Editorial: Playing with Fire

Graham Ogilvy
Graham Ogilvy

The UK Government has wisely rowed back on its proposed Foreign Workers’ Directive which was produced with a flourish at last week’s Conservative Party conference by a Home Secretary playing to a xenophobic gallery.

Lists of foreign workers were to be drawn up and the companies employing them were to be “flushed out”, according to Amber Rudd. It is little wonder that some critics felt it all sounded rather more like Nuremberg 1936 than the multicultural Birmingham of 2016.

An open letter published in today’s Scotsman calling on the Government to end this divisive rhetoric has attracted the support of 300 academics, writers and lawyers including Helena Kennedy QC and Ian Hamilton QC. Business organisations are equally appalled and we identify with their concerns.

There is a danger that, as we enter the choppy economic waters of Brexit, unscrupulous and opportunist elements will seek ‘foreign’ scapegoats to distract from the calamity they have visited upon us — in the fashion of demagogues through the ages.

If, in Scotland, the words ‘foreign’ and ‘immigrant’ which pepper the speeches of some politicians were substituted with ‘English’ or ‘Muslim’, the perpetrators would rightly be receiving a visit from our hate crime police.

The current toxic blend of arrogance, ignorance and nostalgia for a pre-EU Little England, which never truly existed, may yet end creating just that – a Little England that is poorer and more inward-looking.

The disturbing rhetoric that some believe is tinged with racism ignores our reality today. The launch editor of Scottish Legal News was the son of Iranian immigrants and his successor is the son of Indian immigrants. Both are Scottish lawyers and both have been central to the success of SLN.

We also employ Scots who are part German and part Iraqi as well as an Irish citizen. In the past we have employed Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and French journalists. We will continue to employ the best person for the job.

If we ever receive a Foreign Workers’ Directive from the UK Government, I will ensure that it is safely filed under ‘F’ for ‘Forget’.

Graham Ogilvy