SCoJeC Chair Nicola Livingston and Director Ephraim Borowski held a frank and wide-ranging discussion with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP, along with Glasgow Jewish Representative Council President Paul Edlin and Public Affairs Advisor, Colin Grant.
SCoJeC and the Rep Council expressed concern to the First Minister about the significant increase in antisemitism reported by the CST throughout the UK, including in Scotland, during and after the recent conflict in Gaza. We gave examples of antisemitic graffiti and abuse in local secondary schools, verbal abuse and attacks on Jewish students on campus, and the vulnerability of Jewish people in remote areas.
Ms Sturgeon responded that she had reflected deeply on the issues raised in Scotland as a consequence of the conflict in the Middle East, reaffirmed her assurance that nothing at home or abroad can justify antisemitism or religious hatred of any kind, and emphasised her determination to stamp out antisemitism in Scotland. She said she understood the Jewish community’s concerns, and added that she recognises that many incidents go unreported because people feel vulnerable and are worried about repercussions, especially if they are isolated, don’t feel part of the mainstream community, or live in remote areas. She also acknowledged that there are also first, second, and now third generation survivors who are terrified of antisemitism because of their memories of the Holocaust.
The meeting also touched on other matters of concern to the Community that were set out in the Jewish Manifesto for Scotland published before the recent Holyrood elections. Concern was expressed about media speculation around increasing influence for the Green Party in a formal cooperation agreement with the SNP, as this was the only Scottish political party not even to acknowledge, let alone endorse, the Jewish Manifesto.
The First Minister was pleased to hear of efforts by the Jewish community to reach out to other faiths, and suggested she might be able to support a specific initiative if it falls within the Scottish Government’s remit. Commenting on recent disturbing incidents in secondary schools, she told us that she appreciated the anxieties of Jewish students about increasing levels of abuse on campus, and recalled that she had held a very successful meeting with Jewish students and Chaplaincy some years ago. She offered to meet a similar group again to help provide reassurance, and said she would be happy to facilitate meetings between SCoJeC, Jewish Student Chaplaincy, and university Vice-Chancellors.
The First Minister said she would like to meet and hear from as many members of Scotland’s Jewish communities as possible, and offered to address a public meeting in the Community as soon as conditions permit. We hope to arrange this before the end of this year as part of SCoJeC’s hybrid event programme, in order to enable Jewish people throughout the country to participate digitally even if they are not able to attend in person.
Nicola Livingston thanked the First Minister for agreeing to the meeting and said: “We appreciate Ms Sturgeon's understanding of these sensitive and complex issues. Her willingness to suggest ways in which she can support the Jewish community across Scotland to feel safe and tackle rising antisemitic Hate Crime as well as other matters of concern, is particularly welcomed."
Paul Edlin commented: “The meeting was most productive on a number of levels, and I would like to thank the First Minister for giving us her time today.”
Following the meeting, the First Minister commented: