International Development Fund (Occupied Palestinian Territories)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 19 June 2013.

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Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

1. To ask the Scottish Government what support it is giving from its international development fund for people in the occupied Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank. (S4O-02272)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government remains concerned about the situation between Israel and Palestine and supports all on-going international peace efforts in the region.

The Scottish Government’s international development fund supports a robust programme of development work which, as Claudia Beamish knows, is concentrated on sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. As well as providing for those long-term development projects, we also support humanitarian interventions around the world—most recently in relation to the crisis affecting Syria. We previously supported the Palestinians in Gaza back in 2009.

Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

As part of the Council for European Palestinian Relations, I, along with my colleague John Finnie, visited Gaza as part of a parliamentary delegation just six days after the ceasefire last November.

Has there been a Disasters and Emergency Committee appeal and has the Scottish Government contributed to it? Has any additional funding been made available to the people in the occupied Palestinian territories through other schemes such as the climate challenge fund? Might it be possible to do that when the fund is reviewed?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I note the substantial amount of work that Claudia Beamish and Mr Finnie have done in relation to the situation in Gaza. I read Claudia Beamish’s report on her website when she arrived back from Gaza, which gave a very harrowing account of the pragmatic life that Gazans have to live.

The international development fund is focused very much on the areas that I mentioned in my previous answer. That is because we have a modest budget that must be targeted for it to have its full impact. We have intervened previously. I am more than happy to meet Claudia Beamish to explore other ways in which we can provide support, which we will always seek to do.

We have been consistent in saying that the blockade in Gaza is unjustifiable. We, along with the United Kingdom Government, believe that the continued building of settlements is illegal and we will do everything we can, with the powers that we have, to continue to make the case for ordinary Gazans, who are living in absolutely horrendous conditions.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

Does the minister share my welcome for the work that the UK Government is doing through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, in seeking to build new schools in the Gaza strip to expand access to education for 24,000 pupils?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Yes I do. I also recognise the role that the UK Government, through the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has played in trying to create peace in an extraordinarily difficult situation. I believe that we could be doing more. I believe that the UK Government is doing as much as it possibly can. I recognise that diplomatic interventions can be difficult, but projects such as the one that Jamie McGrigor outlined are important and education is important.

Fundamentally, though, we have to get across the point that the blockade of Gaza and the continued building of settlements in the occupied territories is counterproductive to our achieving peace. I would happily work with UK Government officials to see how Scotland can assist in that endeavour.