Eastern Eye (UK)
Yousaf hails family’s journey amid migration bill debate
NEW SNP LEADER PAYS TRIBUTE TO DIVERSITY AS HE VOWS TO WORK FOR INDEPENDENCE
SCOTLAND’S new first minister Humza Yousaf has pledged to deliver independence for his country and return it to the European Union.
In his acceptance speech on Monday (27), when he became the first Asian elected to lead the Scottish National Party (SNP), Yousaf also paid tribute to his grandparents. He said the “journey over generations reminds us that we should celebrate migrants who contribute so much to our country”.
He added that his grandparents, who could not speak English when they migrated from Pakistan’s Punjab to the UK 60 years ago, “could not have imagined their grandson would one day be on the cusp of being the next first minister of Scotland”.
His grandfather Muhammad worked in the Singer Sewing Machine Factory in Clydebank in the 1960s.
“We should all take pride in the fact that today we have sent a clear message, that your colour of skin, your faith, is not a barrier to leading the country we all call home,” the 37-year-old Yousaf said, adding that it drove his commitment to equality.
The new SNP leader’s support for migrants comes as prime minister Rishi Sunak and home secretary Braverman pledged to stop migrants crossing the Channel illegally on small boats from France.
A bill passing through parliament intends to outlaw asylum claims by all illegal arrivals, while anyone who is deported after making the dangerous journey from France would be banned from re-entering the UK. Migrants would be returned to their home country or sent on to a ‘safe’ destination such as Rwanda.
An Asian parliamentarian told Eastern Eye, “People do distinguish between illegal migration and legal migration routes.
“If you look at the latest economic forecasts published at the time of the budget by the Office of Budget Responsibility, it actually shows that immigration levels are expected to be around 250,000 a year.
“We have stepped up immigration into this country and if that’s based on a pointsbased system rather than the previous policy of freedom of movement from the EU, I suspect you will see a lot more immigration from south Asia to the UK in the future.”
They added: “This current debate demonstrates that we do need to find safe and legal routes for people to come here. That’s the missing element of the current policy. We want to stop the trafficking, but it’s not yet clear how those who have a genuine case for seeking asylum can apply in a way that doesn’t put their lives in danger.
“I hope that is going to get fleshed out so that we don’t give a mixed message – but we give a consistent message.”
Yousaf also resolved to work to achieve Scotland’s independence – the SNP’s primary objective for years. In the 2014 referendum, the country voted against a break from the UK by 55 per cent to 45 per cent, and the popular mood has not changed according to several opinion polls since.
Westminster had blocked Sturgeon’s attempts at holding a second vote on independence, and the Supreme Court also backed the UK’s government’s stand.
But Yousaf said, “We will be the generation that delivers independence for Scotland. My solemn commitment to you is that I will kickstart our grassroots, civic-led movement and ensure our drive for independence is in fifth gear.
“The people of Scotland need independence now more than ever before…”
He, however, added that his immediate priorities will be to address the cost-of-living crisis and reform the NHS and other vital public services. “I will move quickly to develop plans to extend childcare, improve rural housing, support small businesses, and boost innovation. I will bring forward reforms of the criminal justice system and work with the local government to empower our local authorities.”
An Ipsos poll conducted shortly before Yousaf became SNP leader showed that half of Scots feel that the country is going the wrong way, while just a quarter believe it is heading in the right direction.