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Mr Mayor – As a politician and an outspoken advocate and defender of social justice and greater inclusion you have rightly won the sincere admiration of people all over the United Kingdom. Here in Scotland our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has described herself as an admirer of yours, and we in the Butterfly Rebellion have agreed with her on this point. During your mayoral election campaign, when the most hateful and Islamophobic racist rhetoric was being used as a vile and disgusting weapon against you, those who describe themselves in this country as Scottish nationalists rallied to your defence. As a nation we are proud in Scotland of our world class reputation for openness and tolerance, and we have made it clear time and again that independence for Scotland is about achieving the best for our country and everyone who lives here.
It was with the most profound shock, frustration, and sadness then that we listened to your words addressed to the Scottish Labour Party conference in Perth when you said:
There’s no difference between those who try to divide us on the basis of whether we’re English or Scottish and those who try to divide us on the basis of our background, race or religion.
There are a number of things here that imply a certain level of ignorance on your part regarding the current situation in Scottish politics. While you have repeatedly blasted “nationalism” as narrow and divisive, it has to be said that the division has been wholly invented by a British media apparatus and a unionist anti-independence campaign that is now hell-bent on forcing Scotland out of the European Union against its will and against the political principles your party has defended for decades. That Scottish independence seeks to drive a bitter wedge between the people of Scotland and England is a fiction disproved by the significant number of English Scots who not only support Scottish independence but are now on record saying that they have found no anti-English prejudice in the independence movement.
In fact it is the case that the desire of Scottish people for national self-determination has nothing to do with England or English people. It is rather the narrowness of British unionism that insists that everything the Scottish people do and think must be done and thought in reference to England and the English. It seems to offend British “patriotism” – more or less a synonym for nationalism – that in Scotland the Scots are able to think of themselves and reflect upon what they think is best for them and their country without reference to the dominant partner in this union of nations.
Yet, regardless of the freedom of thought we Scots have been capable of for millennia, this fiction of Scottish nationalism being anti-Englishness has been imposed on us and you have added to it and compounded it further by racialising this atrocious slur. Perhaps you are also unaware of the deep racism and bigotry at the heart of Scottish unionism – that is British Nationalism in Scotland. Few can blame you for being completely incognisant of this reality; it wasn’t as though the unionist BBC was ever likely to disabuse you of your naivety.
During the 2012-14 independence campaign – during which your own party campaigned on the populist and racist platform of curbing immigration – the extreme hard-right underbelly of British nationalist politics worked in open collaboration with Labour, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats as part of the anti-independence Better Together campaign. UKIP and the National Front were never far from those who stood against us. All that this managed to achieve was the solidification of the independence movement’s alignment with anti-racism and the struggle against every sort of prejudice and bigotry. In the aftermath of England and Wales’ decision to leave the European Union, when hate crime figures accelerated across the rest of the UK, Scotland – thanks to our national values – showed itself to be a light to the nations. Figures for racially motivated violence are still plummeting here in Scotland.
It is certainly not our desire to “whitesplain” racism to you, despite this being the apparent intention behind you making these comments. Regardless of your intention this is how your words have been used against half of the population of our country. Our only desire is to put before you the facts – those indisputable facts that undermine everything that you have said. Whether through ignorance or by malice – another trait now commonplace in the unionist discourse – you were wrong, and your words have caused a great deal of hurt.
Should @SadiqKhan rethink his comments about Scottish nationalists and consider making an apology? Retweet to let him know.—
Butterfly Rebellion (@Butterfly_Reb) February 25, 2017
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of your party, has already distanced himself from what you have said and so too has his deeply unpopular subordinate in Scotland, Kezia Dugdale. Your words, however they were intentioned or informed, have not only hurt the people of Scotland; they have further damaged the credibility of the Labour Party – as if that was even possible. What we would like from you is a full and unreserved apology and a complete retraction of the words that surely now even you must be regretting. We are only human, and we all say careless, ill-advised, and stupid things. It is folly for any of us to defend the indefensible. The smart thing for you to do would be to show that you have enough integrity to admit that you were wrong and apologise.
We do look forward to hearing from you. Your failure to respond will be understood as your refusal to accept that you have disrespected the Scottish people, and that it was and is your intention to insult this country. Thank you.