LONDON – The Scottish Parliament last week rejected a call to review its trade
policies and for its government to end all trade initiatives with
On Tuesday, the Scottish Parliament Petitions Committee dismissed
a petition – submitted by anti-Israel activist Asid Khan in February – that
called on the Parliament “to urge the Scottish government to review its policy
with respect to trade missions or trade initiatives by publicly-funded bodies to
Israel and to direct or influence Scottish Trade International to end any
ongoing initiatives with Israel.”
“We are greatly concerned and
disappointed to find that Scottish Development International (SDI) arranged a
trade mission to Israel from 10-15 January 2010. This, we consider, was contrary
to the spirit of the resolution of the Scottish Parliament on 8 January 2009
condemning the attacks on Palestinians in Gaza,” the petition stated.
April, the committee took evidence from Khan and agreed to write to the Scottish
government, the Scottish Trade Union Congress, the Foreign Office and the
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to seek responses to points
raised in petition PE1308 and during the panel’s deliberations.
the committee that because Scottish Development International is a publicly
funded body, tasked to attract foreign investment and explore potential business
partners, the mission to Israel may be seen as implying that “the Scottish
government is not concerned about the State of Israel’s violation of
International law, notably [UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and
A briefing paper published by the Scottish Parliament Information
Centre in February confirmed that SDI’s aim is to “broaden Scotland’s
international appeal and to assist the growth of the Scottish economy, by
encouraging inward investment and helping Scottish- based companies develop
The briefing also stated that “There are currently
no concerns within the government about the trade mission to Israel and there
are no restrictions or guidance in place in respect of the SDI trade mission or
trade missions generally.”
In a response to the Petitions Committee, the
government added: “The Scottish government’s policy with Israel is aligned with
Foreign Office guidelines. Israel is an important market for Scottish and UK
companies and this mission, focused on potential business and investment
opportunities, was planned with the aim of improving trade and investment links
between Israel and Scotland. Israel remains an important market for Scottish
In a comprehensive written response to the committee, the
Foreign Office said the British government “actively supports and encourages”
trade relations with Israel.
“Israel is an important trading partner for
the UK. Exports of goods to Israel in 2009 were worth over £1 billion and
exports of services are worth a further £500 million annually.
firms are significant investors in the UK economy.
constitute a key part of maintaining such fruitful business relations,” said
Lord Davies, minister for trade, investment and small business.
week, the Petitions Committee revisited the petition and in light of the reports
submitted by the British Foreign Office, the Scottish government and others,
rejected the call to end all trade initiatives with Israel and closed the
The discussion lasted less than a minute and Member of Scottish
Parliament John Wilson was the only MP to speak.
“In light of the
responses received, I recommend we close the petition,” Wilson said.
decision was welcomed by Jewish community group Scottish Friends of
“The UK and Scottish governments, through their various agencies,
have re-stated their unequivocal support for improving trade and
links between Israel and Scotland,” Friends of Israel spokesman Stanley
said. “It couldn’t be any clearer.
No boycotts, no divestments and no
The petition was supported by Sandra White, Scottish MP for
the Scottish National Party, who spoke on behalf of the petitioner to
Petitions Committee. Despite a number of requests, White – who is a
the Cross-Party Group on Palestine in the Scottish Parliament – refused