Behind Foulkes’s assertion

10 September 2007

Gavin Yates (Edinburgh, GYMedia): Anthony Barnett’s post on George Foulkes and the resulting comments both interesting and quite personal to me. In Scotland, not many people have risen to His Lordship’s defence, the reaction from the SNP is ‘apologise or resign’ and even former First Minster Henry McLeish has waded into the debate against his Labour colleague.

Henry – who resigned after the Officegate fiddle/muddle  has a book coming out today where he says that any moves to resist extra powers for Holyrood will damage Labour in Scotland . He may have a point but one can only think that his timing is slightly suspicious. His last book sold less than he – and his publishers – had hoped. And I don’t think that this barrage of spinning will help him shift many more units.

Anyway back to Foulkes. I must declare an interest in that I know George quite well. He is – in my humble opinion – decent, loyal and in my experience very giving in his time for charitable and civil society causes. I don’t think that bringing up the SNPs use of language was the most sensible move but language matters and Scotland has an anti-English problem.

I live in Edinburgh and have done for eight years. Before that I lived in London for ten years. I was born in England, consider myself to be English, and I’m married to a Scot.

I have been the ‘victim’ of anti-English racist abuse. Not very often I’ll admit but that might be more to do with being 6ft 1in that some of my fellow citizens sense of decorum. There are English friends of mine who won’t go into a pub when an England game is on the TV because they fear that they will be abused or even attacked.

George Foulkes said he was responding to concerns from a constituent about anti-English racism. From that point he tried to attach this to comments from SNP MSPs. I’m not sure of that completely stands up. There has certainly been an upsurge in anti-English rhetoric on the various newspaper discussion boards but I don’t see this as a contributing factor despite its rather vicious nature at times.

There is a large English-born Scottish population. The Scottish Government needs to ensure that everything is done to defeat all forms of racism no matter its background and politicians should always be aware of their language from both sides of the political divide.

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