Row over 'immigrant' question

A SCOTTISH Borders councillor this week stands accused of using the kind of emotive language more akin to that of right-wing political groups.

And it is set to ignite a blazing row when councillors meet for the monthly full meeting of Scottish Borders Council today at its headquarters in Newtown St Boswells.

Galashiels and District councillor Sandy Aitchison, from The Borders Party, has lodged a question with council officials to be asked at today’s meeting.

In his question, Councillor Aitchison states that since the Additional Support for Learning Act of 2004, English language training is a right of all immigrant children.

And his question continues: “Due to the massive increase in immigration into the Borders, what extra provision is being proposed by Scottish Borders Council to provide a better service for the benefit of immigrant children, indigenous children and the staff who are providing an excellent service with the limited resources available to them?”

But the use of terms such as “immigrant” and “indigenous” when it comes to discussing children has provoked outrage from SBC education spokesperson and LibDem councillor for Tweeddale West, Catriona Bhatia.

Councillor Bhatia says she is horrified at the emotive and inappropriate language used by Mr Aitchison in his question to council.

She told TheSouthern this week: “Councillor Aitchison refers to ‘the massive increase in immigration into the Borders’ and asks about services for ‘immigrant’ children and ‘indigenous’ children.

“Councillor Aitchison is using the emotive language of the far right which has no place in Borders. It is quite legitimate to ask about how the council is supporting children who do not have English as a first language, but to label children as either ‘immigrant’ or ‘indigenous’ is absolutely abhorrent.

“The educational needs and support requirements of individual children are assessed and supported, and the resources required to do that are continually reviewed.”

The latest available figures show that there has been a seven per cent increase in migrant workers coming into the Scottish Borders from overseas in the past year.

“Hardly a ‘massive increase in immigration’!” says Mrs Bhatia.

“That equals 740 individuals and is not seven per cent of the population. The number of migrant workers represents 0.6 per cent of Borders’ population,” she said.

This rise includes people who have English as a first language as well those for whom English is not their first language.

One organisation which does use the language of the far right is the British National Party, which contested the South of Scotland seat at the 2004 European elections.

Out of the vote in those elections, in the two Borders constituencies that are included in the South of Scotland region, the BNP polled only 406 votes.

However, it sees no inappropriateness in Mr Aitchison using the language he has in his question.

“It is somewhat ironic that the term ‘indigenous’ is categorised as ‘abhorrent and illegitimate,’ BNP press spokesman Simon Darby told TheSouthern this week.

“It is a strange form of anti-racism that seeks to imply that the Scottish and English people alike are forbidden to claim their own identity while they are simultaneously replaced in their own land.

“Thankfully, the British people are growing very weary of the fallacious liberal argument and the exploitation of our sense of fair play and altruism by which it is spread.”

Despite repeated attempts, neither Mr Aitchison nor his Borders Party boss, Nicholas Watson, were contactable before we went to press yesterday.