Anti-Semitism and Scottish independence motions passed by Northumberland County Council

Motions on anti-Semitism and Scottish independence were passed by Northumberland County Council at its latest meeting.

Friday, 8th November 2019, 4:11 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th November 2019, 2:22 pm
County Hall, Morpeth Picture by Jane Coltman

The first motion on Wednesday (November 6), from Coun Barry Flux, called on the council to adopt the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of anti-Semitism.

In presenting it to the meeting, he said that an anonymous article had appeared on a political blog over the weekend, accusing his and his Conservative colleague’s motions of being hate crimes, which he claimed showed that his motion is ‘needed now more than ever’.

It was seconded by Labour leader Coun Susan Dungworth, who said that her group was fully in support of the motion.

However, Coun Jeff Reid then raised his usual point about motions being ‘an absolute waste of time’, saying ‘nothing will come from this’.

The Lib Dem leader added: “We sit here and argue the toss about things and it’s about trying to get something on a leaflet somewhere that the Labour Party didn’t support this, the Tory Party didn’t do that.”

He said he wouldn’t support motions like this, regardless of whether the content is to be applauded, suggesting that it originated as ‘a jibe at the Labour Party, trying to stir up political hatred in the council’.

Coun Flux responded to say he did not make a political attack on anyone.

The motion was passed, supported by all of the councillors in the chamber, apart from Coun Reid.

The same was true of the second motion, from Coun Gregah Roughead, who represents the Berwick West with Ord ward, which commits the council to ‘maintain a watching brief on developments north of the border’ following ‘the Scottish National Party’s latest threat of an impending independence referendum’.

It adds: ‘Specifically, policies from the Scottish Government and Scottish Borders Council that may inadvertently have an impact upon Northumberland, in terms of policies that are both positive and those that pose potential risks or challenges for Northumberland and its Border communities.’

“The intention behind this motion, there’s no hate crime or discord from me towards the people of Scotland,” Coun Roughead said. “I would just like to clarify that for the political trolls out there.”

Labour’s deputy leader, Coun Scott Dickinson, said: “We went through this before, when the independence referendum took place last time and officers provided lots of reports, etc.

“From our point of view, it’s just something we would expect people to do in the council and provide elected members with information.”

Council leader Peter Jackson added: “We’ve established much better relations with our neighbours in Scotland just north of the border over the last year or two; the biggest manifestation of that is in terms of the Borderlands growth deal – £390million of investment in that cross-border area in a 10-year period.

“It’s unprecedented and it was only done through really close working of the councils north and south of the border.

“That close working could actually be all for nothing, because we’ve got an election in a few weeks’ time and we’ve got a well-represented party in Scotland who are absolutely determined to go for independence, never mind the cost to their country.”

But Labour’s Coun Susan Dungworth expressed a concern about ‘the tone of the debate’.

“I recognised there would be challenges if Scotland became independent from the UK, but that would be some way down the road if it happened,” she said.

“What we’re doing now and what we’ve been doing for years in terms of cross-country, cross-county working together with other local authorities, be they in England or Scotland, is exactly the right thing to do.”