Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am 3:31 pm ar 22 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 3:31, 22 Mai 2024

I thank the Labour Front-Bench spokesperson, Dan Jarvis, for his kind words about Scotland. I was rather worried, given the lengths he was going to, that I might not get back to Scotland this evening.

In responding to this statutory instrument today, I very much welcome the engagement that the Home Office has had with the Scottish Government and partners and organisations in Scotland. We have been able to tailor Prevent to the Scottish context, and it is important that we do so, because some of the threats we face are not quite the same, as has been acknowledged.

I will also take this opportunity to thank Figen Murray for all the work and advocacy she has done following the Manchester Arena bombing. I ask the Minister for any update he can give on the status of the proposed legislation. We would all like to know what exactly the Government are planning for that. In that light, I also pay tribute to Eilidh MacLeod from Barra, who also lost her life in that bombing, and remark on the wonderful work that the trust in her memory does to develop youth music as a lovely legacy from something so terrible.

The Scottish Government have tailored Prevent to emphasise early intervention, safeguarding and preventing people from becoming alienated or isolated, with the aim of reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience to toxic extremist narratives. According to the review, “Understanding extremism in Scotland”—those research findings were published in July last year—stakeholders, public sector practitioners and members of the public often found it difficult to articulate a precise definition of the concept of extremism when asked. Extremism is often depicted as views or behaviours in opposition to societal and cultural norms, values and morals. The use of advocacy of violence to promote a viewpoint or in pursuit of a particular aim is also a common feature of the definitions found in that research.

Broadly, in that research, public sector practitioners felt that because there are smaller ethnic minority populations in Scotland, as compared with England, the response is slightly different. People may feel less marginalised in Scotland, less susceptible to some of those messages and less vulnerable to radicalisation.

It would be negligent of me not to mention the wider concerns about Prevent. A few months ago I met Amnesty, which has concerns about Prevent and has produced a report. It was worried by some of the extreme examples where Prevent had gone horribly wrong and people had ended up stigmatised. People with neurodiversity or learning disabilities have sometimes been caught up in Prevent, for example. What safeguards are the Government putting in place to prevent the awful things that have happened to people, and the impact that can have on their day-to-day lives? People who are no threat should not end up in Prevent because of a misunderstanding by someone who has the right to report them.

Let me reflect on my wider concerns about the Walney report and some of the comments of the Levelling Up Secretary earlier this year. Some in the community felt that they were being stigmatised undeservedly. I worry that their involvement in groups may push them towards radicalisation and Prevent when they should not be. We should try to draw people away from being stigmatised. I repeat what I said earlier—we should think about the far right in our definition of extremism, because it is a serious worry for me and many others. We should also be concerned about extreme British nationalism. Many of the people who come after me on social media have Union flags in their profiles. They are not any other kind of extremist but definitely British nationalists who come at me because I believe in independence for my country. Those people should be acknowledged in the report.

I encourage the Minister to go further on misogyny and incel extremism, because that is a clear and definite threat to women. Our young people are at severe risk of radicalisation, and are already being radicalised. As the mother of a teenage boy, I am deeply worried by the kinds of things that teenage boys see on their social media feeds. Will the Minister to do more about that within the Prevent strategy?

The Scottish Government will continue to work with the UK Government on Prevent, developing the necessary guidelines, co-operating with anti-terror police and tackling extremist violent threats wherever they reside. The numbers of people referred to Prevent in Scotland have been small. I do not want the number of reports to increase greatly, because that would cause wider concerns about where we are going as a society. I urge caution and the need for community cohesion, because that is the very best defence against people being drawn into extremism—if the community stands around them and they do not feel isolated and excluded but part of something, rather than feeling marginalised and driven apart.