Lesson change at North Lanarkshire Schools is backed after motion is passed

North Lanarkshire councillors have agreed to ensure pupils learning history are informed of negative issues such as slavery and imperialism.

A motion put forward by the SNP, based on input from academics, educators and politicians, gained cross-party support with the exception of the Conservatives who unsuccessfully proposed an amendment when it was presented at a full council meeting last week.

It was moved by Councillor Danish Ashraf, who represents Cumbernauld North and seconded by his brother Junaid, who is a councillor for Cumbernauld South.

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After the meeting Councillor Danish Ashraf said: “I am over the moon that the SNP motion I’ve been working on for a very long time has been voted

through and becomes council policy.

“To our knowledge this is the single largest step in Scotland towards decolonising education in any Scottish Council. This expansion and strengthening of our curriculum to include the reality of the former British Empire, colonialism and the many generations lost to the transatlantic slave trade is well overdue.

“There is a great deal to come and I hope to be able to share our work and the work of the council that this motion has today made possible with you as we plough through the next steps in the coming months.

“This is a huge victory for Scotland as we all benefit from the truth being taught and of course in particular for descendants of former colonies and of afro-Caribbean ancestry.

“Next steps include advancing this right across Scotland and beyond, for too long the stories of Afro-Caribbean contributions and the contributions of those from former colonies has been written out of history – this will ensure their voices will now be heard.

“Watch this space because the foundations are now set for this work to flourish.”

Councillor Junaid Ashraf, who is his group’s equalities officer, added: “This anti-racist motion passed today is very personal to me. Now in North Lanarkshire, when young boys and girls who have the same background as I do, as an ethnic minority Scot, go to school they can feel as if their history and reality is being taught to them.

“My history as a third generation Scots-Pakistani was never taught in school. I was never told about the shared history that my heritage has with the nation I call home. By teaching the history of the Commonwealth and trans-Atlantic slave trade in full, we can improve community cohesion with one another.

“I am disappointed we did not have cross party consensus on this motion today, and the Conservative Party chose to vote against teaching our history as it might damage their perspective of the empire and instead tried to frame the debate as a divide over the constitution.

“None the less, I am proud of the SNP group for committing to progress race equality and tackle racial injustice in North Lanarkshire Council.”

Conservative group leader Meghan Gallacher commented: “The Conservative group fully support the need to educate our children about what has gone on in the past, however uncomfortable it must be.

“However, it is disingenuous of the SNP to suggest that we framed this motion around the constitution, when their own motion made four specific references to Britain.

“The SNP’s way of masking up a motion of better teaching our history with references to imperialist influence and blemishes is completely unhelpful and typical of the attitude to hit out anything Britain has done in the past.

“That was why the Conservative group sought to amend this motion to give a fairer overview of how we can better educate going forward.

“There must be a recognition of all countries across the UK’s involvement in shameful behaviour past, including in Scotland and that is how our pupils will achieve a fuller understanding of our past in the classroom.”