Malcolm's reflects on the shared links and history between Scots and Poles
Debate on motion celebrating the Scottish-Polish connection Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
I, too, congratulate Shirley-Anne Somerville on lodging this important motion and taking the opportunity to emphasise the great contribution that Polish people make to Scotland today and which they made in the past. The motion emphasises in particular the Polish contribution during the war. It also refers to a fact that is perhaps lesser known among Scottish people today: very many Scots went to Poland, particularly in the 17th century. In fact, I am told that several Polish names are based on Scottish names.

It is fitting that there is a war memorial in the Redbraes community garden in my constituency to the Poles who died in the war. I pay tribute to PC Simon Daley, whose idea the memorial was; it was one of several actions to help bring the Scottish and Polish communities together. I also pay tribute not only to the organisations that are mentioned in the motion but to the Polish Cultural Festival Association, which organised the superb Polish cultural festival earlier this year. An exhibition of photographs of that festival was on display earlier this month in Edinburgh and, if anybody missed it, some of it is currently on display in Fountainbridge library in Edinburgh.

I was very pleased to speak at the launch of the festival and to attend several very enjoyable events, including a combined ceilidh and Polish dancing event in Leith back in April. That kind of intercultural event is very important for integration, which is the theme that we want to emphasise when it comes to talking about Polish or, indeed, many other ethnic minorities who come to Scotland - celebrating and recognising their distinct cultures but seeking integration.

It is important that we ensure that there is adequate provision for English language teaching, which is another important aspect of integration. The Minister for Housing and Communities may want to cover that in his closing speech. I am conscious of quite a lot of such activity in my constituency. I am pleased to meet Polish people every Saturday morning when I do a surgery at Royston/Wardieburn community centre; a large number go there for English classes at that time.

I have also been pleased to meet many Polish people at a weekly drop-in at the Fort community wing that is called a swietlica. Advice sessions are available, but it is also a social event at which Polish people can meet and talk to people who were born in Scotland. I pay tribute to the volunteers who run that drop-in, one of whom spent several days work shadowing with me earlier in the year.

The main theme that we want to emphasise today is the contribution of Polish people to Scotland. We should remember all that they have done for Scotland, all that they continue to do and all the skills and cultural diversity that they bring to Scotland. In a speech that was useful from the historical point of view and for present issues, Christopher Harvie emphasised the importance of training and equivalency tests. A couple of weeks ago, a well-qualified Polish electrician came to one of the surgeries at Royston/Wardieburn community centre with a problem: his qualifications had not been properly recognised in Scotland. It is important that such problems are ironed out.

I end as I began - by congratulating Shirley-Anne Somerville on introducing this important debate.

September 2nd 2009, (Column 20596-8)

S3M-4641# Shirley-Anne Somerville:
Celebrating the Scottish-Polish Connection—That the Parliament commemorates the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Polish navy in Leith on 1 September 1939;
notes that the three Polish destroyers Burza (Storm), Grom (Thunder) and Blyskawica (Lightning) saw service alongside the Royal Navy during the Second World War, with Grom being sunk with heavy loss of life on 4 May 1940;
recognises that the arrival of the destroyers marked the beginning of a strong wartime Scottish-Polish connection with several squadrons of the Polish Air Force serving in the country and Polish ships based at a number of Scottish ports, including Rosyth, Greenock, Port Glasgow, Ardrossan, Gourock, Dundee and Scapa Flow;
further recognises that the main influx of Poles during the war occurred following the collapse of France in 1940 when some 30,000 Polish troops were evacuated to the United Kingdom and were stationed in Scotland, many of whom settled here; notes that a Polish house was organised in Edinburgh by the British Council to help the Polish community socially and educationally at this time;
celebrates not just the wartime links but the long historical connection between Scotland and Poland, which includes upwards of 40,000 Scots migrating to Poland during the 17th century, and applauds the work of many organisations, including the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum and the Scottish Polish Cultural Association, for helping to develop awareness of the historical connections, promote cultural understanding and foster strong relations between modern generations of Scots and Poles.