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Extract from Aamer Anwar’s 2019 Jimmy Reid Foundation lecture

Tomorrow (Thursday 10 October 2019) Aamer Anwar will say 

In an extract from his forthcoming 2019 Jimmy Reid Foundation lecture called ‘The struggle for justice, equality and freedom in Scotland’, Scotland’s leading human rights and criminal defence lawyer, Aamer Anwar, will set out a wide-ranging analysis, saying:

‘Jimmy Reid is often described as the best MP that Scotland never had, but he was much more than that: he was the conscience of his generation. Many claim to honour his legacy and, as a nation, we claim to be left of centre. But I believe we are failing the weak, the poor and the vulnerable. There is much I will try to cover in my memorial speech and it is a daunting task to try and follow in the footsteps of the giant that was Jimmy.

But I am tired, some 20 years after the murder of Surjit Singh Chhokar, of seeing families still screaming for justice whilst young people incarcerated in our prisons take their own lives as their cries for help go unheard. Be it in Scotland – or, indeed, England – those who wear a uniform appear immune from any sort of justice when it comes to as death at their hands.

Behind the scenes the Scottish Legal Board is slowly preparing to dismantle our legal aid system along the very same lines as the Tory government did, which will leave the weak, the vulnerable, the guilty and the innocent without justice.

On the political front we have a Tory government with a veneer of positive Britishness but a reality of imperialist values, racism, and anti-immigrant hysteria. We are in dangerous times as the right, with the failure of the left, begins to fill the vacuum.

For Scottish Labour, so obsessed with its own internecine warfare, there is simply no point in constantly mentioning one hundred years of previous labour struggles, if in this century there are none to see. Where there is an opportunity to unite, they oppose through a visceral hatred for the SNP.

As for the SNP, being a party of government for twelve years, has created a sense of complacency and arrogance. The inevitable road to independence must not blind it to immediate demands for justice and accountability. Ordinary people are desperate and they cannot or will not wait.

Be it in Scotland, England or Wales, we cannot build a ‘land of opportunity for all’ on the ruins of a million more children living in poverty or the bodies of those broken by being forced to work till 70.

But whilst Jimmy would have been angry at the political landscape we see today, he would also have been full of optimism, because he had a fundamental belief that there has always been a spirit of dissent in the younger generation, untouched by the defeats of the past.’