Speech: Thirsting for Justice

Jean spoke in the Labour MSP Claudia Beamish’s member’s debate on the desperate water shortages experienced in Palestine as a result of the Israeli occupation.

You can watch her speech below (start at 45:00), and read the transcript of the whole debate at TheyWorkForYou.com.

Find out more about the Thirsting For Justice campaign on Twitter and Facebook.

Jean Urquhart (Highlands and Islands) (Ind): I thank Claudia Beamish and John Finnie for bringing this topic for debate in the Scottish Parliament. I do not know how else we can raise awareness of the appalling situation in Palestine. How do we in Scotland effect change?

I have not been privileged to visit Palestine, but I listened to members who have had that privilege and who have been in the Gaza strip, and it seems to me that, as Alison Johnstone said, water is a basic human right that is being denied. The issue is being raised around the world by the United Nations, and yet the situation persists.

This might be slightly irrational of me, but when John Lamont suggested that the situation, in which people must live in appalling conditions, is the fault of the Government in Gaza, I wondered whether Palestinians would say that people in Scotland deserve the welfare situation that we have here because it is our Government’s fault. The issue has nothing to do with that. I feel in my heart that real injustice is being done to the Palestinian people. It might be the case that the political situation needs to be resolved, and I know that the problem in the middle east is complicated, but we are concerned with a situation that is causing people to die and families to be driven apart.

There are many visual images of the hardship that people are suffering. Books have been written and films have been made that show us the arid lands and the results of a deliberate withdrawal of resources, including water for arable lands—to feed the olive trees, for example. Water is needed to give life to the Palestinians. It is the source of life, and to deny the Palestinian people their right to clean water and sanitation is despicable.

We can contrast those images with images of the lush growth in the settlements, where there is plenty of water. Members cited the facts and figures. We heard about people having access to 70 litres as opposed to 340 litres, and we heard that in the west some of us have the luxury of access to 4,000 litres per day.

I hope that the thirsting for justice campaign has huge success and that we can reach the hearts and minds of people who care about the Palestinian people. There are Jewish organisations and Israeli people who feel that the situation should not be allowed to continue. Not everyone in Israel thinks that the situation is somehow justified or okay.

If the Scottish Parliament can do anything, I hope that we will try to unite with such people to effect change. Change for the Palestinian people might have to come as a result of Israelis talking to Israelis. However, let no one be uncertain about the feeling in this Parliament. The situation is untenable and cannot be allowed to continue.

I thank Claudia Beamish and John Finnie again for bringing this timely debate about a desperate situation that we must all try to alleviate.

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Motion: British Council Scotland’s World Scots Campaign

British Council Scotland’s World Scots Campaign
That the Parliament welcomes the launch of British Council Scotland’s campaign, World Scots; supports the campaign’s principal aim, which is to give Scotland’s young people a competitive edge in the global marketplace by encouraging them to adopt a global outlook when it comes to their employment prospects and future careers; understands that British Council Scotland will set itself a challenging new target of increasing by 25% the proportion of Scots participating in its key outward mobility programmes by the end of the 2012-13 academic year; notes that these programmes include the EU-funded Erasmus and Comenius schemes, IAESTE work internships, the development of language assistants and school linking and twinning; believes that these programmes give young people the skills that they need to operate comfortably in an increasingly globalised economy and interact successfully with people from other countries and cultures; shares with British Council Scotland its reported concern regarding the Global Skills Gap survey of 500 senior business leaders, which was commissioned by the British Council and Think Global, in which 75% of those surveyed suggested that they were worried that young people’s horizons are not broad enough to operate in the globalised economy; notes also that 80% of those surveyed regarded international experience as a key asset for new recruits, and welcomes what it understands to be the broad support from across Scotland’s business and youth organisations for the campaign, including that of CBI Scotland, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, the Institute of Directors Scotland, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Scottish Financial Enterprise, Young Scot and the Scottish Youth Parliament.

Supported by: Kevin Stewart, Joan McAlpine, John Mason, John Finnie, Rob Gibson, Bill Walker, Kenneth Gibson, Annabelle Ewing, Richard Lyle, Dennis Robertson, Humza Yousaf, Margaret Burgess, Margaret McCulloch, Chic Brodie, Graeme Dey, Maureen Watt, Roderick Campbell, Angus MacDonald, David Torrance, Adam Ingram, James Dornan, Mike MacKenzie, Hugh Henry, Christina McKelvie, Jamie Hepburn, Mark McDonald, Dave Thompson, Aileen McLeod, Colin Beattie, Gil Paterson, Alison Johnstone, Rhoda Grant, Clare Adamson, Linda Fabiani, Sarah Boyack, Stewart Maxwell