Scotland's 'tartan with a turban' culture can teach the English how to beat fascism, says Muslim peer

BARONESS Warsi, Britain's first Muslim Cabinet minister, has said England needs to learn from Scotland's strong sense of national identity in order to reduce the threat of fascism and Islamist extremism.

On a visit to Glasgow, the Conservative Party co-chairman said a powerful sense of Scottishness had allowed all communities and ethnic groups to "buy in" to shared values north of the Border.

The lack of a similarly strong national identity in England had led to predominantly young men being more easily turned by the fascism of the English Defence League, or by Islamist extremism, she said.

"If you became patriotically English, that mandate was taken by the fascist groups rather than the masses. What you did right in Scotland was your Scottish culture and heritage. Everybody felt they could buy into it and you have been lucky in being able to maintain that, " she said.

Baroness Warsi said Scots had "been much better" than the English at finding a core identity around which people could find common ground.

She noted that people from Pakistan who had settled in Scotland felt far more comfortable describing themselves as Scottish than those who came to England.

"There is some very distinctive Scottish culture so you find regularly Sikhs turning up in kilts for their wedding, with the turban on as well," she said.

"It's about the strength of the culture that you arrive into. And I think the strength of the culture in England, over the last 15 to 20 years, has been downgraded in a way that hasn't happened in Scotland."

Her comments come after Prime Minister David Cameron said last month the state should back a sense of "muscular liberalism", saying the country needed "to assert confidently our liberal values". Calling for an end to "state multiculturalism", Mr Cameron said the state should no longer deal with organisations that declined to sign up to basic liberal values.

Baroness Warsi said in January that Islamaphobia was "rife" across Britain and remained acceptable at dinner parties.

Anti-racism groups said the problem was the UK coalition failing to follow the Scottish Government's example.

Positive Action in Housing director Robina Qureshi said: "The Scottish Government has openly challenged racism and fascism, which has brought about people having a strong sense of Scottish identity.

"In England, that is not happening. David Cameron's message is 'you will be like one of us' and become English, which tends not to be inclusive."

Scottish Refugee Council policy director Simon Hodgson said: "There's been a general political consensus across the main parties in Scotland about the best way to support people who seek safety here after fleeing persecution in their home countries.

"That consensus has been based on integration at the point of arrival, meaning that people can be supported and feel part of their new community.

"Politicians in Scotland have shown leadership on these issues, and have spoken out about them - which is not something that always happens in Westminster."

PROFILE OF A STRAIGHT TALKER

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who turns 40 this month, was the youngest peer when she took her seat in the House of Lords in 2007.

She was appointed by David Cameron as shadow minister for community cohesion that year, and became minister without portfolio after the 2010 election.

Born in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, she has been described as straight talking and combative, and was seen as being more than a match for British National Party leader Nick Griffin when they appeared on the BBC's Question Time two years ago.

Baroness Warsi, who previously ran a firm of solicitors in Dewsbury, played a leading role in helping to free British teacher Gillian Gibbons, who was jailed in Sudan for calling a teddy bear Mohammad in 2007.