Police deny racism over questioning English ex-museum boss over nationality

Julian Spalding. Picture: Neil Hanna
Julian Spalding. Picture: Neil Hanna
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A FORMER museum boss has accused Police Scotland of racism after he made a noise complaint and was questioned about his nationality.

Julian Spalding, ex-director of Glasgow Museums, said he was left “surprised and uncomfortable” by the incident, which happened after he complained about a busker outside his flat in the Grassmarket.

But police chiefs have robustly defended their officers and insisted they were only following standard procedures for taking statements.

Mr Spalding, who set up the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, said he called 101 after a noisy busker refused to move when asked. Describing the incident in a blog post, the art critic and curator said two officers eventually arrived on the scene but initially claimed they did not have the powers to stop the busker from playing.

When Mr Spalding insisted they did, and asked them again to stop the noise, they said they would have to ask him some questions first as the original complaint they were responding to was from a woman, not him.

Mr Spalding, who grew up on a council estate in South London, wrote: “They took out their notebooks and began by asking me how long I’d lived in the Grassmarket.

“When I told them 27 years, one quipped, ‘You must be used to this then’. I explained the recent problems of amplification of which they seemed to be unaware. Then one of them popped the question, ‘Were you born in Scotland?’.”

Mr Spalding said he was taken aback and later complained to a senior police figure about the officers’ “ignorance of their powers and the slowness of the police response”.

He wrote: “I added that they’d thought it necessary to question the status of my nationality but realise now that this should have been my prime complaint.”

He said the senior officer admitted there was “clearly learning on the part of these officers and myself as to how the relevant legislation should be applied” – but failed to address the questioning of Mr Spalding’s nationality.

Speaking to the Evening News, Mr Spalding added: “Why should he need to know what my nationality is? I have lived here for 27 years, and I have not exactly not contributed to Scottish life.

“He could only have asked that question because of my accent. It’s a racist question for a policeman to ask somebody. I was just surprised by it, and I suddenly thought, ‘That’s not very nice, really’.

“It’s very uncomfortable to be asked that. I was upset by their whole manner.”

Chief Superintendent Kenny MacDonald, divisional commander, said: “I categorically refute any suggestion that my officers have acted in a racist manner in relation to this allegation. The attending officer simply asked for the name, age and place of birth of the resident who was reporting a complaint about a busker.

“These questions are standard procedure. One of my senior officers has since subsequently corresponded with the resident regarding police activity in respect of busking in the area.”

alistair.grant@jpress.co.uk