Kate Forbes, the new and energetic SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, is rightly campaigning to stop the deportation of an Australian family living in the Highlands family – who came to Scotland under the UK’s then post-study visa scheme.
The scheme was rescinded last year as part of an effort to close down forms of back-door immigration- without thought being given to the worth of the skills of those concerned and the contribution these developed skills could make to the overall UK economy and to the local economies of the specific part of the UK to which they had come.
The SNP, rightly, protested immediately about the negative impact of this move on parts of the UK – like Scotland, where depopulation and small populations make economic growth difficult.
The Australian Brain family weee amongst those beached in the UK with the retraction of the post-study visa which had brought them to the UK – and to the Highlands – in the first place.
The family, parents Greg and Kahryn and their son Lachlan, have clearly become active and worthwhile members of their community, with strong public support for their staying.
Kate Forbes has today, 23rd May 2016, written to Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson, who is Leader of the Opposition in Holyrood, asking for the Scottish Tories to add their voices to the calls ‘to stop the family’s imminent expulsion from their adopted home country because of inflexible Home Office rules’.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to the Home Office ‘decrying the “inflexibilities of the UK immigration system resulting in Scotland losing talented individuals who have studied at our universities and contributed to our economy” ‘.
Kate Forbes has asked the UK government to honour their original promise allowing the family to remain under a post-study work visa – the reinstatement of which has been consistently called for by the SNP.
Ms Forbes’ press release on her call to Ms Davidson has received what she describes as ‘cross-party backing’ from MSPs in her parliamentary motion calling for the Home Office to allow the Brain family to continue to live and work in the Highlands.
Her motion was signed by: John Finnie, Shirley-Anne Somerville, Graeme Dey, Jenny Gilruth, Gillian Martin, Stewart Stevenson, Colin Beattie, Ben Macpherson, John Mason, Clare Haughey, Gail Ross, Jeane Freeman, Richard Lyle, Mark McDonald, David Torrance, Maree Todd, Christina McKelvie, Kevin Stewart, Michael Russell, Clare Adamson, Angus MacDonald, Ross Greer, Rona Mackay, Joan McAlpine.
Scrutiny of this list reveals that ‘cross party’ backing amounted to two members of the Scottish Greens – added to only 22 of the total of 63 SNP MSPs.
41 SNP MSPs did not sign it, nor did any of the 31 Scottish Conservatives, the 24 Scottish Labour MSPs and the 5 Liberal Democrats.
The two members of the Scottish Greens who did support it and who generously amount to ‘cross party support’ are John Finnie and Ross Greer.
- John Finnie was a SNP MSP who made a principled resignation from the party over the its pre-indyref 1 commitment to NATO under Alex Salmond. Following his resignation from the party, Mr Finnie continued to vote with the SNP in the chamber. He later became a Green and, on 5th May, running in those colours, held the Highlands and Islands Regional List seat he had previously occupied as a member of the SNP.
- Ross Greer is the newly elected Green SNP who won a Regional List seat for the West of Scotland and who, at 21, is something of a firebrand and the youngest MSP in Holyrood.
In spite of the absence of almost two thirds of the SNP MSP cohort of 63, two thirds of the Greens’ cohort of 6, all of the Labour cohort of 24 and all of the Liberal Democrat cohort of 5, Ms Forbes has issued a press release singling out only the 31 Scottish Conservatives for not signing her motion.
Everything about this flags up the sectarian disease at the heart of Scottish politics.
A campaign to save a clearly worthwhile family, effectively lured to Scotland, then stranded there and facing deportation through no fault of their own and in a situation which no one could have anticipated [a change of regulation after their coming here] – and a campaign to reverse the decision to stop the granting of post-study visas in general is a campaign of such right and reason as to command the automatic support of any intelligent human being.
Yet, bar two specific Greens, the other parties [along with the majority of the SNP] did not support it in that context.
While the motion itself was framed solely on the issue – and ought to have been universally supported on those grounds alone, the rhetoric surrounding it from Ms Forbes and Ms Sturgeon – some of it contained in and quoted in the Forbes press release cited above, focused much less on that issue than on scoring political points against the UK government amongst a nationalist audience.
Kate Forbes MSP says: ‘For Gregg and Kathryn Brain the Highlands are their home. It’s where they’ve chosen to make their lives, to study, to work and to raise their young son Lachlan. They’re part of the fabric of their local community – contributing in great measure economically, culturally and socially.
‘And they took the initiative to move here in the first place as part of a government scheme to revitalise Highland communities.
‘By contrast the UK government is showing a complete lack of initiative in this case – applying rigid rules, in an unfair and uncompromising way and it’s completely wrong that the Brain family now face the very real and imminent threat of being deported.
‘With the whole community rallying around them, and the support of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her predecessor Alex Salmond, they’ve fought a hard campaign to secure the right to remain in Scotland.
‘At Holyrood this week I invited colleagues from across the political divide to support my calls for the Home Office to reconsider their ill-thought through decision, which could have devastating consequences for this family.
‘But we’re yet to hear a peep from the Tories at Holyrood on whether they back the Brains in their fight to remain in Scotland or would rather see them forced out by the uncompromising rules of the Westminster government.
‘If Ruth Davidson wants people to take her seriously as a leader in charge of her party in Scotland then she must distance herself from colleagues at Westminster and join with other reasonable voices in support of the Brain family.’
Ms Forbes’ Motion in the Scottish Parliament
Motion S5M-00058: Kate Forbes, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/05/2016
That the Parliament calls on the UK Government to reconsider its decision not to grant the Dingwall family, Gregg, Kathryn and Lachlan Brain, a visa to allow them to continue living, working and studying in the Highlands; notes what it sees as the huge contribution that the family, who are originally from Australia, have made to Scotland; believes that deporting them will undermine the substantial efforts that are being made to ensure that the Highlands thrive, and asks that the Home Office reintroduces the post-study work visa so that Scotland is not deprived of people and families, such as the Brains, who it believes are integral to the country’s economy, culture and society.
Ms Forbes letter to Ruth Davidson
Gregg, Kathryn and Lachlan Brain – Dingwall
I refer to the abovementioned family who have chosen to make their home in my constituency and have been resident in Scotland for several years.
You will likely be aware that the Brain family are facing the grave prospect of being deported due to the enforcement of stringent and inflexible rules by the Home Office. I am sure we can both agree that these are rules not best suited to Scotland – a country which welcomes people who come here to live, study, work and contribute in a very real sense to our society and communities. Given that the Brain family are such a great asset to the Highlands, their deportation would truly be a travesty for them, their friends, neighbours and colleagues.
I have already written to the Home Secretary on behalf of my constituents asking that she intervenes to allow them to stay in Scotland.
You may have noted the parliamentary motion S5M-00058 which I lodged this week, and would be encouraged by support from members of your party in expressing their solidarity with the Brain family and seeking action from the UK government before it is too late.
I look forward to your response.
With very best wishes,
Let’s have some decent priorities in the Scottish Parliament – all round
It is always specific issues that matter most – yet party politics which, under the nationalist separatists, are becoming increasingly sectarian [and we use the term advisedly], tend to swamp issues or distort them to narrow political ends.
We need to see all parties and factions in Holyrood supporting a common-sense campaign to return the post-study visa facility; and to support a common-sense motion to retain in Scotland one unfortunate family who have fallen foul of an unexpected change of regulation after they had come to this country.
To assist this new and necessary issue-based course of direction happening in Scottish politics, we need to see the SNP faciitate it by reigning in their automatic and opportunist predisposition to couch everything in terms of a simplistic binary opposition between a saintly SNP and a monstrous Westminster.
Ms Forbes’ motion and her letter to MS Davidson are both exemplary, being issue based – so she is politically aware of that need. However she has fallen into the party pris habit of sounding the trumpet of trite and tired party political rhetoric in what she has said outside these formal communications.
Much of Scotland’s immediate future depends upon the calibre and mindset of the new cohort of SNP MSPs and of the Scottish Conservatives in opposition.
We do not want to see a promising new young parliamentarian like Kate Forbes fall into the divisive and outdated oppositional behaviours of the past, even though these persist alongside her in the present.
We do not want to see a new and promising opposition at Holyrood, like the reborn Scottish Conservatives, fall into the divisive and destructive outdated ways of party politics – and refuse to support a good and just cause just because it comes from the party to which they are opposed.
All sides in Holyrood have a lot to learn in the effort to lift the low standard of Scottish politics and to elevate it into what it night be – something unique and enabling in the UK – assuming that any of them actually have that intent at heart.