‘Diversity training’ is not enough to combat racial hatred

From the events of the past few weeks, you would be forgiven for thinking that Scottish Labour’s solution to any problem is “diversity training”.

The allegations of Islamophobia towards the SNP’s Humza Yousaf and Labour’s Anas Sarwar make for grim reading and shine a light on an issue we cannot ignore.

Racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, misogyny and other forms of hate are rearing their poisonous heads and it’s time we as a country acknowledged that blight on our society

Labour councillor Jim Dempster last week admitted that he said Humza Yousaf would be hiding “under his burka”. Now, it’s been revealed that his bigoted comments were not one-off.

Victims of his abuse are coming forward alleging that he’s been responsible for a systematic campaign of racism, including one of chasing a six-year-old Muslim girl with an air freshener telling her she smells of curry. This must go beyond Labour’s throwaway line of referring individuals to “diversity training”.

And if Labour are investigating these allegations, then this must surely be the shortest investigation in their history.

Anas and I often find ourselves on opposing ends of the debate on a lot of issues but on this, he and I are in tune – I am also sick to death of hearing diversity training being punted out as punishment
for blatant racism and bigotry, like we heard from Labour on Hugh Gaffney.

How insulting to the victims and to the vast majority of people in this country who read those comments in disgust. An hour or so of diversity training does next to nothing to tackle this. Whether it’s trolls hiding behind anonymous Twitter accounts dishing out misogynistic and homophobic abuse that I and others have faced, or elected officials racially abusing fellow politicians, we’ve got to act effectively and meaningfully.

Scotland has a proud tradition of standing up to hate. Last week, campaigners braved the cold to march in the annual anti-racism march. Come rain or shine, people will come out in force to stand up against prejudice and hate.

I’m proud to live in a country that has led the world on LGBT issues. I’m proud to live in a country that has welcomed and resettled 2000 Syrian refugees and continues to extend its helping hand when others have turned their backs.

Hateful comments and tweets won’t stop me standing up against hate and if you know both Humza and Anas, then you’ll know that they won’t either.

Councillor Dempster – if you have an ounce of respect for the office you hold, then you should resign.