04 October 2016

S5M-01257 Hate Crimes against Polish Migrants

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-01257, in the name of Kenneth Gibson, on hate crimes against Polish migrants. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament condemns recent hate crimes perpetrated against people from Poland living in the UK; recognises that Scotland and Poland have a long-standing, strong and fruitful connection and that this thriving relationship has brought great benefits to both countries, including from the wave of long-settled Polish migrants who came to this country after World War II having resisted Nazism and Stalinism; understands that 92% of Polish-born residents in the UK are in employment or education, which is considerably higher than the figure for people born in the UK; acknowledges that Poles and other migrants from Eastern Europe play a key part in many areas of the Scottish economy, particularly services, agriculture, construction and business; appreciates the high skills and excellent work ethic of Polish people and all that they bring to Cunninghame North and Scotland; believes that the negative rhetoric against Eastern Europeans in Britain has been built up and encouraged, in part, by irresponsible and shameful reporting by sections of the media; understands that, even after over 40 years of EU membership, less than 5% of Britain’s population were born in the other 27 EU countries; strongly condemns hate crimes of all kinds and the upset and fear that they cause; stands in solidarity with Polish people, both in Scotland and the rest of the UK, and will continue to welcome and support Polish migrants in Scotland.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I, too, thank Kenny Gibson for giving us the opportunity to have this debate. When I was a minister in the Scottish Government, I found myself very regularly representing the UK in discussions with Polish ministers. I have never been quite sure why that was the case; perhaps the UK Government simply recognised the natural affinity that we Scots have with many people in Poland.

I first became aware of the Poles through a friendship with the person who became my boy scouts patrol leader, Zbigniew Klemens Skrodzkie. He was a result of one of the 200,000 marriages between Scots and Poles, when Janet Barclay married Captain Stanislaw Skrodzkie of the Polish cavalry. Zbigniew and his sister Felicja were the result of that marriage. Bush—Bush is the nickname by which people who are called Zbigniew are pretty universally known in Poland—was a terrific character. He was much admired by my friends, and perhaps envied because he had a Vincent Black Shadow motorcycle.

I could tell many tales about Bush. He continued the record of service that existed across the Polish community to Scotland and the UK. He followed in the steps of many Poles who had come to fight against the Nazis. It is worth making the point that the four Polish squadrons based in Scotland had a strike rate against the enemy that was two and half times greater than that of the pilots in indigenous squadrons. Bush joined the Royal Naval Air Service. Perhaps not surprising to us, he managed to have three crashes in his first four years. Unfortunately, the last one was fatal. We still miss Bush to this day. Bush is just one of the many Poles who have contributed enormously to our community.

The history of the connection between Scotland and Poland is significant. To this day, many towns and cities in Poland have parts of their city called Nova Scotia—new Scotland. Gdansk also has somewhere called Stary Sztoky—old Scotland. Warsaw has a similar place and Kraków, which used to be the capital of Poland, similarly has a new Scotland.

The links between us go deep and they have been long established. Indeed, in 1585, the Polish-Lithuanian king Stephen Batory said, of the Scots:

“Our Court can not be without them, that supply Us with all that is necessary ... Let a certain district be assigned to them.”

The Scots were singled out in the 1500s for their contribution to Polish life.

Today, the Poles are contributing enormously. In each of the four secondary schools in my constituency, Polish is one of the languages that are represented among the pupils. On Saturday, I attended the graduation ceremony at my local college, where a significant number of people from Poland were graduating and making the most of their potential.

Let me address the more fundamental issue that has led to this debate, which is the ill treatment and racism to which too many of our Polish friends have been subjected. Robert Kennedy, the well-known United States politician, said:

“when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies—to be met not with cooperation but with conquest, to be subjugated and mastered.”

He was correct. He was also correct to say that such a view is unacceptable in a civilised society. Tonight, we unite to send a message to our Polish friends: we are with you; stay with us.


Stewart Stevenson
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