A QUESTION our Makar, Jackie Kay, was often asked by strangers she met as a child was: “Where are you from?”

She was, is, from Bishopbriggs. But, because of her being mixed-race, people made the crass assumption that she couldn’t be Scottish.

Most brown skinned Scots can recite similar tales. Some have darker ones to tell of physical assault as well as verbal abuse.

We consider ourselves a non-racist society here, partly because so many neighbourhoods are almost wholly white; partly because the west of Scotland “tradition” is to indulge principally in sectarian prejudices!

I’ve worked in both Edinburgh and Glasgow – in the former they ask you what school you went to in order to determine your social class. In the latter they want to know if you’re a Billy or a Tim.

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Pathetic stuff in either case, but evidence that we are not quite the sophisticated tribe we think we are.

This week four young Helensburgh locals with a mixed-race heritage wrote to our government including the First Minister and Education Secretary asking that our education system address latent and not so latent racism.

And that’s an appropriate request in a nation where historically we were no strangers to the slave trade in all its unlovely guises.

But there is a specifically structural problem with all of this, which is that the Home Office in London is still in charge of immigration policy.

And that has a direct bearing not just on how we behave as a nation, but on the uncertainties facing so many of our citizens and our commercial concerns.

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Scotland’s hospitality and tourism sectors, not to mention its health and social care services, have long been dependant on a labour force recruited from all over the European Union.

Yet, as a new report indicates, almost 800 folk, born in mainland Europe and now living in our own region, are in a state of suspended animation, not knowing whether they will get fully settled status some way down the road, or if their pre-existing applications for it will be accepted or rejected.

This is not only a despicable way to treat those who have chosen Scotland as their new homeland, but an entirely counter-productive way to address the problems thrown up by trying to build a post Covid economy.

On Monday night I watched a quite sickening drama, Sitting In Limbo, based on the true story of one of the Windrush generation persecuted by that same Home Office which still holds sway over all migration policies.

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The principal character was a man who had come to England at the age of eight.

A respected worker, loving husband, dad of a son and a daughter, a rabid Spurs fan, he was twice held in a detention centre and threatened with deportation to a Caribbean island of which he had little knowledge.

He lost his home, his job and might have lost his family too had they not scraped together an eye watering sum to get a court injunction to prevent his being put on a plane to Jamaica.

We have witnessed scenes in Scotland where families awaiting the result of asylum requests have been wakened at dawn, driven south and deported.

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That travesty of justice was the genesis of the wonderful Glasgow Girls musical which dramatised the story of the schoolgirls who banded together with the help of a teacher to protect a classmate from suffering a similar fate.

You might argue that relatively recent arrivals don’t represent the same appalling miscarriage of common justice as people who have lived in Britain since childhood and had to prove their legitimacy, despite their families having been expressly invited to help the post-war economy.

But to all fair-minded people it’s surely part of the same mindset we have to change if we want to be a society at peace with itself.

And where our children don’t have to write letters asking to be treated equally.

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