Representatives of SCoJeC paid a courtesy call on Michael Moore MP, the new Secretary of State for Scotland at the Scotland Office in Edinburgh, and presented him with a copy of Scotland's Jews.
During a wide-ranging and friendly discussion, we explained that the Scottish Council was established at the time of Devolution to provide a single representative umbrella organisation to respond to devolved matters, while the Board of Deputies continues to represent the entire UK Jewish community on reserved topics. There are, however, some UK-level issues on which there is a particular Scottish perspective, and these these form part of Mr Moore's portfolio as a member of the UK Cabinet, and also fall within SCoJeC's remit.
Mr Moore acknowledged the close relationship his predecessor, Jim Murphy MP, had with the Scottish Jewish community, as the MP for the constituency with the largest Jewish population in Scotland. He was interested to hear that, although there is no formal Jewish community in his own constituency in the Borders, we are aware of a number of Jewish people in the area, and that we would like to repeat our hugely successful Kosher Ceilidh, this time including venues in the south of Scotland.
We also discussed the forthcoming 2011 census, and our concern that the wording of the religion question in the Scottish census is likely to depress the reported numbers of minority faith communities living in isolated areas. Together with the misrepresentation of diverse minority communities as a single "minority community", this would make very small individual minorities invisible, particularly to rural local authorities. Under the government's policy of "localising" proritisation, this could result in loss of support to vulnerable individuals, and in increasing isolation.
We also told Mr Moore our concerns about a proposal currently being considered by the European Parliament to require explicit labelling of meat from animals that have not been pre-stunned before slaughter. Since it does not also require meat from the hugely larger number of animals that are not effectively stunned to be so labelled, the new regulation would only provide consumers with partial information, and is, therefore discriminatory. We were pleased to be able to tell him that Struan Stevenson MEP, one of the supporters of the proposal, now accepts that mis-stunning is a significant problem, and that further thought should be given to the issue.
Our discussion also touched briefly on the Middle East, which was part of Mr Moore's portfolio when in opposition. We explained that while there are a very wide range of views in the community, as evidenced by the recent JPR report, some people unfortunately suffer verbal or physical attacks from those who are not careful to distinguish Jews from Israelis and the Israeli Government, such as the Scotsman blogger, Mohammed Sandia, who had appeared in Edinburgh Sheriff Court only the previous day.
Finally, we explained the difficulties that would be caused for orthodox Jews by the introduction of double summer time, which is currently being considered in the UK Parliament. Mr Moore remembered going to school in the dark during the last such experiment, and assured us of his opposition to ths proposal - in fact he told us he had invited the proponents of the measure to spend their winter in the north of Scotland!