Wants the word empire in honours to become excellence
A Scots charity leader has accepted an OBE despite saying he is “deeply uncomfortable” with an honours system linked to Britain’s “colonial past.”
Paul Reddish, the chief executive of Volunteering Matters, was recognised with the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s New Year’s honours commenting that he was “absolutely delighted” with the award which capped a “rollercoaster 18 months.”
However, the charity chief added that the link with the honours system and Britain’s colonial past is not a part of a system with which he felt comfortable.
In a statement posted on social media, Reddish wrote: “I’m absolutely delighted to be recognised with an OBE in the New Year’s honours!
“It was a huge surprise to receive the letter and it caps a roller coaster 18 months or so with the amazing volunteers and staff at Volunteering Matters who have worked tirelessly.”
Reddish goes on: “I believe in an honours system that recognises the achievements of people across communities throughout Britain. However, that belief, along with a huge sense of pride should be the overriding emotion.
“Unfortunately that is not entirely the case. Therefore I am adding my voice to the excellence not empire campaign.
“The full name of the award is the Order of the British Empire. By maintaining the link in our honours system to the British Empire and our colonial past in a nostalgic sense makes me feel deeply uncomfortable. It is not a part of our past that I feel nostalgic about.
“Every honours cycle many individuals experience this conflict, and in some cases this results in the refusal of honours. I would urge those in a position to do so, to consider the change of the title of the award from Empire to Excellence.
“This simple change would enable us to all have pride in a system that recognises people in the here and now, that is fitting for a vision of a modern and inclusive nation.”
The campaign is backed by a host of figures from civil society and the public sector with its stated aim being of an honours system “we can all be proud of”.
Reddish was previously chief executive at Project Scotland before he took the helm at Volunteering Matters in 2019
He told TFN: "Fundamentally, I think an honours system should be as inclusive as possible, and about the nation we are now.
"The link back to Empire, and all the things associated with that, does lead to many feeling uncomfortable accepting because of that link to the past which should not be celebrated – but recognised a part of our history which led to the oppression of so many people."