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Fury as Foulkes accuses SNP of stoking racism

LOUISE GRAY 7 Sept 2007

One of Scotland's most senior Labour politicians was last night at the centre of a race row after accusing Alex Salmond and the Scottish National Party of stoking anti-English prejudice. Lord George Foulkes first became concerned after hearing that a child of one of his constituents had suffered anti-English taunts.

And after anti-English incidents during the 2006 football World Cup, Lord Foulkes is concerned that there may be problems during the rugby World Cup, which starts this weekend.

Although Lord Foulkes did not accuse any ministers of anti-English racism, he believed the Scottish Government was in danger of stoking the feeling among extremists.

He said: "If a minister, the First Minister, other ministers keep on in a sort of disparaging, snide way talking about London Labour and the London government in that kind of tone, then it does encourage people on the fringe elements, on the extreme outskirts of nationalism, to think it is OK to do things that could be very harmful to English people, either here or beyond the Border."

However, the SNP-led Scottish Government demanded an apology for the "ludicrous comments", while commentators pleaded for calm.

Lord Foulkes said the problem first emerged after constituents came to him to complain of anti-English feeling. One had a child who had experienced anti-English racist taunts and the other had experienced negative feeling because of their accent.

After writing about the incidents in the Edinburgh Evening News, Lord Foulkes said more people had come forward. "I do not think it is a big problem," he said. "But it needs to be nipped in the bud."

Speaking last night, he added: "There seemed to be a particular problem at the football World Cup and we're worried it might re-emerge during the rugby World Cup." And he warned the Scottish Government to watch its language in case of encouraging anti-English racism. He said: "I think they are in danger sometimes, in the way they refer to the London government in a slightly sneering tone, of giving the wrong impression. That in itself is not racist, but may give succour to people who might take more offensive action."

Now Lord Foulkes wants ministers to ensure that the curriculum is balanced so that children are not in danger of absorbing any prejudice at school.

"When you look at history, modern studies and other subjects, it is right that, just as it should be colour-neutral and race-neutral, it should be nationality-neutral and, in particular, in the difference between Scotland and England," he said.

However, the SNP said the claims brought ridicule on both Lord Foulkes and his party. Ian McKee, the SNP MSP for the Lothians who is English, said: "Anti-Englishness and racism is completely contrary to the SNP, otherwise I would not be in it."

Mr McKee is calling for an apology. "The buffoon Lord George Foulkes is an embarrassment to himself and the Labour Party. As a person who was born and brought up in England, I find his ludicrous remarks insulting nonsense. I am writing to Wendy Alexander asking her to apologise for this man's utterly ridiculous behaviour."

Jim McCormick, of the think-tank the Scottish Council Foundation, appealed for calm. He said: "It is really important we don't exaggerate what's actually going on out there. Public opinion in Scotland is pretty moderate on these issues."

The number of anti-English incidents in Scotland rose substantially during the 2006 World Cup with the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) in Scotland receiving 13 complaints about anti-English racism in June 2006, out of a total of 56. By contrast, in the month before the World Cup, there was only one complaint about anti-English prejudice.

  • George Foulkes was born in Shropshire in 1942 and spent his early childhood in Keith in Banffshire before moving to London with his mother, Netta, in 1953.
  • He returned to Scotland to study psychology at Edinburgh University and went on to become president of the NUS north of the Border.
  • He was elected to Westminster in 1979 and was made Minister of State for Scotland in 2001.
  • He became chairman of Heart of Midlothian FC in 2004 but resigned after falling out with the majority shareholder, Vladimir Romanov.
  • He was made a life peer in 2005 and in 2007 was elected to the Scottish parliament.
See also
SNP is anti-city - says Foulkes
Salmond's discrimination
Anti-English bullying claimed
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