns over the high number of anti-Israel motions put forward by MSPs, the First Minister said: "I don't believe there is an antisemitic culture in the Scottish Parliament. There is absolutely, emphatically not. In any Parliament, Members have a right to put down motions. Any constituent of an MP has a right to ask them not to."

And whatever "the rights and wrongs of the Israel-Palestine situation", it should never be used "as some kind of justification for attacks on Jewish people, or abuse towards Jewish people, or Jewish people in any way being made to feel responsible for the actions people are disagreeing with. That's a point that has to be made at every level of Scottish society very, very strongly."

Ms Sturgeon - who during the meeting stressed a commitment to a two-state solution - was coy on whether she would go to Israel. "I am not going to say that I will definitely visit Israel as First Minister, but nor am I saying that there is a reason for me not to do it.

"What I am not going to do here is to create some litmus test for myself of my commitment to the Scottish Jewish community over whether or not as First Minister I visit Israel."

She welcomed the groundbreaking project that will see the Calderwood Primary, Scotland's only Jewish school, move to a new home in the heart of the community in 2017 on a site which will also house a Catholic school. "The Scottish Government has been supportive of those plans over the years so I think it's a good move forward."

Glasgow Jewish Representative Council president Paul Morron said of the meeting: "It was not what she said - it's what she heard. It was important she got the message." The rep council organised the event in conjunction with the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive