The leaders of all five of the political parties represented in the last Scottish Parliament have signed the Scottish Refugee Council’s Welcome Pledge.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Greens co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie, Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross all agreed that:

“This year, on May 6, history will be made in Scotland as people with refugee status vote in the Scottish Parliament elections for the first time. I promise to make Scotland a welcoming place and to stand up for the rights, dignity, and protection of all people seeking safety and rebuilding their lives here.”

Sabir Zazai said: “Standing up for people’s rights and supporting people seeking refugee protection should not be seen as a party political issue. It is simply doing the right thing for all constituents and all voters in this election, the first one in which people with refugee status in Scotland are eligible to vote.

“2021 also marks the 70th anniversary of the UN Refugee Convention, the international treaty that sets out the right to seek safety in a third country. In this very significant year, we’re pleased to see four leaders of our political parties in Scotland making a commitment to stand firm in support of the principles and the rights enshrined in the Convention.

“Strong and consistent political leadership plays a crucially important part in creating a more welcoming environment for refugees to rebuild their lives and make contributions to their new homes.

“As we emerge from the pandemic and begin to collectively rebuild, we ask the Scottish Parliament to bring hope, dignity and a firm commitment to people’s rights to their work on behalf of everyone in Scotland over the next five years.”

Several prospective Holyrood candidates from across the political spectrum have also made the pledge.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said: “I’m delighted to support the Scottish Refugee Council’s pledge, especially as this year will be the first that people with refugee status can vote in Scottish Parliamentary elections.

“Scotland has a long history of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers from all over the world into our communities. As a nation we have never shied away from meeting our global responsibilities in tackling the refugee crisis, and providing a warm welcome to those fleeing persecution, war, and violence.

“I remain determined to ensure that Scotland is a welcoming place for refugees, and absolutely committed to standing up for the rights, dignity, and protection of all people seeking safety and rebuilding their lives here.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “Scotland’s story has always been one of welcoming people from across the world – including my own family.

“We must always be working to welcome and support people who now call this country home in a bid to find a safe place in the world to live, thrive and raise their families.

“Scottish Labour is proud to sign this statement and I pledge that I, and every member of my party elected at this election, will stand up to ensure the dignity of those seeking refuge here.”

Scottish Refugee Council is also working in collaboration with the Electoral Commission, Maryhill Integration Network, the Voices Network and Saheliya to produce resources and information about registering to vote for New Scots. Resources and further information is available on the Scottish Refugee Council website.

Hannah Pearson, Policy Officer, Scottish Refugee Council said: “The Scottish Parliament election in May will be a historic moment for refugee communities who have experienced long periods of disenfranchisement. It’s been really exciting seeing so many New Scots register to vote and prepare to cast their ballots – some for the very first time – on election day.”

Claire Thomson
Author: Claire Thomson