Alex Salmond urged to stop Scottish Israel trip

By Marcus Dysch, January 7, 2010
Scotland’s Alex Salmond

Scotland’s Alex Salmond

The Scottish Friends of Palestine group has urged the Scottish First Minister to cancel a trade group’s trip to Israel, denouncing it as a “pariah state”.

A delegation from Scottish Development International, which helps companies attract foreign investment, is due to arrive in Tel Aviv on Sunday.

During the five-day trip, organised with UK Trade and Investment, they are expected to meet scientists from Israeli companies specialising in stem cell research, drug development and medical devices.

It is hoped the visit will strengthen ties between the two countries’ life science industries.

SFoP secretary Hugh Humphries wrote to First Minister Alex Salmond on Monday, calling on him to withdraw SDI from the trip because the government had “no mandate” to “deal in any way with a pariah state”.

He said SFoP was “surprised and dismayed” to learn of the visit, given the “previous supportive positions of the Scottish government in relation to Palestinian issues”.

In his letter, Mr Humphries wrote: “Why is the Scottish government so keen to establish business relations with a racist state? Would you, Mr Salmond, have traded with apartheid South Africa?

“Scotland has no affinity with a state which seeks to perpetuate a permanent state of war to serve its own ends. The people of Scotland are entitled to know what was going through your head when you and your government agreed to support this visit to Israel.”

A Scottish government spokeswoman confirmed receipt of the letter and said: “We support a number of trade-related missions to the Middle East, for example last October when SDI visited the United Arab Emirates.

“Our position on the situation in Gaza is very clear, and the deputy first minister announced a substantial package of humanitarian aid last year.

“SDI’s trade mission to Israel focuses on developing links to assist Scottish companies to secure new investment and jobs into Scotland by developing overseas markets.”

She said the government had no plans to alter arrangements for the trip.

Last updated: 5:11pm, January 7 2010