Gaza: urgent need for an arms embargo


Last night I was please to be able to speak in a brief debate about Gaza. You can watch the debate and my speech at the bottom of this page, but here’s what I said.

Greens across Europe and the world continue to call for a sustained and secure ceasefire in Gaza, for negotiations between Israel and Hamas and for a renewed commitment to on-going peace.

I welcome the Scottish Government’s support for an arms embargo and the stronger line of support for the Palestinian people that has been taken by Scottish ministers. I ask that the Minister for External Affairs continues to strive to ensure that the UK is fully aware of the urgent need for such an embargo, and that it is fully aware of a newspaper article over the weekend that reported the Israeli use of Scots-made laser guidance systems in the conflict.

We can put pressure on the Israeli state through a targeted boycott and disinvestment campaign. We can join the efforts of the international community to pursue a lasting peace. Along with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the South African activist who fought to end apartheid, we can join a worldwide campaign calling on corporations that are profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories to pull out their funding. By putting economic pressure on the Israeli Government, Scotland and the UK could play a part in the international effort to control the situation.

When I spoke at Saturday’s rally in Edinburgh, it was clear that the strength of feeling among the general public and communities across Scotland on the issue is growing. That is not surprising. In Palestine, 1.8 million people live in an area of 140 square miles. It is one of the most densely populated parts of the globe. The humanitarian crisis is deepening, with 200,000 people displaced and 65,000 homes destroyed. Where will those people return to? The average Palestinian is only 17 years old, so it is no surprise that UNICEF has reported that 400,000 children need immediate psychological help to overcome the trauma that they have experienced during the Israeli onslaught.

Pernille Ironside, the head of UNICEF’s Gaza office, also warned that children are at risk of contracting communicable diseases because of the lack of power and sanitation in the blockaded Palestinian territory. Gazans have been left without clean water for weeks.

The Church of Scotland world mission council’s report, “Invest in Peace” says:
“As a form of collective punishment, Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law.” Despite that, it continues. We must ensure that international laws, including humanitarian laws, are applied.

The blockade and entirely disproportionate military bombardment have led to the destruction that we see, but can hardly contemplate. We have seen the destruction of industry, fishing rights are massively restricted, farming is dangerous and challenging, and schools and hospitals—places that should be sanctuaries—have been hit. I, too, support calls for action on procurement: companies should not benefit, through public contracts, from the Israeli blockade.

Concerns have been expressed by my constituents on the delays in evacuating patients. I would be grateful if the Minister could advise what action is being taken to establish a recognised transfer and treatment protocol, in order to save as many lives as possible.

However distant the prospect of achieving peace and justice might be, we must continue to work to achieve that goal, because a just peace in Israel and Palestine could be the catalyst for achieving wider peace in the region and across the world.


So, the first presidential style debate of the referendum is over…

None of the arguments was new to those of us who’ve been on the campaign trail for the past two years but so many people are only now switching on.


Alex Salmond highlighted the wrongheaded Westminster policies that mean we have foodbanks in our wealthy nation, and that we’re about to be railroaded into spending £100billion on a new generation of nuclear weapons on the Clyde. The opportunity, he pointed out, is to end austerity and improve our democracy. I was also pleased to hear the First Minister highlight the opportunity we have to adopt a more welcoming immigration policy, retaining skilled workers instead of kicking them out as the three big UK parties would have us do.


Alistair Darling – my MP – highlighted what he called the risks of independence, failing to acknowledge that a No vote also contains risks. He kept referring to strength and security, which probably sounds attractive if you’re well off but is simply meaningless if you’re one of the many Scots struggling to make ends meet.


He also said the UK can transfer money from the richer parts to the poorer parts. Yes, it can, but it doesn’t. Successive Westminster governments have allowed wealth to accrue to those who need it least. Alistair also sought to use the SNP’s college cuts as a reason against independence. I’ve been a vocal critic of those cuts but they’re an election issue – the question we’re being asked on 18 September isn’t do you like John Swinney’s budget; it’s who’s better placed to decide how our country is run and how we speak to the world: is it the Scottish Parliament or the House of Commons and the House of Lords?


As our political system demands a winner and a loser we have an adversarial debate that isn’t best suited to those seeking information. I hope we hear a wider range of voices and visions over the remaining six weeks.




From the moment I arrived in Glasgow to watch the hockey, I could feel the city embrace the Games and as my family and I have travelled back and forth these past few days this feeling of pride and enjoyment in what the city and its people are adding to the sporting spectacle has grown.


I’ve been fortunate enough to see track cycling, netball and several athletics sessions and the warmth, humour and desire to help visitors and spectators is abundantly clear.

Those delivering the Games have learnt much from the London blueprint. Those Games were a huge success as are Glasgow’s. Glasgow2014 has brought people from across the globe together. While spectators cheer on their countrymen and women the applause for each and every athlete from all parts of the crowd is testament to the generous and knowledgable Scottish audience.

The train announcer at Mount Florida rail station should have his own stand-up show, or perhaps a double act with the guard on the Central Station to Edinburgh 2239 on Wednesday. London was slick but these characters belong to Glasgow. Ashton Eaton, Olympic Champion and world record holder in the decathlon seemed to be enjoying the banter as he stood back, anonymous in his hoodie.

The athletics crowd defy definition. From babes in arms to our oldest citizens, folk of all shapes, sizes and nationalities have cheered every individual effort regardless of outcome.

I’ve no doubt that many people, young and old, will be inspired to follow in the footsteps of those they’ve cheered on this week. There have been sports for all ages and inclinations on show.

There are questions posed by the Games. How can our part time netball and hockey players compete with full time professional athletes? Which sports should receive more funding? We need to look at formal links with coaches and educators in our schools. Physical education and games aren’t the same thing and we need to invest in physical literacy for our young people as this will pay dividends in terms of long term health and well being.

I’ve been thrilled by Eilidh’s silver, by Mark Dry’s bronze. Guy Learmonth’s personal best in the 800m final is a highlight. Eilidh’s McColgan’s gutsy run, Beth Potter’s 5th place and the determination of Lynsey Sharp in reaching the 800m final and Emily Dudgeon who narrowly missed out after a fantastic performance. And there’s more yet to come.

The challenge now, if we’re to deliver a meaningful legacy, is to make sure the facilities and coaches are in place for this to become a reality, and that no one is priced out of a more active lifestyle. Investing in sport is money well spent.