People want policy debate in run-up to referendum

LAST week I took part in a Newsnight debate at the BBC studios in Glasgow on how independence would affect Scotland's ethnic minority communities.

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The panel included experts from within Scotland's ethnic minority community and the audience had members from many of Scotland's diverse communities. It was an informed, representative discussion.

Listening to the audience, it was clear Scotland has been open to the immigrants represented and our migrant population as a whole.

People spoke of the fantastic welcome they received upon moving to Scotland, be that in the 1950s, 1960s or more recently, and how they feel part of the community here.

For me, independence will give Scotland the ability to create more humane, compassionate policies that better reflect Scottish values, in areas such as welfare, the tax system and immigration and asylum.

In an independent Scotland, we would no longer see asylum seekers facing destitution because of the UK Government's flawed asylum and immigration policy.

An independent Scotland would no longer see inhumane dawn raids. We were promised these were a thing of the past, but the UK Border Agency is still happy to carry these out.

We would see an end to child detention. We would definitely not let children be deported to detention centres in England to give the impression of having stopped child detention in Scotland.

These aims were reflected by the Scottish Refugee Council's report, Improving The Lives Of Refugees In Scotland After The Referendum, which concluded an independent Scotland has the opportunity to create a fairer system for people fleeing persecution from their home countries. The report criticised the UK Government's existing approach to the issue.

Taking part in the Newsnight debate also demonstrated people are keen to discuss policy issues in the run-up to the referendum, not just the process.

However, it remains important to have a balanced, clear and legal referendum.

The Electoral Commission's recommendations on the independence referendum question and spending limits were published last Wednesday and were accepted by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon within two minutes.

It is now up to the UK Government and opposition parties to abandon their stance of rejecting pre-referendum talks, in line with the recommendations of the Electoral Commission.

The people of Scotland need clarity to inform their decisions and the UK Government should start giving information.

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