The benefits of having an independent Foreign policy


By Alex Robertson
On Thursday there will be a vote in the UN General Assembly whether to grant Palestine enhanced status as ‘Observer’ to the UN General Assembly.  This is one stage below being a full member of the UN.
The UK government, for quite plausible reasons, is trying to persuade Mr Abbas, President of the west bank part of Palestine, not to press his application, and indeed even to withdraw the motion before it comes to a vote.

The reasons given by William Hague, UK Foreign Secretary, are that if the vote is passed, then Israel may well retaliate by withholding monies collected as taxes on behalf of the Palestinian government, thereby starving Palestine of much-needed, and legitimate funds, in fact Palestine’s own money.

The second reason, spoken less loudly, is that if the vote is passed, then the US Congress may well retaliate against Palestine by providing even more material support to Israel.  Either action would be a severe, if not deadly blow to the chances of the two sides getting down to negotiating a two-state long term solution to the long running crisis.

It has to be admitted that there is much to commend this argument in terms of real-politick, but very little in terms of voting for truth and justice.

Indeed, were the vote to be lost on Thursday, or withdrawn, then it is a serious undermining of those Palestinians, Mr Abbas included, who wish to hold out some hope of statehood to those Palestinians searching for a peaceful end to the decades of hostilities.  It might even harden attitudes in Palestine and play into the hands of more extreme parties, like Hamas.

Everyone can agree that the question is fiendishly complex and difficult.

But at the end of the day, there is a third case to be made, that abstaining or urging Mr Abbas to withdraw the application is little more than appeasing malevolent forces and submitting to the concept that might is right.

Yet, judging from Mr Hague’s statement to the House of Commons today, that is the path on which the Westminster government is intent.

Scotland has no voice in the matter.  But I suspect that most Scots feel that the Palestinian people are desperately short of real encouragement these days.  With the land-grabbing West bank settlements still going on under the Israeli government, the Palestinians are in dire need of support for the voice of moderation and diplomatic identity to be heard and recognised.

An independent Scotland, in short, might very well come to a different decision on how to vote in New York on Thursday.  Yet we are denied any voice or right of hearing.  Scots and Palestinians both want a homeland for their nations, and both want peace and security within their borders.  And  both are denied a voice.  And both are the losers for that

Mr Hague is right in one respect.  The time for a two-state solution to be possible is fading fast; the window is indeed closing quickly.  Not much more than one year is the best guess of how long the window will stay open.  After that, the prospect for a solution is bleak indeed and peace in the Middle East is made much more remote a possibility.

There is little disagreement on the facts.  But the Scots, who understand the desire of a people for their own homeland, are not to be allowed a voice, just as the Palestinians are denied one too.

Giving in to the big boys who are content to use their strength to bully weaker people has never been a good idea.  In the end it makes eventual conflict and violence all the more inevitable.  And it also tends to make that conflict all the more violent and bloody.

Scotland has valuable and important things to say, and knowledge and experience to bring to the table.  Scotland, as a nation, has important things to say on the subject of statehood.

Denying Scotland an independent voice is unfair and counter-productive.  It is past time we had a right for our voice to be heard.  Not just for our own good, but for our wider interests and responsibilities as well.