Following recent meetings with the Scottish leaders of the other main political parties, SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski met the SNP’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, to discuss a wide range of political issues, ranging from the connection between last summer’s large spike in antisemitic incidents and events in the Middle East to freedom of speech and religion, as well as other matters raised with us during our 2012 Being Jewish in Scotland inquiry, and the current study of how the Jewish experience has changed since then.
Mr Robertson, who was one of the signatories to last month's cross-party
statement condemning the antisemitic terrorist attacks in
Europe and expressing support for the Jewish Community in
Scotland, was dismayed at the levels of hatred experienced by Jews in Scotland over the past year, saying that "There has to be constant vigilance against intolerance of all kinds in our communities, and any growth in antisemitism is quite simply unacceptable." He assured us that the SNP's commitment to an inclusive Scotland would ensure the protection of freedoms such as shechitah (religious slaughter), expressed "surprise and disappointment" that some Jewish people, even in public services, find it hard to take time off for Shabbat and the festivals, and reiterated the SNP's support for Holocaust education.
With regard to the conflict in the Middle East, Mr Robertson commented that he supports constructive work to bring Israelis and Palestinian together both in Scotland and the Middle East, and, while he shares some of his party's concerns about Israel's actions during the recent conflict in Gaza, he understands the real security threats faced by Israelis. and recognises the concern in the Jewish Community that some MSPs focus disproportionately on Israel relative to other international matters.
Also present at the meeting were the Board of Deputies Director of Public Affairs, Phil Rosenberg, and Parliamentary and Public Affairs Officer, Sophie Dunoff, who invited Mr Robertson to subscribe to the “Ten Commitments” in the Jewish Manifesto that the Board has sent to all candidates in the forthcoming 2015 UK General Election. Since these pledges relate to UK Government policies, many are not of direct relevance in Scotland, where the corresponding matters are devolved, so SCoJeC has also begun work on a similar “manifesto” of devolved Jewish concerns for the 2016 Scottish election. Many of these issues are being raised in the course of our current study of how being Jewish in Scotland has changed, and Ephraim, Phil, and SCoJeC Public Affairs Officer Nicola Livingston, also ran a event on “What the Community Wants from its Parliaments” at the Scotland Day Limmud, which took place on 8 March 2015.
Phil commented that the Board was doing everything in its power to ensure that all candidates were aware of the concerns of the Jewish community: "With the polls suggesting the real possibility of another hung parliament, we are seeking to ensure that all political parties understand the key issues for the Community. We were gratified at Mr Robertson's openness and constructiveness and look forward to working with him and colleagues in the future."
Ephraim said: "The Scottish political landscape is complicated by the fact that the SNP is predicted to take the majority of Scottish seats at Westminster only months after losing the Referendum on independence. Even more powers are being devolved to the Scottish Parliament at the same time as we are electing members of the UK Parliament who will have no remit in those devolved matters that govern almost all of every-day life in Scotland.However, despite the differences in implementation, the principles enshrined in the Board's "Ten Commitments" are common to us all, so this was a useful opportunity to discuss how the SNP might influence UK Government policy after the election as well as how the Scottish Government should respond to that concerns of the Community revealed by our Being Jewish in Scotland inquiry, and we were very grateful to Mr Robertson for his support."