Scottish politicians have condemned remarks made by a senior Conservative Party figure who suggested asylum seekers should be sent to the Orkney Islands while they wait for their applications to be processed.
Deputy chairman Lee Anderson was speaking to GB News when he said people who had fled their own countries for a better life in the UK could be housed on the islands rather than flown to Rwanda.
He told the news channel: “I know it’s a bit parky up there this time of year. But if people are genuinely escaping war or persecution then a nice Scottish island with a few outbuildings would be suitable.
“This is a beautiful country. Parts of Scotland are a ‘go to’ destination, the remote islands – I’d like to be able to afford a place up there.
“If we can get some accommodation up there, keep these people safe – these people want to be safe, they’re fleeing so-called persecution from these war-torn countries. If we can find an island in the Orkneys or up there that’s got no-one on there to start off with, put some decent accommodation on, then it’s job done.”
Orkney and Shetland MP and Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Home Affairs Alistair Carmichael said Mr Anderson’s remarks had shown “disdain” towards his constituents.
Mr Carmichael said: “This is not a serious proposition. I would be astonished if Lee Anderson could even find Orkney – or in his words ‘the Orkneys’ – on a map.
“His remarks show inhumanity towards desperate and vulnerable people – and disdain towards island communities to boot.
“Anderson has form for brainstorming Tory policy live on air. Obviously, this is a novel sort of brainstorming as it does not actually involve the engagement of a brain but instead looks more like an exercise in corralling as many prejudices as possible into one space and calling it a policy.
“If Rishi Sunak cannot bring his deputy chair into line then the only conclusion is that he approves of these attitudes.
“It is yet another attempt by a Conservative MP to kick up dust and distract attention from the complete failure of this government to manage our asylum and immigration system.
“Every day the backlog of unprocessed asylum applications gets longer. They should focus on fixing that, instead of looking around for new rows to pick.”
“Insensitive and thoughtless”
The Scottish Greens spokesperson for rural and island communities, Ariane Burgess MSP, added: “The insensitive and thoughtless remarks by Lee Anderson underline how out of touch the Tory Westminster Government is from the needs of our islanders.
“Many island communities have already welcomed migrants with open arms, not least in Lewis and Bute, where those displaced by the Syrian Crisis have established thriving businesses, become key parts of their communities and added to the diversity and vibrancy of Island life.
“Rural communities have been crying out for more power to be devolved over migration and these latest remarks underline why. Our islands are not empty wildernesses – they’re thriving communities.
“They are not remote places with a few outbuildings. The Orkney Islands have seen a steady growth in population over recent years and regularly appear on list of the most desirable places to live.”