Labour racism probes ‘take too long’

The leader of Scottish Labour says the party needs to accelerate its investigations into cases of alleged racism.

The party has been at the centre of a string of racism allegations since the beginning of the year.

But last month it emerged that key witnesses had not been contacted in a racism probe which began in March.

Richard Leonard admitted that some cases “have gone on much longer than I think is right”.

He told BBC Scotland that he was unable to discuss individual cases but in future he wanted to see complaints resolved more quickly.

“I am keen to ensure that there is always a fair process but I’m keen to look at ways in which we can accelerate the process so that we get to the bottom of these complaints and take appropriate action in a much more timely manner,” he added.

The issue emerged in January when MSP Anas Sarwar revealed that he had been the victim of racism during the Scottish Labour leadership campaign.

Mr Sarwar, who lost to Mr Leonard in the race, said the party’s council group leader in South Lanarkshire had told him “Scotland wouldn’t vote for a brown, Muslim, Paki”.

The councillor – Davie McLachlan – categorically denied making the remarks but was suspended by the party.

In February, the MP Hugh Gaffney apologised for making what he said were “deeply offensive and unacceptable” remarks about Chinese and LGBT people.

He was reprimanded by the party and sent for diversity training.

And in March an investigation was launched after a Dumfries and Galloway councillor admitted making a Islamophobic remark against Humza Yousafduring his tenure as Scotland’s transport minister.

Jim Dempster told transport officials at a meeting that “no-one would have seen [Mr Yousaf] under his burka”.

He was suspended by the party and has apologised to Mr Yousaf, saying he was ashamed and embarrassed and could offer no defence or explanation.

Last month BBC Scotland revealed that Scottish Labour had yet to ask Transport Scotland officials for evidence in the case.

‘Surfeit of complaints’

Mr Yousaf said he was told there would be a “swift” investigation into the remarks but that promise appeared to “ring hollow”.

Interviewed on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Leonard was asked whether new rules should be introduced to improve Labour’s complaints process.

He said the party’s new general secretary, Jennie Formby, had made it “absolutely clear” that she shared his views on dealing with allegations speedily.

“I think most people in the Labour party would acknowledge that we have had a surfeit of complaints and our system has not necessarily been geared up to that level,” he added.

“It now is getting geared up to that level and I hope that we will be able to judiciously, fairly, but more speedily deal with any allegations or complaints which come in.”

First Published 16.07.18:

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