Council depute leader calls for 'serious rethink' of Edinburgh's civic ties to oppressive countries including Poland and China

Deputy council leader Cammy Day will soon be submitting a motion to the council requesting a review of the local authority’s international work and relationships with various cities.

Deputy council leader Cammy Day is calling for a "serious rethink" about Edinburgh's ties to oppressive countries.
Deputy council leader Cammy Day is calling for a "serious rethink" about Edinburgh's ties to oppressive countries.

One of Edinburgh’s most senior politicians is calling for the Capital to seriously reconsider its civic ties with countries including Poland and China due to their ‘oppressive treatment’ of marginalised groups.

Deputy council leader Cammy Day will soon be submitting a motion to the council requesting a review of the local authority’s international work and relationships with various cities.

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Edinburgh is currently partnered with more than ten cities worldwide including Florence, Kiev, Nice, Munich, Krakow and Xi’an in China.

The scope of its various partnerships differs but often includes mutual cooperation in areas such as education, monument protection, the economy and culture.

Just last year Edinburgh renewed its partnership agreement with Krakow, an arrangement dating back to 1994 which has been renewed every five years since.

However, Poland, its politicians and cities are becoming increasingly hostile towards LGBTQ+ citizens.

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Around 100 municipalities in the country, including that which covers Krakow, have declared themselves to be “LGBT ideology-free zones”.

The recently re-elected Polish President Andrzej Duda has compared being part of the LGBT+ community to being a communist and during his re-election campaign vowed to “defend children from LGBT ideology”.

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Now, Cllr Day believes it is time reconsider whether Edinburgh’s partnership agreement with Krakow should be maintained.

Cllr Day said: “I thought Poland was a really forward-thinking part of Europe, but it is now knocking equalities back 100 years.

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“I thought we’d banished this kind of behaviour from modern society but obviously and very very sadly that’s not true.

“Reviewing our civic relationships is not at all about abandoning the LGBT+ community in different countries, but cities across the world should not have friendship agreements with governments that are not supporting their own LGBT+ communities.”

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“I hope we can meet people from Poland and work out how we can have a network of LGBTQ+ support and defence against anti-LGBT+ communities.”

Cllr Day’s views are shared by Michael Richardson, the Edinburgh Equalities Officer for the Unison trade union.

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Mr Richardson has emailed city councillors requesting Edinburgh cuts ties with Krakow “to show support for LGBT+ people living in Poland.”

Cllr Day says he would also like to rethink Edinburgh’s relationship with China, due to the country’s array of human rights issues and violations.

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Edinburgh is home to an estimated 6,000 Chinese international students and is also consistently one of the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists.

The city was also on the forefront of Scotland’s charm offensive with China, most clearly demonstrated with the so-called ‘panda diplomacy’ years, embodied in the continued loan of Tian Tian and Yuan Guang to Edinburgh Zoo.

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Cllr Day said: “I’m calling for us to have a serious discussion about whether a forward-thinking, liberal and open city like Edinburgh, that welcomes people from all over the world regardless of their sexuality or their race, wants to continue to have relationships with places like Krawkow and with places like China who are breaking people’s rights like freedom of speech and assembly, as we’ve seen with Hong Kong.

“I think Edinburgh needs to take a stand against this and I want to make sure that the Labour group and council coalition stand up and make our points about that.

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“We need to do all we can to stop the rise of far right attitudes and promotion of inflammatory use of ‘fake news’ from undermining our approaches to an open, welcoming, fair and equal society.”