If you dip into the No Thanks! blog, you’ll know the various tones I aim for. Rarely do I write in anger because frankly it’s counter-productive, even if my feelings for some of the people and events I write about are less than friendly. What do they say? Act in haste, repent at leisure.
This last weekend, however, two contrasting cases of immigration came to my attention and they make me very angry.
The first is the case of an apparently middle-class Australian couple, the Brains, who are ‘threatened’ with deportation because they have strayed outwith the conditions under which they were originally given a visa to stay in the UK. They live in SNP MP Ian Blackford’s constituency of Ross, Skye, and Lochaber, who has taken their case up. The unique selling point of their case to stay seems to be that their seven-year old son ‘speaks Gaelic’ and to deport them to Australia would mean (are you surprised at this?) he could not continue his Gaelic-medium education. There is incidentally no evidence that the parents speak Gaelic and the child, on the TV news a few nights ago, certainly speaks English.
I’ve had many a go myself on this blog about how the SNP use children for political purposes and I would not normally feature a child here in such a blatant way. But the parents have made him central to their case, as has our first minister, who has been photographed with them and has written or is writing to Home Secretary Theresa May asking that they be allowed to stay in the UK.
The media and numerous assorted nationalists have also taken the case up. Even STV’s normally sedate commentator Stephen Daisley has written in an intemperate article that:
If it comes to it, Sturgeon should refuse to hand over the Brain family.
So far, so typical. A case that seems to me to be on the margins of concern, and certainly involves no great hardship, has been made a nationalist cause celebre and yet another reason to demonise the UK.
What made me angry was not the situation of the Brains, which as an example of nationalist grievance is par for the course that I have cynically become used to.
It was the contrast with a dreadful case that has been rumbling on for years and to which the title of this post alludes but I only noticed when The Guardian web site published an article on it the other day with the title A slave in Scotland: “I fell into a trap – and I couldn’t get out.” It is a genuine and distressing case of modern day slavery – at a now-closed business in Appin, the Stewart Hotel. You need to read it to sense its full horror but a few extracts give the flavour:
The men making [guests’] beds, sweeping their floors, cleaning their dishes and cooking their food were trafficked from their native Bangladesh and exploited for profit at the Stewart hotel, sometimes for years at a time … [Their trafficker] took their passports and threatened to report them as illegal workers if they complained … their exploitation became methodical and humiliating. [Their abuser] physically abused and intimidated them, slapped their faces, threw burning oil at them in the kitchen and screamed that he would kill them.
And so it goes on. The men eventually were able to escape and gave evidence against the trafficker who was imprisoned. One shameful aspect of the case is how the authorities reacted. The charity case worker who has supported them says ‘These cases have been badly handled from the start.’ Even now they are under threat of deportation.
Nowhere in a long article about this case does The Guardian mention any support or even expression of sympathy these victims have received from politicians, local or national. Nor does a Google search throw up any evidence of that. If I have missed something I would love to be corrected.
Here’s the rub, and the irony. The ‘modern day slaves’ were trafficked to the same constituency that the Brains settled in, and whose case has been taken up so forcefully by both the local MP and the first minister.
Oh, and by way of a footnote, here’s part of Mrs Brain’s Facebook page today:
Notice anything? Yes, me too.
I have yet to discover if the modern day slaves from Bangladesh have a Facebook page or sport SNP logos. Somehow I doubt it.
Update 31 May 2016 – someone has pointed out to me that in Sunday’s The National newspaper Mr Brain said he had now been offered a job as a health and safety officer with Springfield Properties in Elgin. Their chairman is prominent nationalist and SNP supporter Sandy Adam – see the Sunday Post article Major SNP donor at the centre of tax haven row. With the current situation in the offshore oil industry, the one specialism I wouldn’t have thought lacking in the UK workforce, especially North and North East Scotland, is healthy and safety experts.