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Denmark would be a disastrous model for Scotland

·2-min read
Photograph: Marco Cristofori/Alamy
Photograph: Marco Cristofori/Alamy

One can only hope that the answer to Ian Jack’s question – “When will Scotland be like Denmark?” – is “never” (An independent Scotland could turn to Denmark for inspiration, 17 April).

The perception that Danish people “pay more tax to live more equally [and] happily” may be common, but in reality how “equally” or “happily” depends on whether the Danes in question are lucky enough to be classified favourably by the Danish government. Denmark has issued artificial categorisations of “background”, with “western” including Australia and New Zealand, and those of “non-western background” including Danish-born descendants.

“Non-western background” is the determining factor in Denmark’s designation of certain areas as “ghettoes”, which are subjected to special laws, leading to evictions across the country. The UN and other bodies have described Denmark’s actions as discriminatory, stigmatising and marginalising. Undeterred, the minister of interior and housing has unveiled a new proposal that aims to regulate further those of “non-western background”, limiting them to 30% in any “housing estate”.

From local ordinances about mandatory pork meatballs to a ban on the veil and the “ghetto package” laws, Denmark has long explicitly targeted those whose religious values and other norms differ from those of the white majority. In contrast, in 2019, all of Scotland’s political parties adopted a formal definition recognising Islamophobia as racism targeting “Muslimness”.

Rather than being “worth the wait”, looking to a romanticised and outdated notion of Danish society as egalitarian would be a disastrous step for Scotland, independent or otherwise.
Susheela Math
Legal officer, equality division, Open Society Justice Initiative

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