I am proud I grew up in Glasgow – Scotland's most diverse city – because embracing cultural diversity enriches us all. Yet this lesson is often an unfamiliar one to our elected representatives.

The comments of Conservative donor Frank Hester, who reportedly said veteran MP Diane Abbott made him "want to hate all black women" and should "be shot", highlighted a deeper issue of systemic discrimination and bias within the UK Government and highlighted the need for greater representation and diversity in politics. The glaring lack of voices from marginalised communities, such as my own, entrenches privilege and homogeneity in political institutions.

The truth is that the halls of power are far removed from the diversity and culture that makes many communities across the four nations of the UK so full of character and joy.

I have learned from my life that if you’re only surrounded by people who look, think, and come from the same cultural backgrounds as you, you’re likely to have a limited perspective but it is never too late to immerse yourself in the culture that is all around us.

Music has no boundaries or language. Glasgow is rich and proud of its multicultural heritages – from embracing the dances of the Highlands to those from south Asia, and many others. They are an important part of the fabric of our city and Scotland.

The Herald: Frank HesterFrank Hester (Image: free)

Diversity is not a new thing. Our nation was born on the back of immigrants, and it is something we should never forget and Glasgow alone is home to more than 100 different cultures.

We have the Polish diaspora which has celebrated the end of winter and the start of spring in the symbolic drowning of the ancient pagan goddess Marzanna.

This weekend, we have Kurdish people, like me, Persians, Afghans and Indians celebrating Newroz. A celebration that marks beginning of Spring, when the sun crosses the equator and day and night are equal length. For me, it’s the daffodil blossom in Spring that’s the sign Newroz is here.

The day is marked with music and dancing on the streets. The Kurdish people dress in traditional clothes and gather outside the cities to light fires. It has similarities with the tradition of bonfire night in Scotland – without the religious sectarianism.

Tonight, Glasgow’s Newroz will be celebrated from 4pm to 8pm in Glasgow Bowling Green, near Kenmure Street, in Pollokshields. And another this Saturday in Garnethill Multicultural Centre from 6pm-10pm. You are welcome to join.

Heritage and culture is all around us if we choose to see it. Be it the many festivals and celebrations happening this spring, or the world’s largest winter music festival of traditional music: Celtic Connections. These cultural celebrations and interactions can lead to understanding of one’s culture and pride of where we come from and where we are going together.

Every January, the city’s Celtic Connections festival welcomes more than 2,000 artists from across the globe to take part in 300 events on 35 city stages as part of an incredible celebration of traditional and folk music.


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Some people were sceptical in the 1990s as to whether Glasgow could reinvent itself as a city of culture, but they’ve been shown to be wrong.

Nearby, Paisley was unsuccessful in its City of Culture bid in 2017 but I’m looking forward to seeing the legacy in 2024 with the opening of the new museum and cultural attractions in the only town/city in Britain never to elect a Tory MP.

But we should also never forget that much of our own culture and infrastructure is a product of imperialism. It was built on tobacco and cotton harvested by enslaved black people and the profits from people starved and forced off their land into backbreaking heavy industries.

But out of such terrible events, Glasgow can create a new future. I have always believed that we would have a stronger cultural diversity in an independent Scotland. Benefiting from freedom of movement within Europe and beyond – where artist and creative professionals could come to Scotland and we could remove barriers of visa restrictions and vice versa for Scottish artists touring in the EU and the world. Independence would also allow Scotland to be a member of multilateral institutions, like the Council of Europe and UNESCO.

This would build on the current ‘Scotland House’ model, which fosters connections with international partners and strengthens cultural ties. The transformational power of culture cannot be underestimated. The Scottish Government will invest at least £100 million more annually in culture and the arts by the financial year 2028/29. To support this aim, funding to the culture sector will increase by £15.8 million next financial year to £196.6 million. In 2025/2026 the Scottish Government aims to provide an additional £25 million. This commitment to additional funding despite the challenging budget situation signals support for the culture sector.

The Herald: Diane AbbottDiane Abbott (Image: free)

In many ways, Scotland's innovative and egalitarian social values already support and strengthen local communities. Throughout Scotland, there are a range of cultural assets bringing people together. From the major, such as the Burrell and People's Palace in Glasgow, to local libraries that are hubs for our communities, Scotland’s museums and galleries connect people, places and collections and inspire their communities.

Next year sees Glasgow’s 850th’s anniversary – this provides the opportunity to celebrate our history and the diaspora who have shaped Glasgow. This is an opportunity to enthuse people internationally of Scottish links and interest. No other city provides the opportunity and reach to highlight a globally connected and contemporary Scotland.

Embracing and immersing yourself in this mosaic of cultures around you enriches our experiences and fosters empathy, tolerance, and unity. Let us embrace the vibrant tapestry of diversity that surrounds us, recognising it as a source of strength and inspiration for building a more inclusive and harmonious society. By celebrating our differences and finding common ground, we can create an independent Scotland where diversity becomes one of greatest assets.

Councillor Roza Salih is an SNP councillor for Greater Pollok in Glasgow