I'm not sure I could ever have anticipated sending a text reading "Mazal tov & Ramadan mubarak", but this truly is, as a previous administration put it, one Scotland of many cultures!
We do live in a new and welcome era – not only is our First Minister a second-generation Asian immigrant – and proudly so, as he made clear in his acceptance speech – but so is the Prime Minister, albeit from the other side of the South Asian ethnic divide.
Since the very beginnings of Devolution, SCoJeC has made the point to the Scottish Government that what makes tartan tartan is not its uniformity, but the interwoven pattern of difference, each differently coloured thread running in a different direction, but visible as itself against the background, and it all holding together, not despite their intersections, but because of those intersections.
Scotland is not an American-style melting pot. In a melting pot all diversity is stirred away; pattern becomes sludge; everything becomes indistinguishable, as all difference is dissolved. But we can be glad that it is also not the opposite – a society of segregated communities, of isolated and ghettoised minorities, each in its own silo, disengaged from one another, fermenting resentment.
Tartan, on the other hand, with its intersecting pattern, combines difference into unity by forming a decorative pattern with distinct colours and different directions, all coming together to form a single whole. It has recently become a cliché that equality and diversity are not enough – it's inclusion that really matters. Tartan embodies this – it is the very design of the tartan, with its divergence, difference, even disagreement, that holds society together. In contrast, a cloth of parallel threads is no cloth; it just falls apart.
Our new First Minister is the personification of this view of society, and we are proud to have has worked closely with him in many of the organisations that promote this vision. He has been very familiar with the Jewish Community since his schooldays, when about a quarter of his class were Jewish. As an MSP and a Minister, he has been a familiar face at many communal events – indeed, he was the guest speaker at our unique Jewish Gathering when the terrible news of the Pittsburgh shul shooting broke. And later as Justice Secretary, it was he who suggested that the Scottish Government's Places of Worship Security Fund should be launched in Garnethill Shul.
After he spoke at the Giffnock Shul Burns Supper just before the pandemic, he told me that when he'd shown his mother his photo with Rabbi Lemberger in a kilt she had commented that she didn't know he had another brother!
This leadership contest has been remarkable – in an increasingly secular society all three candidates put their faith and beliefs front and foremost. With Humza we can be sure that we will continue to find a sympathetic ear for the concerns of the Jewish Community about our religious freedoms as well as our security. Of course we don't always agree about everything, but one area where we concur is that you debate withyour opponents, you don't shout them down or try to silence them. In that spirit we have always discussed rationally and with mutual respect, and I look forward to continuing to do so, whatever the issue.
So once again, and this time in public, Mazal tov & Ramadan mubarak!