Jean calls for sanctions on Israel

Palestine flags at sunset

Since Israeli forces started bombarding Gaza two weeks ago, over 500 Palestinians have been killed. Most of the dead are civilians and more than a fifth of them are children. Last Thursday, Israel also launched a ground invasion of Gaza.

Jean has lodged a motion to allow the Scottish Parliament to express its condemnation of this attack, and to call for disinvestment and sanctions to put pressure on Israel to end its violence against Palestinians and its illegal occupation of Palestine:

Motion S4M-10638: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 22/07/2014
Gaza Under Attack
That the Parliament condemns Israel’s assault on Gaza; believes that, in this and similar operations, Israel has shown little regard for civilian casualties; understands that, as of 21 July 2014, over 500 Palestinians have been killed; notes the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimate that over one-in-five of those killed are children; urges Scotland’s public bodies to disinvest from companies operating in Israel or occupied Palestine, and calls on the UK Government to pursue sanctions against Israel.

The motion has already been signed by John Finnie (Independent, Highlands and Islands), Patrick Harvie (Green, Glasgow), Alison Johnstone (Green, Lothians), Christine Grahame (SNP, Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale), Cara Hilton (Labour, Dunfermline), Malcolm Chisholm (Labour, Edinburgh Northern and Leith) and Jim Hume (Liberal Democrat, South of Scotland). You can see an up-to-date list of supporters on the Scottish Parliament’s website.

Jean said:

“Over the last two weeks, Israeli forces have killed over 500 Palestinians in Gaza. Most of those killed are civilians; over one in five are children.

“When we see the horrifying reports and pictures, it is easy to feel powerless. But we’re not powerless, and we’re not blameless. Without the ‘staunch support’ offered by Western leaders like David Cameron, the brutal occupation of Palestine could not happen. We all have a responsibility to stop our governments supporting oppression in our name.

“I’m so proud that the Scottish Government has said our country welcomes Palestinian refugees and those in need of medical treatment. But without control of our own foreign policy, we need to demand that the UK Government act to end this assault and the occupation that gave birth to it.

“If this was any other conflict, there would have been sanctions years ago. I’m asking the UK Government to pursue sanctions against Israel now, to show that we will no longer support the violent occupation. The first priority, as demanded by Amnesty International, should be a total embargo on weapons.

“I’m also asking Scottish public bodies like local councils, universities and the NHS to look at their investments and withdraw money from companies that operate in Israel and occupied Palestine. Individual Scots can do our bit by boycotting Israeli goods, just as we did to help defeat apartheid in South Africa.

“Please write to your MSPs and ask them to support the Scottish Parliament motion calling for sanctions on Israel. It will be noticed, and it will help secure justice for Palestine.”

There will be a demonstration in support of the people of Gaza in Inverness High Street this Saturday, 26 July, from 12 noon until 1pm, and every Saturday while the attack continues.

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Jean pulls out of Danny Alexander’s ‘publicity stunt’ A9 summit

Picture of HGV tanker. Caption: The average speed of HGVs above 75 tonnes is currently in excess of 50mph.
Source: A9 Safety Group.

Jean, along with fellow Highlands and Islands independent MSP John Finnie, has withdrawn from Danny Alexander’s “Highland Infrastructure Forum” discussion group on the future of the A9 after their participation was used in the media to claim they are supporters of the Treasury minister’s campaign against average speed cameras. Both Jean and John are firmly in favour of the cameras, which will save lives on the notoriously dangerous road.

Jean and John explained their decision in this letter to the Highland papers:

“We agreed to take part in the ‘Highland Infrastructure Forum’ after Danny Alexander presented it to us as an effort to gather ‘a wide range of opinion’. But the first time the group appeared in the media, its members – including us – were described as ‘leaders of a campaign battling to block the A9 average-speed cameras’.

“The one-hour-long first meeting of the group includes a 20-minute press conference. That shows what the priority of the ‘Forum’ really is.

“Of course we were aware of the risk that Alexander’s group would simply be a publicity stunt for his own campaign, but real discussion is important enough that we gave it the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, a publicity stunt is exactly what it turned out to be.

“The A9 is one of the most notorious roads in the country. On average, one in three cars on the A9 is speeding, making collisions more likely and more deadly. Average speed cameras will save lives.

“The only people who have anything to fear from average speed cameras are those intent on breaking the law and risking lives.

“We are both 100% behind this measure to make the A9 safer. We’ll discuss this issue with anyone, but we won’t be used to whitewash an MP’s publicity campaign. We won’t be taking part in Danny Alexander’s project.”

The websites of the Strathspey and Badenoch Herald and the Ross-shire Journal both originally said:

“Leaders of a campaign battling to block the A9 average-speed cameras scheme will meet in Inverness on Friday.

“MP Danny Alexander’s Highland Infrastructure Forum, which includes representatives of Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, the Federation for Small Businesses, the Scottish Tourism Alliance, and Highlands and Islands MSPs Jean Urquhart, John Finnie and Mary Scanlon, will take place at the Palace Hotel.”

After the MSPs contacted them to point out the mistake, both papers immediately corrected the story by removing Jean and John’s names from the articles.

£2.5m to help rural communities build their own broadband

Jean has welcomed today’s announcement of an extra £2.5m to help rural communities build their own broadband networks.

The Scottish Government is already investing £410m in the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme, but this extra money, announced by Nicola Sturgeon this morning in Thurso, will go to help communities that are too remote to benefit from standard broadband schemes.

The funding will be managed by Community Broadband Scotland, which works across the country but is run by Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Jean said:

“The internet has revolutionised our world, bringing it closer together than ever. So a fast, reliable internet connection is even more important in remote rural areas than in the cities. But it can be hard to get that connection to communities far from the nearest telephone exchange.

“This investment means more communities in the Highlands and Islands will be able to build local broadband networks using technology like satellite broadband to overcome the distance.

“From Eigg’s community energy company to the worker ownership of Loch Fyne Oysters, we in the north have shown time and time again that local people can manage big projects. I’m delighted that the Government have recognised that by giving our communities the opportunity to build their own solutions to the challenge of rural broadband.”