Salmond: Scotland Leads Way In Social Cohesion

First Minister Alex Salmond last night met Muslim leaders in the wake of recent terror attacks, claiming Scotland was better placed than any other European nation to achieve social cohesion.

Alex Salmond was joined by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, community safety minister Fergus Ewing and Solicitor General Frank Mulholland.

Strathclyde Police Assistant Chief Constable John Neilson, who along with Mr Salmond visited Glasgow Central Mosque the day after the attempted terror attack at Glasgow Airport, was also present.

Mr Salmond said the reception at Bute House – part of the Scottish Executive’s One Scotland campaign – was one of a series of events based on celebrating the role of a variety of communities in Scottish society.

“We are very fortunate in Scotland with the diversity of our communities and the enrichment of Scottish society with so many influences – faith groups, minority communities, the variety of cultures, variety of religions,” he said.

“They all contribute to One Scotland. Tonight’s meeting, like a range of other meetings, is celebrating the fact that there are many strands and shades to the Scottish tartan.”

Mr Salmond claimed: “I think we are ahead of virtually every other European society on this.

“Rather than alienation, the predominant feeling is one of identification. That doesn’t seem to be the case for European society.

“I suspect that this is because the Scottish identity has not been overbearing or threatening, making it a comfortable badge of identity to adopt that doesn’t ask people to sacrifice their own cultural background or faith grouping.”

He pointed to academic research by the Rowntree Foundation indicating that Scots of Asian origin felt even more strongly attached to Scots identity than many white Scots.

Mr Salmond was recently attacked by Bradford University professor Tom Gallagher for opportunism in his dealings with the Muslim community in Scotland.

He was accused of using the airport attack as “an opportunity to place his party at the foreground of national affairs in much the same way as Tony Blair used the death of Princess Diana in 1997 to project himself as New Labour’s leader of destiny.”

The First Minister said “even respected professors could be daft sometimes”

and urged academics to deal in the reality of today’s Scotland. He insisted yesterday that he was seeking community cohesion, not political advantage.

Humza Yousaf, representing the Islamic Society of Britain but also an aide to SNP MSP Bashir Ahmad, said before the meeting that the reception was vital in showing Muslims that they had access to the highest political levels in the land.

But he said the key would be demonstrating that these were not one-off events, but part of a continuing dialogue, particularly with young Muslims.

Osama Saeed, Scottish spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, said issues he hoped to raise included anti-terror legislation and Islamic schools.

He said: “I’m sure this meeting would have been taking place anyway, but obviously it has taken on a new light given the events at Glasgow Airport last month.

“Good community relations do not happen by accident, and need to be striven for.

“If we continue to get things right, and improve on it, Scotland can be a beacon to the world in Muslim and non-Muslim relations.”