Labour MSP calls for security fund of Scottish places of worship

The Scottish Government has been urged to consider establishing a place of worship security fund in the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attack.

Scottish Labour MSP Anas Sarwar said the killing of 50 Muslims at the hands of a white supremacist in New Zealand was a "devastating and despicable act - the act of a terrorist".

And today in Holyrood he asked Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell if, in the aftermath of the tragedy, the government would implement a security fund for places of worship in Scotland.

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"It is important that we unite and work together to confront hatred in all its forms," he said. "This is not someone else's fight - it's a fight for all of us.

Anas Sarwar has called for a new security fund for places of worship in Scotland.

"One of the issues raised with me is the ongoing security concerns at places of worship. There is a places of worship security funding scheme in England and Wales. No such scheme exists in Scotland. Will the minister urgently consider this and commit the government and agencies to work with all our faith communities to deliver it?"

Mr Sarwar's question came as MSPs from all parties expressed their solidarity with the people of Christchurch as well as their condolences to the families and communities affected by the massacre.

Aileen Campbell, said at a visit last week to Glasgow Central Mosque by Nicola Sturgeon and Justice Minister Humza Yousaf in the wake of the Christchurch massacre, they "committed to explore further what the Scottish Government could do to provide reassurances for all faith communities and their places of worship including exploring issues around safety and security, including touching on the funding that Anas Sarwar mentioned. So we are working through that and will continue to keep Parliament involved."

Mr Sarwar also raised the topic of social media, and said it was being used by people with extreme views to amplify them, "recruit, organise and fundraise".

He added: "This tragic attack didn't surprise me and it probably didn't surprise Muslims across the UK or around the world. The "us versus them" rhetoric the sowing the seeds of hate and the othering of our fellow citizens has become all too common.

"What action will the Scottish Government take to engage with social media platforms and make them understand their responsibilities to help create a fairer, more equal world?"

Ms Campbell said she chaired an action group which aims to establish more cohesive communities and tackle prejudice and that it could look at what could be done to curtail the "toxic messages" spread on social media.

She added: "Being elected we are in a privileged position to be listened to and influence more generally. We can show leadership to build a more tolerant and respectful community and to reach out to those who feel threatened and vulnerable or we could choose to use that position to stoke up hate - and we've seen too much of that and we cannot remain immune from the consequences of that toxicity of language which many choose to use and which bring consequences like we have seen in New Zealand.

"We should call out hate and show solidarity with our Muslim friends and communities who need our support at this time and know that we love and cherish what they contribute to our diverse Scotland."