Scottish Labour backs immediate ceasefire in Gaza

Party members overwhelmingly opted for a motion calling for an immediate end to the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Scottish Labour backs immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza PA Media

Scottish Labour has voted to back calls for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Members at the party’s conference in Glasgow overwhelmingly passed a motion calling for an end to the conflict in Gaza.

The motion passed by the party’s conference passed unopposed and urges an end to rocket fire into and out of Gaza, the unconditional release of hostages taken by Hamas, the restoration of essential supplies and a pathway to peace.

It also condemned the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7, 2023 and noted Israel’s right to protect its citizens.

But the motion said there was “no justification for the collective punishment of 2.2 million citizens in Gaza”.

The Labour motion condemned what it described as 'collective punishment' of those living in Gaza.Getty Images

The vote could further the divide between the party south and north of the border, with UK Labour leader Keir Starmer opting to call for a “sustainable” ceasefire rather than an immediate one.

Anas Sarwar has previously backed a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

It comes just before a pro-Palestine march is expected to arrive outside the Scottish Event Campus where the Labour conference is being held.

Israel began its war against Hamas after the group launched an unprecedented attack on the country, killing at least 1,200 people – mostly civilians – and kidnapped more than 250 people.

According to the Hamas-run health ministry, more than 28,000 Palestinians have been killed as a result of the war, mostly women and children.

The war in Gaza was debated during the second day of the Labour Party conference in Glasgow.

Neil Bibby, the party’s constitution spokesman, urged delegates to back the motion ahead of the vote.

He said: “We believe every life matters, here in Scotland and in Ukraine, Gaza and in Israel.

“Every state, including Israel, has the right to defend itself and its people, not least from indiscriminate terrorist attacks.

“The remaining hostages taken on October 7 must be released by Hamas. However, every state has a responsibility to exercise restraint in response.

“We would expect this of the British Government and our armed forces. We should expect this of Israel too.”

It comes as the SNP has called on Scottish Labour to whip its two MPs to vote for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza ahead of a vote in the House of Commons next week.

During a previous Westminster vote on the issue in November, Labour lost ten shadow ministers and parliamentary aides who rebelled against the leadership’s stance on Gaza.

The SNP will be bringing the issue back to the Commons next week, with a motion calling for an immediate ceasefire.

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Stephen Flynn, said: “It’s time for Sir Keir Starmer to commit to supporting our motion for an immediate ceasefire. There can be no more delays.

“Thousands of children, women and civilians have lost their life since both the Tories and Labour cowardly rejected our last motion – they cannot make that same mistake again.

“History will remember this vote.

“Questions must also be asked of Scotland’s two Labour MPs. Will they follow their Scottish leader, or their leader in London? That decision will tell you exactly where Scottish Labour MPs’ loyalties truly lie.

“With each day Sir Keir Starmer equivocates, the more innocent civilians die. This has to end – and end now.”

Keir Starmer has called for a 'sustainable ceasefire' rather than an immediate end to the fighting.UK Parliament

A delegate from North Ayrshire, Nairn McDonald, told conference that Starmer must stop “equivocating”, before adding: “We demand that Scottish Labour MPs vote for a ceasefire in the Commons when they are given the opportunity.”

On Friday, Sarwar sought to play down any differences between his position and that of Starmer on the Israel-Hamas war.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme they both want violence to stop “right now” – along with the delivery of humanitarian aid, the release of Israeli hostages held in Gaza, and a pathway to a two-state solution.

Sarwar also said “open conversations” are happening with Labour’s two Scottish MPs, Ian Murray and Michael Shanks, ahead of the Westminster debate.

He said: “We shouldn’t be stuck on the semantics because this is a really important issue of life and death for people right now in Gaza and in Israel.

“The idea that this is about the semantics within one political party that’s in opposition…”

Pressed on why Starmer had not used the phrase “immediate ceasefire”, Sarwar said: “Keir Starmer has said ‘the immediate end to fighting’, which means a sustainable ceasefire.

“I am perfectly relaxed and happy to say we need an immediate ceasefire and I have been saying so for weeks and weeks on end.”

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