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Tories are fanning the flames of xenophobia

October 6, 2016 12:00 PM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

From Willie Rennie MSP, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats :

Growing up in a small village in Fife, community was important to me and my family. My parents ran the local shop. We knew everyone and everyone knew us. Mum and Dad used to tell me stories about the customers. Who they were and where they were from.

Some of our customers were from Polish families who fled persecution during the Second World War. These were people just like us who had dropped everything and come to Scotland for safety.

As a child, I imagined how terrifying it must have been for these families to leave their lives behind and begin an uncertain journey. I was proud that Fife welcomed them so readily. By the time that I was working in the shop they had been part of the community for decades.

My parents' stories taught me many things. If someone is desperate and needs help, then you give it. And it doesn't matter where people are from or what they have experienced. They are all human beings.

The headlines that have emerged from Conservative Party Conference reminded me how important it is that we do not forget these lessons.

The increase in hate crimes against people from other EU member states is one of the most worrying things to have emerged in the fallout from the referendum.

When you consider the racist, xenophobic refugee poster that Nigel Farage unveiled days before the poll it is perhaps not surprising though. If people are told that the complex problems they are facing have a single root cause and a straightforward solution they will tend to believe it. No matter the damage that might be caused.

Under these circumstances it is the responsibility of all of us to help put out the fires that senior figures in the Leave campaign unleashed. Instead, the Conservatives have chosen to throw petrol onto the flames.

Telling doctors from other countries who are here saving lives in our NHS that their position is only secure until we can rush a crop of new graduates through medical school is not responsible. Telling people from other countries who are thinking about moving here to work and pay taxes that their names might be included on a list of foreign workers is not responsible.

If we are publishing lists of foreign workers, we may as well pull up the drawbridge.These policies are not about controlling immigration. They are about demonising immigrants. The Tories are taking us to the gutter.

The message this sends to foreign students, medical staff, businesses and others is clear. You are not welcome here. As a liberal who has always believed that we can achieve more when we work with those around us, this does not just make me sad. It makes me incredibly angry.

The senior Conservative Party figures who are behind these policies should be ashamed of themselves. And any Tory who does not see that these ideas are fundamentally at odds with our values is part of the problem and needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

Liberal Democrats campaigned for a Remain vote at the referendum because we wanted to protect our ties with our friends and relatives in Europe.

We want to see another vote on the outcome of the negotiations because people who voted Leave were presented with a pack of lies by Boris Johnson and his colleagues before the ballot boxes opened. I don't believe for a second that people who voted leave did so on the basis that their local doctor would be forced out of the country.

The Scottish Conservatives have one MP who is a Cabinet Minister and Ruth Davidson attends Cabinet too. They are every bit as responsible for these shameful announcements as the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister.

It is now crystal clear what a vote for the Conservatives in Scotland or anywhere else in the UK means. An end to openness and tolerance.

Ruth Davidson's party would have us weak, divided and pandering on immigration.

The Liberal Democrats will oppose these dangerous proposals and stand proud in our belief that immigration benefits our culture, our economy and our communities.