THE growth of the far right in the last year – from openly anti-Semitic parties in government in Poland and Hungary, fascists in the German Parliament and the Austrian Government, to Trump in the White House and Bolsonaro in Brazil – underlines the urgency of the task facing us all to build a broad-based movement against racism and fascism in Britain.

The presence of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka “Tommy Robinson”, in Scotland recently is alarming. The far right is feeding off an atmosphere of scapegoating of refugee and migrants. This has been exacerbated by a toxic debate around Brexit and immigration. Unity is our most important weapon.

In Scotland over the past year we saw a shocking series of racist attacks in Edinburgh and disgusting threats to evict “failed” asylum seekers from their homes in Glasgow. With reports recently revealing that one of the biggest hotspots for far-right activity in Britain is just over the border in the north-east of England, we recommit to counter the far-right threat and offer our full solidarity to anti-racists across Britain doing the same.

We urge you to support the call from Stand Up To Racism – a coalition of civic organisations, refugee and migrant communities, as well as trade unions, political organisations and individuals – to join the day of international protests around UN Anti Racism Day on March 16 in Glasgow.

The key criteria are opposition to the rising tide of racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and the scapegoating of refugees and migrants. If you support these principles please join us: #noracismnofascism.

Mike Kirby (Scottish Secretary, UNISON) 
Lilian Macer (Scotland Convenor, UNISON)
Unite the Union Scotland
Educational Institute of Scotland
Gordon Martin (Scotland Regional Organiser, Rail, Maritime & Transport Union
Denise Christie (Scottish Secretary, Fire Brigades Union)
Lynn Henderson (National Officer, Public & Commercial Services Union)
Richard Leonard MSP (Central Scotland, Labour)
David Linden MP (Glasgow East, SNP)
Anas Sarwar MSP (Glasgow, Labour),
Chris Stephens MP (Glasgow South West, SNP).
Paul Sweeney MP (Glasgow North East, Labour),
Robina Qureshi (director, Positive Action in Housing),
Mohammad Asif (chair, Scottish Afghan Society),
Jock Morris (chair, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees),
Catriona Mackay (chair, Perth Against Racism)
Talat Ahmed (convenor, Stand up to Racism Scotland)

I NOTE that 100 mental health staff have been hired across Scotland’s public sector since the start of the year. My first reaction was that this is good to know, but then I wondered what that catch-all phrase “mental health staff” actually means. Are we talking psychotherapists and counsellors – in other words highly trained and qualified professionals – or are we talking workers who have had some training in mental health first aid and/or administering basic CBT worksheets?

As a start, every GP surgery should have a counsellor trained and experienced enough to use whatever approach is appropriate for each patient and to refer on where necessary. Six sessions of therapy without the usual year-long NHS waiting list would make a dramatic difference to patients in distress, not to speak of a equally dramatic saving in repeat GP visits, unnecessary psychologist and psychiatrist appointments, medication, perhaps inpatient treatment and certainly lost working hours. Many companies have already realised this and offer free counselling to employees; I’m astonished that the NHS hasn’t.

These counsellors should not be unpaid workers (a volunteer is a person who chooses to work unpaid, not a person who has no choice, as is the case of many if not most counsellors in this country). They should be paid a salary appropriate to their professional training and expertise. Nobody expects a teacher or a nurse to work unpaid. Nobody should expect a counsellor to do so. It would prove more than worth the price.

As an aside, when I arrived in the area of Scotland where I currently live, I sent a letter to every GP practice in the area containing my CV (training, qualifications, experience) offering my services as a counsellor. I did not specify whether or not I was expecting to be paid. Not a single practice responded. This is a culture that needs changed, and needs changed quickly.

Max Marnau

I COULDN’T agree more with Iain Bruce (Long Letter, February 19). The egghead wing of the independence movement – Andrew Wilson, George Kerevan et al – needs to wise up. We should have done with voluminous plans, white papers and prospectuses like that of the Growth Commission document. What a bore! Getting bogged down in futuristic, cerebral debate is a mistake and will be a gift to the Unionists come indyref 2 I suspect. By all means let’s have a manifesto, but one with a populist edge as well as sound argument. A political cause has to uplift. It must charge the passions as much as the mind. Here, I think, the egghead wing of indref 2 has failed lamentably.

Alastair Mcleish

JUST to say I am entirely with Iain Bruce from Nairn. Andrew Wilson is a good guy and writes a lot of good stuff but tactically he is completely – I mean completely – wrong. All we have to do is illustrate to the diminishing band of doubters that we are economically self-sufficient and we win a referendum. All the rest gets sorted then by an independent Scottish government – just like any other country does it. And I am entirely with WGD (Paul Kavanagh). We are right up against the wire now, and if we don’t move soon onto an unambiguous independence campaign our troops will be putting down their arms.

David McEwan Hill
Sandbank, Argyll