Student calls for isles to play active role in stamping out racism

A student is writing to public bodies serving the isles as part of an effort to ensure Shetland plays an active role in giving racism the boot.

Fraser Tait is contacting Shetland Islands Council’s chief executive with a call for a four-pronged approach to ensure the chances of any improper attitudes or behaviour gaining a foothold in the isles are immediately stamped out.

The 21 year-old scholar of Edinburgh University has already gathered over 60 signatures to his open letter to Maggie Sandison, and is hopeful of attracting more.

He also intends to dispatch the letter to NHS Shetland and local police representatives.

Mrs Sandison has insisted robust measures are in place within the council and insisted there is no place for racism within the authority.

It follows the launch of a local organisation in support of the pressure group Black Lives Matter, which has gained momentum in light of the international outrage over the death of George Floyd.

The new group Shetland Staands wi Black Lives Matter is planning to stage a number of lockdown-friendly walks this weekend.

Mr Tait, a former pupil at Sandwick Junior High School, says he wants Shetland to:

• Foster a community which calls out those who discriminate against minorities.
• Hold folk accountable for their actions.
• Educate people to understand the “inhumane” realities of the British empire.
• Put in place zero tolerance

“I decided to write a letter because I had seen open letters written by black students at university and felt this was a good way to voice concerns over racism and also show a good public backing behind the comments I made,” he said.

“I’m also a key worker at the moment, so I didn’t want to attend a protest and risk public safety.

“I chose to write an open letter to Maggie Sandison because she is chief executive of the SIC and following her rapid and efficient response to Covid-19, she seems to have the concern for Shetland citizens at the forefront of her mind when making decisions and so would be likely to listen.

“That’s not to say other people wouldn’t, but she is in a position of power in Shetland and would be a powerful ally to have in the fight against racism here.”

But Mr Tait has not sent the letter to Mrs Sandison as yet. He hopes to compile more signatures before sending it to the council chief.

He insists policies aimed at addressing racism must be upheld.

“It’s one thing to have it written on paper but another to actually act on the prejudice and racism within our local community.”

Maggie Sandison

Mrs Sandison has told The Shetland Times the council was “fully committed” to working under the terms of the Equality Act 2010 to promote equality and inclusiveness.

“I haven’t received a copy of the letter yet but I welcome that individuals and our community are uniting to fight racism and injustice,” she said.

“The council promotes participation and the empowerment of people as citizens to be more involved in shaping the future of our community and the services the council provides to the community.

“The council is committed to fulfilling its duties under the Equalities Act 2010. The council promotes equality and inclusion in its organisational policies and considers the impacts on equality of all its decisions.

“Any form of racism, discrimination or hate speech isn’t welcome. Our values are about diversity, inclusivity and tolerance, and it is everyone’s personal responsibility to take a stand against racism and other inequality issues.

“Our HR policies are designed to promote a culture and environment of equality of opportunity and to actively prevent discrimination, harassment and victimisation.”

She added: “Racism would be a disciplinary offence in the council’s code of conduct for staff and would be reported to the police as a possible hate crime.”


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