Scottish Government Views on Palestine, 25 August 2014

Gaza, 7 August 2014

Letter dated 25 August 2014 from Alex Maxwell, Scottish Government External Affairs Directorate (International Division) in response to an inquiry from a constituent to their MSP. Also see the slightly contrasting statement from the International Division dated 19 August. And note that the statement below says that statement below says that the Scottish Government "does not support or encourage any trade with illegal settlements", although by this date the Scottish Government had said in a separate statement that it strongly discourages trade with companies active in Israeli settlements.

Thank you for your email of 2 August 2014 with regard to the Gaza conflict. I have been asked to respond.

In line with other Governments in Europe, the Scottish Government does not advocate a policy of boycotting Israel and this includes the Scottish Government’s diplomatic relations with Israel. We believe that engagement with the Israeli Government provides us with an opportunity to call for a peaceful resolution between both sides of the conflict and present any concerns the Scottish Government may have. Recently, those concerns have included the expansion of illegal settlement and the continued damage caused by the illegitimate blockade of Gaza.

At the same time, the Scottish Government has made it clear that we do not dictate to cultural institutions, organisations or individuals what they should choose to do or not. For the purposes of clarity the Scottish Government does not, in common with the position of the UK government, support or encourage any trade with illegal settlements:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/overseas-business-risk-israel - please see paragraph 2.1.

On applying pressure to enact change in Gaza, the Scottish Government has made efforts to influence the UK Government. The Minister for External Affairs Humza Yousaf wrote to Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP on 7 August, calling for the UK Government to introduce an immediate embargo on the UK selling arms to Israel.

On 25 July, the First Minister wrote to David Cameron calling on him to show equal determination in the UK Government’s approach to the situation in Gaza as they have shown in regard to the atrocity involving Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. A request was also made to support an UN investigation into civilian deaths as a result of the conflict.

On 18 July, the Minister for External Affairs and International Development wrote to Secretary of State for the Home Office, Rt Hon Theresa May MP, to highlight the new refugee crisis in the Gaza region. Mr Yousaf asked that the UK Government plays a full role in any international efforts to provide homes for refugees from the region. Scotland stands ready to play its part in helping to welcome and resettle refugees from Gaza into our communities.

Minister for External Affairs and International Development, Humza Yousaf wrote to UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague on 9 July to express the Scottish Government’s deep concern regarding the escalating violence in the region. The letter also offered the use of Scottish hospitals to treatment to patients requiring specialist care as a result of the conflict.

I hope that you find this response helpful.

Yours sincerely,
Alex Maxwell
International Division

Photo: UN