Scotland's voice on world stage silenced over Gaza

Instead of lending their voice to the growing international consensus calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as was their right, Scotland’s MPs were sidelined by Labour's subversion of parliamentary democracy for their own political ends.

Westminster descended into farcical rows about procedure, rather than letting the moderate majority unite to pressure the UK Government to stop abstaining on the issue at the UN Security Council.

The SNP laid down a motion on its official “Opposition Day”, calling for the Israeli government to immediately stop its attacks, which are further endangering the lives of an already decimated civilian population. 

Labour submitted a fudged amendment – carefully crafted to avoid criticism of Israel’s military tactics that are costing the lives of innocent women and children. As this was an SNP Opposition Day motion, no other opposition parties amendments should have been called – because that would be against the rules and conventions of parliamentary business.

Many journalists were reportedly told by Labour MPs that the Speaker Lindsay Hoyle was bullied into breaking the rules by threats from the Labour Party to unseat him as Speaker after the next election. Labour’s motivation was to avoid the embarrassment of an SNP motion being supported by a large contingent of Labour rebels which would have undermined the leadership. In other words, Keir Starmer wanted to avoid the embarrassment of looking weak on the issue of a Gaza ceasefire. These unprecedented actions signal a warning as to how he will behave if indeed he becomes the next Prime Minister.  

During a Channel 4 News interview on Sunday, Labour frontbencher Chris Bryant MP admitted he was ordered to filibuster to block progress on the SNP's motion for immediate ceasefire - and accepted saying “we brought ourselves terribly into disrepute”. 

There seems little doubt that bullying took place and that Starmer himself was involved. The Sunday Times reported that the Speaker 'kicked out' clerks from the Reasons Room in order to speak to Starmer privately ahead of the vote, Labour MPs gathered behind the Speaker’s chair talking loudly of how “Keir is going to fix the Speaker” and Labour whip Chris Elmore told MPs to “use every procedural measure possible to delay”.

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, founder of Believe in Scotland said: “If Starmer is willing to allow the bullying of Westminster officials, to play politics and subvert Westminster parliamentary democracy on such an important issue, how can we expect him to respect the decision of the democratically elected Scottish Parliament?”

When speaker Lindsay Hoyle decided to call the Labour amendment after pressure from Labour leaders, the Conservative Government withdrew their motion. As a direct result, the SNP motion ended up being set aside. Now the Conservatives are able to use the row as a distraction from their lack of leadership on the world stage. 

Despite the probability that almost all Scottish elected MPs – both Labour and SNP – would have supported the ceasefire call, Scotland as a country was effectively ignored. The UK government – which Scotland did not elect – abstained for a third time at the UN Security Council this week

The death toll for children in Gaza surpasses 12,400, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, and 36 in Israel, according to the UN. More than 1.3 million Palestinian civilians including more than 600,000 children are now trapped in Rafah with nowhere else to flee, having followed Israeli-issued “evacuation orders” directing them to the area under the false premise it would be safe. Nowhere in Gaza is safe. 

Scotland’s voice was silenced by the actions of the Labour party. Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader, tweeted that the vote on Wednesday: “Should have been about something much bigger, and more important, than all of us. But Westminster did what it always does, and made it about Westminster.”

The Labour Leader Keir Starmer said that he had spoken to multiple figures before tabling the amendment including the Israeli President Isaac Herzog. 

MacIntyre-Kemp commented: “To be clear, Starmer sees nothing wrong in taking advice ahead of a UK parliamentary vote that effectively accused Israel of committing war crimes from the president of the country being accused. Following those conversations, he has subverted parliamentary democracy to make sure the accusation was removed. This alone should be enough to bar him from the office of Prime Minister.”

So Labour finally got to the point where they were willing to back an immediate ceasefire – but with caveats that don't have the goal of helping the situation in Gaza but rather helping Starmer’s PR. 

Labour’s amendment also removed references to “collective punishment”. That is important because collective punishment is illegal under international law. The SNP’s Opposition Day should have been a chance for moderate and left of centre MPs at Westminster to unite and force the UK government to reconsider its position. The civilian population of Gaza do not control the actions of Hamas – they cannot be made to suffer if Hamas does not lay down its arms. 

But instead a fudge was passed that does nothing meaningful to add to the pressure on Israel. The Unionist news agenda has moved on to the question of whether or not speaker Lindsay Hoyle will lose his job. Another sideshow. This rolling circus is obscuring the real point – the plight of the civilian population in Gaza.

Independence will mean that the people of Scotland's voice will always be heard when it comes to advocating for peace in the international community, as opposed to being muted by Westminster.