SACC supports the proposal to twin Edinburgh with Gaza City but we not affiliated with the newly-formed Edinburgh-Gaza Twinning Association.
SACC continues to independently support the twinning of Edinburgh with Gaza City. We support the twinning proposal on its own merits, and with particular regard to the risk that the UK's proscription of Hamas last year will have the effect of further isolating and criminalising the population of Gaza, its civil society organisations and sections of the Palestinian community in the UK. These issues are central to SACC's work in campaigning against the UK's anti-terrorism laws and seeking to counter the effect they have in marginalising and criminalising communities in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK.
A petition to Edinburgh City Council to twin Edinburgh with Gaza City was created by Peter Gregson in 2019. Gregson is an Edinburgh man who has campaigned on a wide range of issues, including a campaign to save Castlebrae High School in Edinburgh, a campaign calling for Scottish councils to set up whistleblower hotlines and a more recent campaign to set up a whistleblower hotline for Scottish NHS staff. He was expelled from GMB union over issues linked to his authorship of a petition that criticised Israel as racist and challenged the Labour Party's use of the controversial definition of anti-semitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). He has never been a member of SACC and the petition was unconnected with SACC.
Following delays due to covid the petition was scheduled for discussion by the Policy and Sustainability Committee of Edinburgh City Council on 29 March 2022 . SACC asked to be allowed to provide an online deputation to the Committee in support of the petition and then, at the Committee's request because of the large number of requests for deputations, provided a written statement instead. Discussion of the petition was withdrawn from the Committee's agenda late on 28 March "to allow [council] officers to give full consideration to legal matters raised since publication of the agenda."
SACC understands that the legal matters were connected to the proscription of Hamas under UK law and followed representations made to the Council by the organisation UK Lawyers for Israel and perhaps also by the Israeli government. We are surprised at the decision to remove discussion of twinning from the agenda of the meeting on 29 March because the ban on Hamas would certainly have been known to the Council when the agenda was drafted and we do not understand what new legal issues could have subsequently been raised.
There will be no further opportunity for the Committee to discuss the petition until after the council election in May.