Sunday, 18 November 2012

An interrupted narrative

To be honest I'm not really sure what to blog about this week.

The easy thing would be just to pile in with everybody else putting the boot in Mike Russell but it's difficult to find anything further to say on this baleful episode. It is trite to say the real scandal is the not the original offence but the attempted cover up but on this occasion the reverse is surely the opposite. Thursday's debacle was great entertainment for the political class but the real scandal is that college funding for support for, overwhelmingly, poorer kids is being slashed to try and desperately preserve the middle class perk of free higher education.

On any view this puts the Scottish administration, on this issue, to the right of every other mainstream party in these islands. But then the SNP have always been a bit iffy on education. Derek McKay, don't forget, was the man who, while leader of Renfrewshire Council, regarded teachers as an optional extra in the schools under his then domain. Such anathema was this to the local SNP that they made him a Parliamentary candidate.

But my heart's not really in this Nat bashing and that, I think , is because our wee problems here seem so trivial compared to what is going on in the Middle East.

But about which I have no magic prescription.

The loss of life is tragic and, of course, the Israeli response  wholly unacceptable in its disproportionality to the provocation. But the provocation was, I'm not reluctant to say, also wholly unacceptable.

The argument just goes round in a circle. It's easy to say that the starting point is the Israeli blockade of Gaza but given the fact that even under that blockade long range missiles have been smuggled in to Gaza from Iran, and then fired randomly into Israel by people who show no inclination to stop such behaviour, it is simply unrealistic to suggest that Gaza should have an open border either.

Then again, while the current Israeli regime shows no real desire to negotiate the two state solution that seems so blindingly obvious to the outside world, what is the incentive for the Palestinians to repudiate those within their own ranks seemingly set on a course of permanent, hopeless, war?

It's just a mess where I defy anybody but the most blinkered of partisans not to accept that there is fault on both sides.

However it can't be the case that the rest of the world community just gives up in despair tempered only by the occasional sorrowful or cautionary word.

And here is where a particular obligation rests with one man, Barack Obama.

It is Second Term; he is not going to stand again and frankly, to date, his foreign policy legacy has been a disappointment.

The Americans can't, realistically, be expected to abandon the Israelis altogether but they could certainly offer more incentive to the Palestinians particularly by making it clear that their UN Veto on Palestinian statehood was not at the disposal of the Israeli Government, no matter how they behave. And they could also offer to consider how the blockade might be policed by others than the Israelis and, over time, relaxed in the process.

But, in the end, the starting point has to be a ceasefire all round. And you can't get round the fact that the Gazans remain, currently, more of an obstacle to that than the Israelis. It's simply not good enough for the Hamas administration to say that if the Israelis stop the attack, they'll stop their own rocket attacks but, unfortunately, they can't control the acts others. Not good enough and not credible either.


Now, I wrote everything immediately above earlier today. I then saved it and went off to do other things intending to come back tonight to finish it off essentially to say that it was unfair that the Palestinians had to take the first step by agreeing to an unconditional ceasefire but that this was, nonetheless, the political and military reality.

Except that this afternoon the Scottish Government decided to issue a statement about the crisis. Here it is.

Commenting on the ongoing violence in Gaza and Israel, Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Government’s Minister for External Affairs and International Development, said:
“The priority is for an immediate and effective ceasefire and a de-escalation of hostilities in the region, and the Scottish Government supports all ongoing international diplomatic efforts to achieve a ceasefire.
“The dangers of a further escalation in this conflict are obvious and must be avoided. The killing of innocent civilians, be they Palestinian or Israeli, is to be utterly condemned and we urge both sides to exercise restraint.  The rocket attacks on Israel are wrong and should stop, as should the Israeli bombardment on Gaza which has been heavily disproportionate in terms of the civilian loss of life, and have been rightly condemned as such by many in the international community.
“The voice of the UK Government in making these points and in helping to achieve a lasting ceasefire must be heard loud and clear,.....
Now, as I said, I'd written the rest of this blog earlier today and you will therefore conclude, correctly, that, to this point, I agree with every single word of what Humza Yousaf has to say. However, he could not resist, or at least somebody could not resist continuing......
and I aim to speak to counterparts at the Foreign Office to stress the importance of their role in achieving these aims.
Mr Yousaf does not have "counterparts in the Foreign Office". He is a Junior Minister in a devolved administration. He might like to have "counterparts" in the British Foreign Office but, to be frank, were that ever to be the case, they would surely have no particular reason to pay him any more attention than a spokesman for any number of other small countries. And the irony in his calling on the British Government to use it's influence on events is that he wants to unilaterally surrender any influence that Scotland, through the United Kingdom might actually be capable of having in events on the ground.
For the sake of completeness, I should say that he continues

“If a ceasefire is not achieved quickly, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza threatens to worsen.
We continue to join with voices in the international community in calling for the illegal blockade of Gaza to be lifted.
And again, you will have gathered from what I say above, I endorse these sentiments entirely.
But let's what consider has gone on here? Faced even responding to a with a humanitarian crisis, thousands of miles from home, the Scottish Government could not resist promoting their separatist agenda. These people are beneath contempt.



  1. No, what's beneath contempt is picking out ONE WORD from the statement and focusing on that rather than its actual content, in order to desperately turn it into something you can attack the SNP over.

  2. Poor wee Ian! So overcome with resentment of the fact Labour's pretendy wee "Executive" has been transformed into a real government that he can't even form intelligible sentences.

    And, of course, it is no surprise at all to find such a fanatical Britnat more interested in petulant sniping at the SNP than the plight of the Palestinian people.

  3. I get what you are saying about Humza's statement Ian, but for once, I'm willing to let it pass. We can't make this about the SNP when there's so much loss of life.

    We might, though, allow our minds to imagine what exactly will happen when Humza calls the Foreign Office....

  4. Funny thing is that the statement seems to allude that the UK does and should have influence on the international stage - that'll never dae!!

  5. Or perhaps to highlight the fact that our supposed "influence on the international stage" in practice amounts to bugger-all...

  6. Thus vindicating Ian's stance then, Stu? ;0)