SCoJeC’s Director, Ephraim Borowski, and Public Affairs Officer, Nicola Livingston, met First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for our first formal meeting since she took office. We had a frank and friendly discussion, and the First Minister expressed a strong desire to meet the Community and respond to their concerns first hand.
After a brief discussion of the implications of the SNP’s historic result in last month’s General Election, which she said showed a public appetite for a stronger voice for Scotland within the Union, we presented Ms Sturgeon with a copy of the recent special issue of Four Corners reporting the findings of our study of What’s Changed about Being Jewish in Scotland?, which the Scottish Government Community Safety Unit agreed to fund in order to gain an understanding of the anxieties of the Community about the unprecedented spike in antisemitic incidents following last summer’s conflict in Gaza.
The First Minister commented that even the low level to which the rate of incidents has now returned is unacceptable, and acknowledged that the effect on the Community is cumulative and has been further affected by events abroad, such as the terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen. She was very concerned to hear of people who now conceal the identity and are even talking of leaving Scotland, and commented that people’s perception is part of the reality that we need to address together.
The First Minister listened to the anxieties outlined by SCoJeC that have been expressed in UK and international Jewish media about Scotland and the SNP. We also expressed our concerns about the increase in antisemitic and anti-Israel activity on campus. In addition, we explained how partisan gestures during the war in Gaza concerned Jewish people, because the Hamas Charter calls for the murder of Jews everywhere. We also conveyed the concerns that had been expressed to us on the number of Members Motions condemning Israel in the Scottish Parliament, most of them proposed by SNP MSPs.
As well as being delighted to accept our invitation to address a public meeting and answer questions on any matters member of the Community wish to raise, the First Minister offered to hold a series of smaller meetings with particular groups within the Community, such as Jewish students and Israelis in Scotland, and also asked us to arrange for her to visit a synagogue. All these arrangements are now in hand, and will be advertised on our online noticeboard in due course.
Commenting on the meeting, Ms Sturgeon said: