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Scots head for a yes vote despite fear over Israel

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Scottish Jews are concerned that independence could lead to a rise in anti-Zionism but, for many, it will not stop them voting yes.

Scotland's 6,000-strong community has faced a summer of rising anti-Israel protest amid the Gaza conflict, with Glasgow and Edinburgh town halls flying the Palestinian flag and protesters boycotting stores stocking Israeli goods.

With the latest polling putting the yes and no camps at level pegging in the run-up to the vote on September 18, Jews are having to consider what affect independence could have on issues such as circumcision and kosher slaughter, and whether a new goverment would pursue a harder line on Israel.

But Paul Morron, president of the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council, believes that whatever happens next Thursday, there will no reason for the community to panic.

"We need to retain a sense of proportion in this. We musn't talk ourselves into a more serious position than we're already in," he warned.

"An independent Scottish government will have control over foreign policy and that may take a more anti-Israel view. This could increase pressure on the community. We have seen how quickly anti-Israel feeling can turn into antisemitism.

"In the last 60 years Glasgow has not suffered this level of antisemitism so of course there is a major shockwave going through the community. But this did not happen in an independent Scotland - it happened within the union."

Mr Morron said he was sure Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, who is leading the yes campaign, had the best interests of the Jewish community at heart. "He is the only political leader in Scotland at the moment who has been outspoken against antisemitism," Mr Morron said.

He called on the community to take a more proactive approach in tackling anti-Israel activity regardless of the result of the referendum.

""I believe the Jewish community should not fear independence. This is our Scotland as much as it is anyone else's Scotland and we need to have the confidence that we - along with out friends - can influence the agenda and bring our positive case for Israel to the wider community."

Janet Mundy, a charity worker from Edinburgh, was undecided on which way to vote when the JC interviewed her a year ago. With less than a week to go, she has decided to tick the yes box.

She said: "I do prefer the devo-max option and I believe it's quite interesting that Westminster and the media have offered us that at the last minute but I'll won't change my vote now. I think the Westminster politicians didn't take the needs of the Scottish people seriously and they are panicking. "

Ms Mundy said she was unsure a government in Edinburgh would follow a more anti-Israel policy, but pointed out that Scottish Jews "would have a closer connection to the politicians and that we could do something about it".

She acknowledged that many in the community were going to vote no. "The whole of the Edinburgh community is quite split on it," she said.

Another in favour of independence is Frank Angell, is a former Scottish National Party council nominee.

He said: "Scotland is not a racist country and I don't see it becoming a racist country. Nicola Sturgeon, the deputy First Minister, confirmed in a letter to my MSP, Stewart Maxwell, that there will be no change in law on shechita and circumcision.

"The anti-Israel feeling in Scotland does worry me but not as far as independence is concerned. It hasn't been any better in England and although the Scottish Parliament is currently not pro-Israel, policies change. We need strong convictions in taking the case for Israel to the wider community and I'm not currently seeing that."

The senior rabbi for Scotland, Moshe Rubin, said: "Whichever way the vote goes we have the right people to make sure our voice is heard and the Jewish presence continues to be felt.

"I won't tell people which way to vote but your religion has to be taken into consideration when you're standing at the ballot box."

Academic Paul Spicker, a Dundee resident, said he was still undecided, having heard "daft" arguments made on both sides of the debate. But he acknowleged that Jews had reason to be wary of independence.

"Many here feel like they are a target for concern, hostility, and moral indignation. It is not a pleasant position to be in. Jews feel apprehensive that their loyalties are constantly being questioned.

"It is conceivable that independence could make this situation worse. The Scottish parliament has its own particular obsession with Israel.

"But I don't think it will get worse. When you have to actually deal with foreign policy first-hand, I think politicians will learn that things are more complicated than they think. It will become a little less like student politics and a little more like real politics"

Living in England, Rabbi Alan Plancey, emeritus rabbi of Borehamwood Synagogue, cannot vote next week, but as a proud Scot he is keenly following the campaign, and is dead against independence. "Why do we have to split up everything all the time? If it works, why break it?" he said.

"There is a lot of antisemitism in Scotland - if they go on their own, it could be worse. Once they have their own fully sovereign government and parliament, God knows what they will do."

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