Yousaf warns Starmer against ‘betrayal of people of Palestine’

The failure of Sir Keir Starmer to immediately recognise Palestine as a state would be a “betrayal”, former first minister Humza Yousaf has said.

Leading a Holyrood debate – the first time he has spoken in parliament since stepping down from the top job – Mr Yousaf urged Sir Keir to act quickly if he wins the keys to Downing Street after the July 4 election.

Labour has already pledged to recognise Palestine in its manifesto if it takes power.

Sir Keir Starmer speaking
Former first minister Humza Yousaf was addressing his comments to Sir Keir Starmer, pictured (Aaron Chown/PA)

“In just over a week’s time, Keir Starmer will likely be the Prime Minister of the UK,” he said.

“My appeal to him and the government he will lead is not to equivocate, do not deny the people of Palestine their inalienable right to statehood for a second longer.

“Instead, ensure that the UK joins our neighbours and allies in Ireland, Norway and Spain and immediately recognise the state of Palestine.

“Anything less will be a betrayal of the people of Palestine who have been let down for far too long.”

The Labour manifesto agrees with Mr Yousaf that Palestinian statehood is an “inalienable right”, adding: “It is not in the gift of any neighbour and is also essential to the long-term security of Israel.

“We are committed to recognising a Palestinian state as a contribution to a renewed peace process which results in a two-state solution with a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state.”

The former first minister – whose wife’s parents were trapped in Gaza during the bombardment following the October 7 attack – went on to question “where is our humanity?”

He said: “Over 37,000 Gazans, including over 14,000 children killed – not passing away, not dying – killed. Where is our humanity?

“Over 86,000 injured, where is our humanity?

“The car six-year-old Hind Rajab was travelling in when she was killed is alleged to have been hit by 335 bullets – 335 bullets raining down on a car full of innocent men, women and children. Where is our humanity?”

Mr Yousaf added that arms sales to Israel should be immediately halted, while calling for any international arrest warrants issued – including against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu – to be executed by the UK if those in question ever landed on British soil.

Scottish Labour MSP Pauline McNeill was firm in her support for Mr Yousaf’s push.

“I agree with Humza Yousaf – the time to recognise Palestine is now,” she said.

“It’s time to correct the historical injustices.

“While the focus is rightly on the massacre and decimation in Gaza right now, it is the failure to hold Israel to account for the violation of international law over 76 years and the pretence that there was ever any serious attempt to reach a political solution that must be understood.”

She added: “One day, Palestine will be free and I think this parliament can say when the time is right, we stood up for Palestinians and for the creation of an independent Palestinian state and for peace for all of those who live in the region.”

Former Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw – whose Eastwood constituency contains Scotland’s biggest Jewish community – did not agree with Mr Yousaf’s view on arms sales to Israel, but added that the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians in Gaza was “unacceptable”.

“In spirit, at least, I think there is a will across this parliament irrespective of the side of the debate we come from, to accept that what is now going on is unacceptable and progress must be made and that progress must end with the recognition of a Palestinian state in a secure two-state environment within the Middle East,” he said.