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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 February, 2005, 18:13 GMT
Westminster 'hampers' racism plan
street scene
The debate was on tackling racism
Scotland's efforts to tackle racism are being hampered by the Westminster government's "punitive policies", a Scottish National Party MSP has said.

During a Holyrood debate on tackling racism, the SNP's Sandra White welcomed the efforts of ministers in Scotland.

But she said the policies of their Labour colleagues at Westminster were "absolutely different".

Socialist MSP Rosie Kane said Scotland had a wish-list but Westminster would "not make our wishes come true".

'Fair system'

Tory communities spokeswoman Mary Scanlon accused Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm of seeking to score "cheap" political points for including the Scottish Executive's Fresh Talent initiative in his anti-racist motion for the debate.

Ms Scanlon said that "a fair system of immigration control is necessary to promote good race relations" and attacked what she described as the "chaotic system" under the Labour government.

Opening the debate, Mr Chisholm condemned those who exploited global tensions to foster anti-Islamic sentiments and a "climate of fear" surrounding asylum seekers and refugees.

He warned that prejudice and bigotry were "shackling" Scotland's potential, despite its rich cultural diversity.

He told MSPs: "Scotland has a reputation for being open, friendly, internationalist in outlook but this is not the reality for some - racism, harassment and discrimination is still too often the experience and it is not acceptable.

When you look at what is coming from Westminster regarding Tory and Labour policies, that's absolutely different from what you're saying
Sandra White
SNP social justice

"Neither is it acceptable that a climate of fear is generated around asylum seekers and refugees or that heightened international tensions are exploited to foster anti-Islamic sentiments.

"We want Scotland to be at ease with its diversity, a place of innovation and creativity and a place to which people want to come and are welcomed."

Ms White, the SNP's social justice spokeswoman, welcomed Mr Chisholm's comments, but attacked the immigration policies of his Labour colleagues in the Westminster Government and the Conservative opposition in London. "I think they're very, very punitive policies, both from the Tory and the Labour party at Westminster," the Glasgow MSP said.

"The minister has mentioned asylum seekers and Islamophobia and that's very welcome and I know its from the heart.

"But when you look at what is coming from Westminster regarding Tory and Labour policies, that's absolutely different from what you're saying."

Ms Kane also praised the executive's efforts to tackle racism.

However, she said that Prime Minister Tony Blair was "pandering to middle England and the right wing press".

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