UN Shamefully Capitulates on Report about Apartheid Israel

Last week the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, published a report, “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid.”

The report had been commissioned from two academics; Virginia Tilley, Professor of Political Science at Southern Illinois University and Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and one-time UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine (2008-2014).

The report concludes, “the weight of evidence supports beyond a reasonable doubt the proposition that Israel is guilty of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people, which amounts to the commission of a crime against humanity.”

Last week, I had the privilege of chairing a well-attended meeting in Edinburgh, addressed by Richard Falk when he spoke about the report, recent events and his book, “Palestine’s Horizon, Toward a Just Peace.”

In common with other ‘Palestinian’ events in recent weeks, the venue had to be changed at the last minute following complaints that it was ‘controversial’.

Whilst it might reasonably have been expected that the report would prompt the UN to consider how to respond to the findings, sadly, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ response was to asked the his organisation’s own Commission to remove their report from the UN website. The report is no longer on UN sites but can be found here: https://electronicintifada.net/…/un_apartheid_report_15_mar…

Why might this be? Well, Reuters reported, “Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman likened the report to a Nazi propaganda publication that was strongly anti-Semitic and described it as “despicable and a blatant lie.” Meanwhile, the United States, Israel’s main ally, said it was “outraged” by the report.

As ever Israel plays the man not the ball. Richard Falk is an American Jew, but, first and foremost he is man who evidences his work and seeks a just peace.

Sadly, such blatant censorship is being mirrored by a growing intolerance of freedom of speech in Scotland too.

As someone who has long promoted equalities, and campaigns for a rights-based approach to everything, I am particularly offended by the accusation that criticism of the state of Israel equates to anti-Semitism.

Unlike the UN, and just like those who opposed apartheid South Africa before, Scottish critics of the apartheid regime in Israel will not be bullied into silence.

SHIP TO SHIP TO BE DEBATED IN SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

John joined campaigners from Cromarty Rising at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee today (16/03/2017) calling for proposals for ship to ship oil transfer in the Cromarty Firth to be thrown out.

John, who has been campaigning against ship to ship oil transfers for some time was delighted to speak in support of the petition.

The Public Petition’s Committee have agreed to write to the Scottish Government and relevant stakeholders seeking their views on the petition and will return to the issue in a future session.

John has submitted a parliamentary motion on the issue, which will be debated in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday (22/03/2017).

John said:

“I was pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the Public Petitions Committee’s session on Cromarty Rising’s ship to ship petition. The petitioners should be commended for the articulate case they made before the committee. The committee have agreed to write to the Scottish Government, and relevant stakeholders and I will be interested in hearing what they have to say on the matter when the issue returns to the committee in due course.

“If ship to ship oil transfers are allowed to go ahead in the Cromarty Firth the consequences for marine life, including the iconic pod of bottlenose dolphins, could be catastrophic.

“The overwhelming majority of communities in the area, who would be in the front line of any oil spill, are opposed to ship to ship oil transfers, as are thousands across the country as the 103,000 signatures on Cromarty Rising’s petition demonstrates.

“The potential impact on the tourism sector, so important to the local economy, cannot be overstated. I am therefore glad that my motion has achieved cross party support, and I look forward to leading a debate on ship to ship oil transfers in the parliament next week.”

John’s Speech on Inclusive Tourism

Yesterday John spoke in the Scottish Parliament’s debate on Inclusive Tourism; you can read John’s speech below.

John Finnie:

“I align myself with almost all of Mr Gray’s comments—with the exception of what he said about his constituency being the finest. I align myself with what he said about the work of Leuchie house—from which Ms Mairi O’Keefe is, I think, with us in the gallery. I have a constituent—probably at least one—who is eternally grateful for the support that is given there.

It is very good that we talk about disabilities. I am conscious that the word “mainstreaming” is used a lot. I commend the mainstreaming approach and do not think that such things are about a named individual or a department: we are all responsible.

That does not mean that even new builds or new initiatives are without their challenges. It is important that technologies, procedures, standards all round and our expectations improve. We have heard about practices from a number of colleagues. I hope that, in years to come, we will not hear that people who live on the outside of a city have never been in the city centre, or that people have never seen the countryside. Equality impact assessments will underpin that, but challenges remain in that respect. Equality impact assessments are routinely done, but are, sadly, often box-ticking exercises. I favour a rights-based approach to how we do all business, including tourism. The point of reference on this occasion is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Article 9 of that convention requires of countries

“the identification and elimination of obstacles”.

Health and safety and risk assessment have an important role in doing that. As we have heard, not all barriers are physical. Many barriers, in particular in respect of mental health, are attitudinal.

Article 9 goes on to say that it should be ensured that persons with disabilities can access their environment. In that regard, transport is terribly important. Regardless of whether we are able-bodied, if a lift at a ferry terminal is not working, if there are limitations to bus travel or if taxi travel proves to be challenging, it affects us all, although the effects are compounded for those with disabilities.

