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Chief Political Correspondent John Morrison reports
"Mr Portillo dismissed the SNP's call for race to be devolved"
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SNP leader John Swinney
"The Scottish Parliament has its role to play in the resolution of race relation issues"
 real 28k

Sir Malcolm Rifkind says
"I don't see Mr Swinney expelling people from the SNP for anti-English comments"
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Tuesday, 1 May, 2001, 18:25 GMT 19:25 UK
Parties clash on race issue
Chhokar campaign
Mr Swinney said Scotland should have powers
The political parties in Scotland have clashed on race after the Scottish National Party said it should be a devolved issue.

SNP leader John Swinney called for powers on race relations and equal opportunities to be devolved following the row which has engulfed the Tories at Westminster.

However, his call was dismissed by leading Scottish Tory Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who challenged Mr Swinney to expel nationalists who make "anti-English" remarks.

John Swinney
John Swinney: "Unseemly squabbling"
This was followed by an attack by Tory right-winger Lord Tebbit on Scots who he said displayed intense antagonism towards English people north of the Border.

Mr Swinney's race powers call came as the controversy which surrounded English Tory MP John Townend continued to dog the party.

Mr Townend claimed that the British were becoming a "mongrel race".

Tory Leader William Hague forced Mr Townend to apologise for his comments and a similar apology was forthcoming on Tuesday from colleague Laurence Robertson, who endorsed Mr Townend's remarks.

The Conservatives have faced controversy over whether MPs should be asked to sign a Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) pledge not to use language likely to stoke up racism during the General Election campaign.

'Common platform'

At present equal opportunities powers are reserved to the Westminster Government under the Scotland Act.

The SNP wants them made the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament north of the Border.

Mr Swinney said: "In Scotland, all of the parties have signed the CRE's compact and there is at least a consensus north of the Border on a common platform to tackle the scourge of racism.

"That is clearly not the case at Westminster where the chaos within the Tory party and unseemly squabbling among the parties have done nothing to advance the cause of equal opportunities.

"In 1998, there was a strong argument, supported by the CRE and others, to devolve equal opportunities powers to the Scottish Parliament - as a brand new institution unsullied by the mistakes of the past.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind
Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Challenge to SNP
"In 2001, the issue needs to be revisited because Westminster has failed to deal with this issue in the sensitive and responsible manner that is required."

Mr Swinney said it was important that the Scottish Parliament should have the ability to develop an inclusive race relations and equal opportunities policy.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party's election campaign, said the suggestion was "silly".

The former foreign secretary said: "John Swinney had better be careful.

"Every so often we get members of the SNP making anti-English remarks, I don't see Mr Swinney expelling them from the Scottish National Party or even forcing them to apologise."

Lord Tebbit lent his support to Mr Townend's calls for cultural integration.

He drew a distinction between a multi-cultural society and a "multi-racial or multi-ethnic society", and said it was "absurd" to prevent discussion of such issues.

'Proud of their roots'

"I do not know of any happy multi-cultural society," he said.

The United States was a prime example of the success of integrationism, with people proud of their roots but giving their first loyalty to the United States, the peer said.

"You have to be very careful because if you get a nation where there are two nations then you have potential problems," he told the BBC.

"It is a matter of how quickly and how thoroughly those who come into a country are absorbed into the mainstream culture.

"In others words you should not be able to say this is a West Indian area or this is an Asian area, or this is an Anglo-Saxon area or even, if I may say so, this is a Celtic Scottish area."

Intense racial antagonism towards the English in parts of Scotland illustrated the dangers of this, Lord Tebbit added.

Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell dismissed calls for race issues to be devolved.

She said: "I don't think there should be any borders when it comes to tolerance.

"Race relations is a United Kingdom issue and there should be no variation in the level of tolerance in various parts of the United Kingdom."

Iain Smith, the Liberal Democrat MSP for North East Fife, said: "There is plenty of opportunity for the Scottish Parliament to get involved in taking positive action to deal with the racism which there actually is in many parts of Scotland.

"I don't think it requires a change in legislation."

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See also:

01 May 01 | UK Politics
Heath weighs in on race row
21 Feb 01 | Scotland
Stars team up to beat racism
13 Feb 01 | Scotland
MSPs hear of 'racism and housing'
29 Jan 01 | Scotland
University to probe racism in NHS
11 Jan 01 | Scotland
Police given mixed report on racism
03 Jan 01 | Scotland
Prisons pledge to tackle racism
01 Aug 00 | Scotland
Police given race crime guidance
11 Feb 00 | Scotland
Strathclyde race crimes soar
25 Mar 99 | Stephen Lawrence
The Lawrence inquiry
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