The Scottish National Party’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson has expressed dismay at the levels of hatred experienced by Jews in Scotland over the past year.
Meeting at Westminster with representatives of the Board of Deputies and the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC), Mr Robertson also underscored the Party’s support for Holocaust education and expressed “surprise and disappointment” that some Jews found it hard to take time off for Shabbat and the festivals. He said that the SNP’s commitment to an inclusive Scotland would ensure the protection of freedoms like shechita (religious slaughter).
At the meeting, focused on the SNP’s response to the “Ten Commitments” outlined in the Board’s Jewish Manifesto for the General Election, Mr Robertson also spoke about the SNP’s attitudes to Israel and the conflict in the Middle East. While he shared some of his group concerns about Israel’s actions during the recent conflict in Gaza, he recognised the concern in the Jewish Community that MSPs are disproportionately focused on Israel relative to other international matters. He was also clear in his understanding of the real security threats faced by Israelis and supported constructive work to bring Israelis and Palestinians together both in Scotland and the Middle East.
The Board was represented by public affairs director Phil Rosenberg and parliamentary affairs officer Sophie Dunoff. SCoJeC was represented by its director, Ephraim Borowski.
Following the meeting, Mr Robertson said: “There has to be constant vigilance against intolerance of all kinds in our communities – and any growth in antisemitism is quite simply unacceptable.”
Mr Borowski said: “The Scottish political landscape is complicated by the fact that the SNP is predicted to take the majority of Scottish seats at Westminster only months after losing the Referendum on independence. Even more powers are being devolved to the Scottish Parliament at the same time as we are electing members of the UK Parliament who will have no remit in those devolved matters that govern almost all of every-day life in Scotland. However, despite the differences in implementation, the principles enshrined in the Board’s “Ten Commitments” are common to us all, so this was a useful opportunity to discuss how the SNP might influence UK Government policy after the election as well as how the Scottish Government should respond to that concerns of the Community revealed by our “Being Jewish in Scotland” survey, and we were very grateful to Mr Robertson for his support.”
Mr Rosenberg added that the Board was doing everything in its power to ensure that all candidates were aware of the concerns of the Jewish community. “With the polls suggesting the real possibility of another hung parliament, the Board is leaving nothing to chance and seeking to ensure that all parties understand the key Jewish issues.We were gratified at Mr Robertson’s openness and constructiveness and look forward to working with him and colleagues going forward.”
Meanwhile at Glasgow’s Day Limmud on Sunday 8 March, SCoJeC and the Board ran a first consultation event for the Jewish Manifesto for the 2016 Scottish Elections. The two organisations hope to publish the new Manifesto in early 2016. The Board also hopes to work with local communities to produce similar documents for the Wales and Northern Ireland Assembly elections the same year.
Noting that the job of political engagement was not a job for leadership organisations like the Board or SCoJeC alone, Mr Rosenberg added, “We urge all in the community to get their local candidates’ views on key Jewish issues on the doorstep, at hustings and or using our new online tool.”
You can find the Board’s Jewish Manifesto for the 2015 Election and the new online tool – produced by We Believe in Israel – for contacting all your local candidates at www.bod.org.uk
Being Jewish in Scotland survey: https://www.scojec.org/news/2014/14xii_bjis2/survey.html
Photo: Left to right: Phil Rosenberg, Ephraim Borowski and Angus Robertson