Another issue is inspection, repair and replacement regimes. There is danger in that, in recent years, the fabric of many of our communities has not been maintained. The public facilities and services that we all share are also important resources for tourists. At the weekend, the Royal National Institute of Blind People Scotland expressed concerns to me about street furniture and road signage not being removed. We need to be alert to even the mundane things that can affect people.

The benefit of communications technology in information sharing has been mentioned. I align myself with Tavish Scott’s comments. It is all very well for members sitting here in the chamber, where we can get a 4G signal, but that is not the case everywhere. We also need more multilingual signage and we need to ensure that people with hearing and visual impairments are catered for.

There is good news. The national collections provide free access to the public. Free access is positive—it allows participation of people who are on low incomes, among whom women, disabled people and some ethnic minority groups are disproportionately represented.

On social tourism, access to breaks that most of us take for granted has been mentioned. In the previous session, I was a member of the Equal Opportunities Committee, which reported on loneliness and isolation. We went to the island of Islay in my constituency, and to Easterhouse, where there are real challenges. I commend the work that NHS Highland is doing, along with the Inverness Courier and Drakies primary school, to encourage people to mix intergenerationally. I am sure that similar work is taking place across the country.

A lot of good things are happening, and I know that the Scottish Government consultation on its “Draft Delivery Plan 2016-2020” picks up on the UNCPRD’s rights references. I will pick out a few of those references. Commitment 6 says:

“A new help guide aimed at boosting accessible design will be published”.

Design is everything.

There are challenges—indeed, we have heard some people talk about the challenges of retrofitting, so we need to get it right from the outset. That commitment was connected to the legacy for the 2016 year of innovation, architecture and design.

Commitment 7 is to provide

“A new help guide to assist tourism businesses”

with information technology, as well as social media, which is important.

Under commitment 10, we see that

“Creative Scotland is undertaking a wideranging review of equalities, diversity and inclusion in the arts, screen and creative industries.”

I hope that that can be reflected in public funding going to promotion of diversity in the arts. I would certainly make public financial support conditional on that.

A number of members have mentioned Euan’s Guide. Its great attraction is that, rather than politicians pontificating, Euan, who is helped by his sister, is writing as someone with lived experience of the issues. Euan, who is from Leith, has done commendable work. I hope that his workload is diminishing.

The VisitScotland initiative must be appreciated. Members have talked about the benefits of the concessionary bus scheme. That has been a tremendous boost, particularly in allowing social mobility for the older generation. The economic benefits are important, too. I must say that I am not as drawn to the economic benefits as I am to the social and health—physical and mental wellbeing—benefits. I understand that for someone who is making important decisions about whether to heat their home or put food on the table, the last thing on their mind will be whether to take a holiday, let alone anything fancier than a trip to the city centre. If we want to improve our communities, we must enable such schemes, because there is no doubt that all the problems are reflected in lower life expectancy.

I am going to keep on going until you tell me otherwise, Presiding Officer.”

The Deputy Presiding Officer: 

“Do not take it as a given—you have another half minute at the most.”

John Finnie MSP:

“Okey-dokey. Thank you.

The Scottish Greens will support Tavish Scott’s amendment tonight. The northern isles have geographic challenges, which does not mean that tourists should not go there. The challenges should be celebrated and tourism to the isles should be supported. Mr Scott said that it is an equity issue, and I agree.

Respitality is important. Carer centres have an important role to play in signposting people to services and assisting with benefits.

A lot of the issue is about structures and facilities, and a lot of it is about information. It is also about inclusion, so I commend the role of access panels in improving the lot not just of locals, but of visitors to their areas. Fundamentally, this is about changed attitudes, so I welcome improvements in that regard, although there is a way to go. However, I do not sense any complacency. We can have a more equitable future. As the cabinet secretary said, that will require shared endeavour.”

Occupational Segregation in the Highlands and Islands

Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie has welcomed the publication of the report, Occupational Segregation in the Highlands and Islands, commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Green MSP Finnie, said:

 

“I welcome the publication of this important report, which coincided with International Women’s day. The research demonstrates that there is much work to be done if we are to end gender based inequality in the Highlands and Islands.

 

“I am particularly supportive of the recommendation for a region-wide strategic approach to the issue and I hope this can be brought forward as soon as possible.”

