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Meet Scotland’s newest MP: Anum Qaisar-Javed on racism, immigration and independence

Anum Qaisar-Javed, MP

It’s been a whirlwind year for Anum Qaisar-Javed who went from from teaching modern studies to taking up her seat in the House of Commons almost overnight.

Speaking on this week’s episode of The Stooshie podcast, Ms Qaisar-Javed, who was elected as MP for Airdrie and Shotts in a May by-election, says the transition between careers was “pretty abrupt.”

“As a modern studies teacher I didn’t talk really about my political affiliation in the classroom and I hadn’t told my pupils at this point that I was selected as a candidate.”

The cat was out of the bag when one of her students saw the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford mentioning her on Twitter.

Dealing with racism in Scotland

During her election campaign, which ran almost consecutively with the Scottish parliamentary elections, Anum Qaisar-Javed came face to face with the realities of politics in Scotland and campaigning as a Muslim woman: racism.

“We have to be very frank with each other and be honest and say actually racism does exist in Scotland, we can’t shy away from it.

“If people look at my Twitter, they’ll see very often there is racial abuse that is thrown at me.

“Yes I may be young, I may be a woman of colour, I may be a practicing Muslim but actually I’m very proud of all that and if people want to complain they can complain.”

Often, she says, those social media trolls hide behind anonymous accounts and it’s an issue she’s already raised in parliament, asking Jacob Rees-Mogg the Conservative Leader of the House of Commons if the government would give time for a debate about online racism.

The government declined.

“But I’m going to keep raising this” she says “not just for myself but for all those people who don’t have a voice.”

Th House of Commons Chamber
House of Commons

Legislating for Scotland at Westminster

Although she was only at Westminster for a few weeks before summer recess, Scotland’s newest MP Anum Qaisar-Javed already has some ideas about the legislative role she wants to play.

“I’m really looking to push against the Tory agenda and demonstrate why Scotland needs her independence.”

She highlights recent cuts to international aid as a particular concern, and also flags up a “draconian” bill “that rejects international responsibility in tackling the refugee crisis.”

“I really feel as if the policies the Tories are pushing through really don’t represent the views of Scotland” she states.

One particular area where Ms Qaisar-Javed sees a clear difference between Scotland and the rest of the UK is around immigration where she wants to see more powers devolved to Holyrood.

“What we need in Scotland is very much different from the needs of England in terms of workforce.”

She points to the NHS and care sector as areas which really rely on a strong flow of immigrants, and says businesses in her constituency – already hit by extra Brexit-related export tariffs and bureaucracy – have lost a lot of staff from EU countries due to Brexit.

“If immigration was devolved to Scotland, we could set policy that’s reflective of what Scotland needs.”

Listen to the full interview with MP Anum Qaisar-Javed on this week’s episode of The Stooshie podcast.

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