Activists occupy roof of Scottish Parliament to condemn weak stance on Gaza, demand sanctions

Activists on top of the Holyrood parliament building in Edinburgh

We Are All Hana Shalabi

Activists from the We Are All Hana Shalabi network today scaled and occupied the roof of the Scottish Parliament to protest the Scottish government’s failure to condemn Israel’s attack on Gaza and to demand sanctions be imposed on Israel. 

The campaigners scaled the parliament roof at about 11:30am this morning and were on top of the £414 million ($660 million) building for more than two hours before being removed by police. All of the participants were arrested and are still in police custody at the time of writing. 

Before winning re-election with a majority government in 2011, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond described Israel’s attack on the Mavi Marmara as an “atrocity on the high seas” and argued that “you can’t have normal relationships if you believe another country has been involved in what Israel has been involved in.” The action was timed to coincide with Salmond’s weekly question and answer appearance before the parliament.

Although most foreign policy issues are still controlled by the UK government in Westminster, activists point out that there is a great deal more that the Scottish government could be doing to hold Israel accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people. The Palestine solidarity movement is very well supported in Scotland and an Israeli diplomat recently told Haaretz that ”every appearance by an official Israeli representative in Scotland is like a visit to enemy territory.”  

The We Are All Hana Shalabi network, which formed to organize student and youth solidarity with the mass Palestinian prisoner hunger strike that took place earlier this year, is named after the Palestinian prisoner who was freed after a 43 day hunger strike. The network is one of the organizers of a march through Glasgow taking place on Sunday. 

Here’s the We Are All Hana Shalabi press release in full: 

Around fifteen members of the We Are All Hana Shalabi network have occupied the roof of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, Edinburgh, in protest at the recent massacre carried out by the Israeli Army in Gaza.  

The activists are calling upon the Scottish Government to do more to condemn Israel’s recent crimes, and to acknowledge strong Scottish public demand for sanctions against Israel for its ongoing occupation, colonisation and massacring of Palestinian people.  

A statement this week from Scottish Government Minister for External Affairs and International Development Humza Yousaf acknowledged the illegality of Israel’s ongoing siege of Gaza, yet the Scottish Government has failed to take steps towards exerting international diplomatic pressure on Israel.

Last nights ceasefire agreement may have brought an end to most recent escalation of attacks on Palestinians in Gaza, however history demonstrates that Israel will continue to carry out acts of aggression on the people of Gaza, who remain under siege by a brutal occupation which restricts movement of people as well as essential materials such as food, medicine, building materials etc.  

Israel has a history of violating ceasefire agreements, and the action at the Scottish Parliament today intends to pressure the Scottish Government to acknowledge this reality and take preventative action today.  

Beti Brown, 19, who is on the roof of Parliament at this moment, said:

”The world has been shocked to watch Israel’s recent attacks on the civilian population of Gaza, and many people have felt helpless as to what we can do as members of the public to stop the violence.  We are calling on our government to acknowledge Palestinian rights, which include the right to defend themselves against the illegal occupation it has suffered under for decades, and to support the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.”

The action at Parliament today takes place during First Minster’s Questions.  

And here are some more photographs of the activists on top of the roof: 


Correction: This article originally stated that Alex Salmond’s comments condemning Israel’s massacre on the Mavi Marmara had taken place “Before taking office.” In fact, Alex Salmond was first elected as First Minister (with a minority Scottish National Party government) in 2007. The paragraph has been revised accordingly to clarify this.





The article implies that Alex Salmond changed his language towards Israel *after* coming to power. This is not the case. Salmond was elected as First Minister in 2007.

Salmond condemned the attack on the Mavi Marmara and also condemned the use of British passports by Israel in the Mossad assassination in Dubai while he was First Minister of Scotland, calling for a 're-think' on our trade relations with Israel, i.e code for sanctions.

In an ideal world, we would wish the Scottish Government to have nothing whatsoever to do with the criminal state of Israel. Failing this, we would support any and all actions designed to keep pressure on the Government to 'keep them honest' with regards to Palestine/Israel.

However, I find it difficult to understand why the students decided to make such a high profile protest in Edinburgh rather than London.

The Scottish Government released a statement on Gaza which included the following:

"The rocket attacks on Israel are wrong and should stop, as should the Israeli bombardment on Gaza which has been heavily disproportionate in terms of the civilian loss of life, and have been rightly condemned as such by many in the international community."
"We continue to join with voices in the international community in calling for the illegal blockade of Gaza to be lifted.”

Now, which part of this does anyone disagree with?

Compare the reaction of the Scottish Government to the disgusting reaction of the UK Government, which immediately placed the blame and responsibility for the attacks on the Palestinians.

Good on the students for investing time, energy and commitment - but I just wonder if they could have chosen a better target.


The whole statement by the Scottish Government is below, and although not bad, in fact the last paragraph is very good, these are just words. Actions speak louder than words: Salmond met the Israel’s UK Ambassador a few days ago; after meetings between Scottish Government Finance Minister John Swinney and illegal Israeli-settler company, Eden Springs, Scottish Enterprise awarded the mineral-water company a £200k grant to help them develop in Scotland; there is a planned meeting between Fergus Ewing, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism and representatives of the Israeli embassy; etc. etc.
It is not good enough to write nice words, even if they are very nice. I don’t think that just because some things are a bit difficult we should support ‘any and all actions’, (in the case of the Scottish Government words really). We should aim for what is fair.
Focusing in the Scottish Government is paramount, not only because they have devolved powers in many areas, including who they meet, but more so since there will be a referendum in 2014.

Scottish Government calls for immediate Middle East ceasefire
Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Government’s Minister for External Affairs and International Development, said:
“The priority is for an immediate and effective ceasefire and a de-escalation of hostilities in the region, and the Scottish Government supports all ongoing international diplomatic efforts to achieve a ceasefire.
“The dangers of a further escalation in this conflict are obvious and must be avoided. The killing of innocent civilians, be they Palestinian or Israeli, is to be utterly condemned and we urge both sides to exercise restraint. The rocket attacks on Israel are wrong and should stop, as should the Israeli bombardment on Gaza which has been heavily disproportionate in terms of the civilian loss of life, and have been rightly condemned as such by many in the international community.


If only the rest of the UK' (AND THE WORLD) were as conscientious about their countries actions as the people in Scotland are, then Israel would long ago have had to behave like a civilized country, So as a Scot' and a supporter of the Palestinians ,I for one applaud this action on the roof of the Scottish Parliament.

Michael Deas

Michael Deas's picture

Michael Deas is a Palestine solidarity organiser based in the UK.

He was formerly a campaigns officer with the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the Palestinian civil society coalition that acts as the Palestinian reference of the movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law. 

You can get regular BDS updates from the BNC by following @BDSmovement. Michael Tweets from @michaeldeas