300 Academics sign open letter to PM over ‘xenophobia’
The Scotsman, by Shan Ross
Almost 300 academics, writers, lawyers, academics and musicians have signed an open letter Prime Minister Theresa May calling on her to “rein in” her government’s divisive and “xenophobic” language over proposals to make firms disclose the number of non-British workers they employ.
The letter, which goes live to the public to sign today at www.notforeign.com, follows the row which broke out after Ms Rudd’s speech to the Conservative Party conference last week. The speech attracted criticism from a range of high-profile organisations including the British Chambers of Commerce, whose director general Adam Marshall said having a global workforce should not be seen as a “badge of shame”.
Signatories to the open letter, which was written by the Glasgow-based Irish journalist, broadcaster and writer Dr Peter Geoghegan, include theatre director Cora Bissett, writers Denise Mina, AL Kennedy and Christopher Silver, Ian Hamilton QC, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Dr Dan van her Horst, University of Edinburgh, Rev Peter Macdonald, leader of the Iona Community and Dr Duncan Morrow, chairman of the Scottish Government independent advisory group on hate crime, prejudice and community cohesion.
The letter says foreign nationals are “not a separate caste in our society – they are our friends, partners, colleagues and neighbours…they are part of who we are” and calls on the UK government to rule out policies “premised on dividing workplaces and communities based on where they were born”.
Dr Geoghegan said despite moves by the Tory Party in recent days to tone down Ms Rudd’s words, he was greatly concerned about the inflammatory sentiments and language being used. “I’ve been living in the UK, mainly Scotland, for over a decade and I’ve always felt very welcome and tried to contribute to public life. But I woke up on Wednesday morning after Amber Rudd’s speech and said ‘I think I want to leave’. “The last thing a society needs is this sort of dehumanising language dividing people into ‘foreign’ or ‘non-foreign’.
It is quite xenophobic and can leave some people feeling more emboldened, that ‘maybe it’s OK to say that someone doesn’t belong here’. History will show that once you start talking like this it’s difficult to stop.” Dr Geoghegan added: “This is very dangerous politics which has opened up a Pandora’s box. It has been reported worldwide in papers like the New York Times and people are wondering what on earth is going on here.”
See Full list of signatories here