 

Full motion:

 

Motion Number: S5M-04536
Lodged By: John Finnie
Date Lodged: 09/03/2017

Title: Occupational Segregation in the Highlands and Islands

Motion Text:

That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the report, Occupational Segregation in the Highlands and Islands, which was commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise; notes that the research, which was carried out by Ekosgen, identified that occupational segregation is more pronounced in the Highlands and Islands than the rest of Scotland, impacting on individuals, employers and the economy; understands that the study highlighted that employment rates for men (82.8%) and women (75.3%) in the region exceed the Scottish average but that employment levels are higher among men compared to women, and that the difference is more marked than for Scotland as a whole; considers that the report, which was published to coincide with International Women’s Day, identified that, while occupational segregation impacts on both genders, it is more often women that experience the negative consequences, and that there is clear evidence of a gender pay gap in the Highlands and Islands, with men more likely to work in more senior well-paid positions and women more prevalent in less senior roles, and with the types of jobs often reflecting traditional views of what is “women’s work” and “men’s work”, and that these patterns persist across most sectors and are evident in subject choices across modern apprenticeships and further and higher education; believes that the report highlights a range of factors that contribute to this, including perpetuating stereotypes, workplace practices and cultures, working patterns and structural barriers such as availability of childcare, and that it states that, while there is a need to acknowledge local circumstances, there is a need for a region-wide strategic approach to address the issue, and considers that such a strategic approach should be brought forward as soon as possible in order to ensure that the same opportunities are available to all regardless of gender.

 

 

John Comments on Audit Scotland Report onFailed Police i6 IT System

Today (9th March) Audit Scotland has published its report into the failed project which was to deliver a national IT system for Police Scotland. Audit Scotland said the sorry affair leaves an urgent need to deliver improvements.  Audit Scotland says the i6 project collapsed due to a loss of trust between those involved.

Commenting John said:

“The now discontinued i6 project was intended to draw together about 130 computer and paper-based systems and be an intrinsic part of future policing. Audit Scotland correctly point out that the company which won this £46million project were ‘strongly challenged’ by Police Scotland, the Police Authority and the Scottish Government and, indeed the Parliament’s Police Committee of which I’m a member.

“Whilst the police service has come out the other end of this sorry affair with both its reputation and finances intact it still hasn’t the robust information systems it sought and clearly needs. Police Scotland’s ‘2026 draft strategy’ focuses on the future of policing. It’s self-evident that information technology will be key to that future and I endorse the Auditor General’s comment that there is ‘an urgent need for a frank assessment of Police Scotland’s IT requirements.’

“Of course, any future IT procurement process will be subject to the same detailed scrutiny.

Finnie Welcomes Justice Centre Decision

Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie has welcomed the Highland Council’s decision to grant permission to the new Inverness Justice Centre.

The centre, which will be developed at the site of the former bus depot at Longman Road, will see the courts services moved out of Inverness Castle.

This decision also paves the way for the High Court to return to Inverness.

Mr Finnie, The Scottish Greens’ Justice Spokesperson said:

“I welcome the decision by Highland Council’s south planning committee to give the go ahead for Inverness’ new Justice Centre. This is positive news for the area and means that the most serious Highlands and Islands cases will no longer need to be heard down in Glasgow or Edinburgh.

“The new facility will mean the High Court will return to Inverness for the first time since 2013.

“I had called upon the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service to bring High Court justice back locally and was delighted when they recently confirmed this would be the case with the new facility.

“Our courts play an important role in our communities. This new development will provide top class facilities which will help ensure victims and witnesses are treated in an appropriate manner, and do not have to suffer the inconvenience of travelling to the Central belt to see justice be done.

“This development will also allow Inverness Castle to be used as a tourist attraction, which will be welcome news for the tourism industry in the area.”

Finnie Welcomes Climate Challenge Funding

 

Green MSP John Finnie has welcomed awards of over £2 million from the Climate Challenge Fund for projects in the Highlands and Islands.

The awards, totalling £2,136,315 were shared between 25 organisations across Argyll and Bute, Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.

John lodged the following parliamentary motion congratulating the organisations on their awards:

Motion Number: S5M-04139
Lodged By: John Finnie
Date Lodged: 21/02/2017

Title: Highlands and Islands Climate Challenge Fund

Motion Text:

That the Parliament congratulates the 25 projects in the Highlands and Islands that have been awarded a total of £2,136,315 from the Climate Challenge Fund; notes the important roles that these groups play in supporting their respective communities to recycle, reduce, reuse, promote energy efficiency, grow food locally and tackle fuel poverty, and wishes the projects, which are run by Lorn Island Partnership, Iona Renewables Group, Fyne Homes, Mull and Iona Community Trust, Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust, Lairg and District Learning Centre, Raasay Development Trust, New Start Highland, Lochaber Environmental Group, Cantraybridge College, Raasay House Community Company, Pentland Housing Association, Broadford and Strath Community Company, Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, Spean Bridge Community Centre, Scottish Highlands and Islands and Moray Chinese Association, Buckpool Golf, Sports and Social Club, Earthtime For All Ltd, REAP, Orkney Zerowaste, Papay Community Co-operative, Fetlar Developments Ltd, Tagsa Uibhist, Tighean Innse Gall, Bragar and Arnol Community Trust, well for the year ahead.

Highlands and Islands MSP, Finnie said:

“The Climate Challenge Fund provides support, resources and training to community groups taking action on climate change. I am delighted that 25 projects spanning all local authorities in the Highlands and Islands have been awarded funding which will support local communities to recycle, reduce, reuse, promote energy efficiency, grow food locally and tackle fuel poverty.”

Funding Announcement: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Environment/climatechange/ccf/projects/CCF23