Edinburgh – 25 April 2015

The Sikh Federation (UK) and representatives of the Sikh community from Glasgow and Edinburgh met earlier this week in Edinburgh with Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister in Scotland and the Scottish National Party Leader to discuss the Sikh Manifesto.

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Nicola Sturgeon had been excellently briefed and was very familiar with each of the issues set out in the Sikh Manifesto. She became the first British leader of a political party to give her full backing to all key issues set out in the Sikh Manifesto in as far as they are applicable to the Scottish Government.

This creates considerable pressure on the Labour Party leadership who have most to lose in Scotland and have yet to formally respond to the specifics set out in the Sikh Manifesto. If Labour form the next government it is predicted by most that the SNP will be a strong influence in many of the decisions made. Over 100 Labour hopefuls are backing many of the items in the Sikh Manifesto.

It therefore makes sense for the Labour leadership to recognise the writing on the wall and back key issues in the Sikh Manifesto that it may be forced to support anyway. Otherwise Labour risks losing many Sikh votes south of the border in 15-20 key constituencies it hopes to win to form the next government. This could prevent Labour coming to power. One of these issues is the call for an independent public inquiry into UK Government involvement and assistance in the Sikh Genocide in 1984.

Following the revelations last January concerning assistance to the Indian Government in relation to the Sikh Genocide in 1984 the Conservative leadership has been saying many positive things about the contribution of the Sikh community fearing a backlash at the polls. The Prime Minister’s address at Vaisakhi even stole phrases and the logic of the Sikh Manifesto. However, positive headlines and nice pictures in the mainstream media alone are unlikely to win a large number of Sikh votes without specific commitments to some of the issues set out in the Sikh Manifesto.

The handling of the 1984 issue remains unfinished business and could prove decisive with many in deciding between Labour and the Conservatives. Whether the Labour leadership recognise its significance and act before 7 May remains a question many Sikhs are asking.

Following the meeting Bhai Amrik Singh said:

‘We are delighted with the backing we received today from Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP who we are convinced will play a significant role in influencing the decisions of the next UK Government.’

‘She is the one leader who has stood out and has been a breath of fresh air in the run up to the General Election. The SNP has shown the courage and conviction to fully support the 10-point Sikh Manifesto. She told us the SNP would do everything it can to ensure progress on the Sikh Manifesto after the General Election.’

‘Her warmth and genuine desire to work with the Sikh Federation (UK) to help the Sikh community was clear to see.’

Some of the specifics discussed were:

– the need to get Sikhs in Scotland to take an active part in politics and Sikhs to become elected representatives for the SNP

– separate ethnic monitoring of Sikhs by public bodies in Scotland and inclusion of a separate ethnic tick box for Sikhs in the Census 2021 in Scotland

– the introduction of a statutory Code of Practice on the 5Ks and Sikh turban in Scotland building on the excellent work already undertaken

– allocation of a site in Edinburgh (or Glasgow) for a permanent monument to highlight Sikh sacrifices in the First World War

– support and influence of the SNP on the next UK Government for an independent public inquiry into UK Government action in the lead up to and after the 1984 Sikh Genocide building on the Scottish Parliament resolution on 10 June 2014 supporting such an inquiry

– recognition of the events of 1984 as a Genocide and support for a UN-led inquiry

– support for the application of self determination to the Sikhs where Nicola Sturgeon did not mix her words

Nicola Sturgeon when interviewed on the BBC on Wednesday referred to the excellent meeting she had with the Sikh Federation (UK) about the Sikh Manifesto.

The Sikh Federation (UK) is producing an analysis of responses to the Sikh Manifesto from candidates, although the formal responses from David Cameron and Ed Miliband to the Sikh Manifesto remain outstanding.

Gurjeet Singh
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)

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