Scotland to Offer Asylum to LGBT Ugandans

Jim Burroway

March 1st, 2014

Glasgow is set to host the Commonwealth Games this summer, which several athletes and members of the Ugandan government are expected to attend:

Humza Yousaf, Minister For External Affairs, has written to UK Foreign Secretary William Hague detailing the Scottish Government’s gesture to welcome “any Ugandan” persecuted by the new laws.

…With prominent members of the Ugandan government due in Glasgow this summer, the Scottish Government will also meet representatives of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) groups to discuss proposals on handling human rights issues during the event.

…In his letter Mr Yousaf has urged Mr Hague “to offer asylum to any Ugandans who feels threatened or persecuted by the legis­lation”, adding that “Scotland will play her part in providing asylum for those seeking refuge from this draconian legislation”.

He adds that during the Games “no one from any part of the Commonwealth who visits Scotland will be under any doubt about our values as a welcoming, open and tolerant society”.

A senior source said: “The issue is now so high profile it is hardly something the Scottish Government or anyone involved in the Games can now shy away from.”


March 3rd, 2014

The statement by Humza Yousaf is rather interesting. However given the circumstances you need to read between the lines to get at the meat of it, because this really has nothing to do with LGBT refugees. What it’s really about is domestic British politics.

Within the UK, immigration is dealt with in much the same way as in the US – i.e. is it a reserved (US: federal) rather than devolved (US: state) power. This means that, as for the governments of California, Louisiana, Rhode Island, etc., the Scottish government cannot grant refugee status. However this could soon change: in six months, British citizens resident in Scotland will be voting on whether or not Scotland should become an independent country. (This means that many of those voting will be English, Welsh, Northern Irish, etc., while thousands of Scots like me are excluded from voting.)

At present the “no” camp (headed by an unholy trinity of the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour, with frequent squawking from UKIP) seems to be winning the argument, and for good reason. When the UK was founded in 1707, Scotland was on the verge of economic collapse. England offered a deal: economic union (and salvation) in return for political union. Salmond, the Scottish First Minister, wants to eliminate only the political union part of the deal, forcing the creation of a Euro-style currency union for the pound – something which is essential for Scotland’s economic stability given the volatility of north sea oil and gas, one of the country’s largest industries. However the ongoing disasters in the Eurozone fringe (Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and Cyprus) mean there’s no chance of the UK agreeing to let Scotland have its cake without paying for it, and Scottish voters are becoming increasingly aware that economic independence from the UK would be a disaster. The threat of economic instability is so serious that RBS and Standard Life, two of Scotland’s largest financial services companies, have already said they’ll shift their operations and HQs south of the Wall if Scotland votes “yes”.

So the Scottish National Party needs other arguments to persuade Scottish voters and use as a smokescreen for the very harm independence would do to the country, and amongst the softest targets are Westminster’s increasingly spotty record on human and civil rights. The SNP has already highlighted the ConDems’ economic and welfare policies, which have caused sharp increases in suicide, homelessness and starvation. The SNP has also attacked the ConDems over higher education policy and the creeping privatisation of the NHS, and even attempted a long game over gay marriage; it failed when Cameron had a so-called “change of heart” and forced through gay marriage for England & Wales against the wishes of most of his own party. So what Yousaf’s comments are really about is opening up a new front in the SNP’s anti-Westminster campaign, in this case the long-running mistreatment of asylum seekers by the British government, in particular LGBTs, women and children. What Yousaf is doing is continuing the SNP’s repeated message to Scottish voters, “look at how callous, backward and alien the politicians in Westminster are. Only a fully independent Scottish Parliament can truly represent the views of the enlightened Scottish people.” It’s cultural elitism.

However that doesn’t quite cover how clever Yousaf’s comments really are, because he’s put Hague into a lose-lose situation at a point when the Tories can’t afford any wrong move, fourteen months away from what is expected to be amongst their toughest general elections ever. If Hague responds by criticising Yousaf for getting involved in an area of politics outside Holyrood’s jurisdiction, he risks alienating Scottish voters five months before a referendum which, if they lose, could cost the Conservatives the election nine months later. However allowing a Holyrood MSP to influence Westminster policy, at a time when English voters already view Scottish politicians as meddling in matters that shouldn’t concern them, could be equally damaging for the Tories’ prospects in May next year.

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