I APPLAUD my former parliamentary colleagues, Anas Sarwar and Humza Yousaf, for their bravery in coming forward about the appalling everyday racism and hate they suffer in their working and private lives.

I know from bitter and very personal experience the horror of receiving this kind of unacceptable abuse while I was MP for Ochil and South Perthshire and which continues to pursue me into my more recent work.

It takes incredible strength to walk out your front door in the morning, when you are frightened, after receiving death threats to not only yourself but your family on social media the night before. To read what racists would like to do to you if they got the chance, a bullet in the head, to hang you from a tree, to blow up your house with you and your loved ones inside is really difficult – but this is the reality of life for many BAME people in the public eye. And therefore now imagine what it’s like for those just getting on with their everyday lives, who don’t have the opportunity or platform to publicly highlight the unacceptable abuse they deal with on a daily basis.

As the first female, Scottish BAME MP to be elected to Westminster I experienced the double whammy of being both part of an ethnic minority community and a woman. Two inconvenient facts, that seemed too much to accept for a significant and emboldened proportion of thugs in this country.

As the third most abused female MP in Parliament at that time, I received regular death threats and threats of sexual violence for my race, religion and gender both online and in disgusting hate-filled letters and emails sent to my constituency office. The police advice was that I should be accompanied as far as possible, that my home be fitted with a special alarm and cameras, that a safe room in my house be installed and that I carry a personal alarm with me at all times, as indeed Humza has revealed he does.

The police even had to drive by my home when someone maliciously tweeted my address online. When I saw that tweet I was really scared for my family. My staff would always accompany me on constituency work as it wasn’t deemed safe for me to walk alone to events. Some days it was hard to carry on, pretend that I could cope with it all, to keep going in the face of such violent intimidation and insult, not knowing when these threats might become real and if I or the police would get the chance to protect my family when the time came. People, kind and considerate, told me to keep strong and I did. But it does wear you down.

A unique conjunction of events and changes to how we live and communicate has allowed racism to rear its ugly head in public without fear of retribution. The failure of social media organisations to tackle online abuse, to take responsibility for their users using their platforms to express racist and sexist views, and make threats of bodily harm or death is a big part of this. The running sewer of offensive films, violent gifs, and appalling racist rants on social media is shocking in its scale; these images and statements feed hatred, they verify each bigot’s bile and irrationality and lead directly to crime and to violence.

In a post-Brexit Britain and a world living under the shadow of an unpredictable and racist American president, abusers have been allowed the chance to let rip with their unpalatable views, unchallenged or prosecuted in many cases.

The growing anti-immigration tone to public and private discourse flies in the face of the factual benefits immigrants bring to this country, appealing to people’s baser instincts to blame and fear the other. But facts aren’t important to the angry or prejudiced.

In Scotland, Holyrood has made great strides forward in creating a more inclusive country and tackling inequality, particularly with women (although we still have a long way to go), but much more needs to be done to prevent racial inequality. We cannot rest on our laurels and pretend that our small nation is more open-minded than the rest of the UK. Perhaps we are but that doesn’t take us far. Racism, intolerance, bigotry and Islamophobia is a real and present danger in Scotland and if we don’t take measures to challenge and change entrenched views, the situation will only get worse.

As Humza and Anas have shown, this is an issue that is bigger than party politics. We have to put our differences aside and look dispassionately and clearly at the shocking rise of racism and the appalling real-life experiences of minorities living and working in Scotland. I’m glad to see that Holyrood has launched a new Cross-Party Group on Tackling Islamophobia with involvement from all parties and more than 50 organisations in Scotland. I hope they will be effective in challenging racism. They can’t afford to be anything otherwise.

I also welcome Anas Sarwar’s eight-point plan to combat racism, which includes calls for BAME representation on Scottish Labour’s Scottish Executive Committee to increase the likelihood of BAME candidates being elected, and shortlists for ethnic minority candidates. I’m proud and privileged as a BAME woman to sit on the National Executive Committee of the SNP. All political groups in Scotland need to take a look at how representative they are of the Scottish population to urgently address imbalances in BAME representation and to strongly admonish and tackle racism among their own members.

Scotland as a truly inclusive nation must be more than an idealistic pipedream – we need to take a long hard look at ourselves, to confront some ugly truths, to have the strength to change and evolve and embrace our differences rather than fear them. Only then can we live and work together free from the shadow of hate. Only then can we all feel part of that better nation we seek.