EXCLUSIVE: Scottish government asked for urgent clarification over Greens’ ‘racist Zionism’ policy

Scottish Conservatives called for the First Minister to condemn the ‘shameful stance’


Scotland's First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Nicola Sturgeon (C), holds a media briefing with Scottish Greens co-leaders Patrick Harvie (L) and Lorna Slater, at Bute House in Edinburgh on August 20, 2021, after the SNP and the Scottish Greens agreed a new power sharing partnership. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JEFF J MITCHELL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is being urged to clarify her government’s position on antisemitism after it emerged Holyrood’s power-sharing partners believe Zionism is a “racist ideology”.

In 2015 the Scottish Greens approved a motion that declared Hamas was not a terrorist organisation while branding Israel an “apartheid state”.

Antisemitism campaigners voiced concerns the party was now in power in Scotland while Scottish Conservatives called for the First Minister to condemn the “shameful stance”.

The Scottish government adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism in full in 2018 but the policy of its new junior partner appears to be a clear breach of that definition.

Policy Motion 2, voted through by Scottish Greens in 2015, has never been rescinded. It was debated and voted on at conference on a Saturday, excluding participation by observant Jews.

It condemns Israel’s claim to be the “Jewish state” and brands Zionism a “racist ideology based on Jewish supremacy in Palestine”. It accuses Israel of being an “unacceptable” “apartheid” state.

It goes on to demand Israel repeal its law of return for Jews, while backing the right of return for all Palestinian Arabs and their descendants.

 It declares that Hamas should no longer be designated as a terrorist organisation and offers its support for the anti-Israel BDS boycott movement.    

Jackson Carlaw, whose Eastwood constituency is home to a sizeable Jewish population, branded the Greens’ position “a disgrace”.

The Conservative MSP said: “They have backed positions that appear to be contrary to the IHRA definition.  Nicola Sturgeon has to distance her Government from this shameful stance. This kind of outrageous rhetoric from the Greens has no place in 21st Century Scotland. It doesn’t belong anywhere near the Scottish Government and should be stamped out.

“Scotland’s Jewish community needs to hear an unequivocal condemnation of the Greens’ position and assurances that the Government does not support these extreme views.”

The historic cooperation agreement between the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Greens ensures two ministerial roles for the junior party and bolsters the First Minister’s case for independence.

It is understood the unity pact between the SNP and Scottish Greens does not cover international relations.  This would appear to suggest the Greens are still free to promote their views without undermining the duty to collective responsibility within the Scottish government.

Joe Glasman, head of political investigation at the Campaign Against Antisemitism, said the recent conflict between Israel and Gaza had seen a surge in antisemitic violence and abuse in Scotland and the views of some of those now in power in Holyrood would be “abhorrent” to the Jewish community and all those opposed to racism.

He added: “The party’s rise to national prominence in Scotland demands immediate review of its position on Zionism, aliyah and Hamas. With the privilege of participation in government comes the responsibility to govern on behalf of all Scotland, including its minorities.

“Nicola Sturgeon, who invited the Scottish Greens into her administration, must also urgently clarify the policy of the Scottish Government. If she fails to control the extremist elements of her new governing partner, she will be to blame for elevating those views into Scotland’s national conversation and giving such views standing within the UK polity.”

The JC asked the Scottish Green Party whether it intended to review its policy.

A spokesman said: “The Scottish Green Party abhors antisemitism. There is absolutely no place for any anti-Jewish prejudice in society. Green politics is rooted in environmentalism, peace, social justice and democracy.

“Our party’s position on international affairs, including Palestine and Israel, is guided by these pillars. We will continue to raise our voice in support of a human rights based outcome that allows everyone in the region to live in peace, free from oppression or occupation.”

In a statement to the JC a Scottish government spokesperson said: We remain absolutely committed to action to address antisemitism, which is utterly unacceptable. There is no place for it in Scotland.”

While the Scottish government does not advocate boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel it has issued a procurement policy note which “strongly discourages trade and investment” from what it calls “illegal settlements”. 

The controversy comes in the wake of a separate row which has embroiled Labour’s First Minister in Wales, Mark Drakeford.  

His decision to speak at an “alternative” event at the Labour conference alongside people suspended or expelled from the Labour party has been condemned by Jewish organisations. 

An earlier version of this story omitted the statement by the Scottish government

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