Scottish Government urged to reject boycott ban bill

Investigation by Billy Briggs in The Ferret

Human rights groups, unions and environmentalists have urged Scottish ministers to reject a UK Government bill which bans public bodies from boycotting foreign countries.

The Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill bans councils, universities and other bodies from enacting economic boycotts on countries not sanctioned by the Westminster government, singling out Israel as particularly worthy of protection.

Tory ministers argue that UK foreign policy should be a matter for the UK Government only, and that the bill protects Jewish communities against campaigns it believes are fuelling antisemitism.

These include the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which campaigns for organisations to cut economic ties with Israel in protest over its treatment of Palestinians.

However, critics of the bill argue it protects the Israeli government from a legitimate international movement concerned over human rights, and would limit campaigns against abuses in other parts of the world – such as the persecution of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China.

The Scottish Government has still to decide whether to grant legal consent to the bill. It can issue a veto – in the form of a legislative procedure known as a ‘consent mechanism’ under the Sewel Convention – over anything that gives UK ministers powers in devolved areas. MSPs then vote on the recommendation from Scottish ministers to refuse legal consent.

The UK Government announced the bill in the last Queen’s speech and introduced it to the House of Commons in June. Earlier this month the bill received initial backing after several hours of debate in the House of Commons. MPs voted by 268 to 70 votes in favour of the legislation.

The full story is on The Ferret website

The Palestinian flag flies over the Municipal Buildings in Dumbarton. Picture by Bill Heaney

  • The SNP government claim to be outraged over Westminster decisions which overrule or fail to implement decisions made at Holyrood. However, they appear to have nothing to say about decisions such as this one which would over-rule decisions made by local councils. Editor

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