Israel-Hamas ceasefire: Anas Sarwar faces pressure to rebel against Keir Starmer on Gaza as SNP force Holyrood vote
Mr Sarwar was not among nine of his own MSPs who backed a Scottish Green motion calling for a ceasefire, and has also not backed a similar SNP motion, despite previously calling for one.
Ministers plan on forcing a vote in Holyrood on a ceasefire next week, raising the possibility of a rebellion among Labour MSPs or Mr Sarwar watering down his position.
Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer, who lodged one of the motions, said comments from some within Labour were “downright horrifying” and urged Mr Sarwar to “show the leadership his party is lacking”.
The SNP’s Kaukab Stewart, who has put forward her party’s motion, said Mr Sarwar needed to “decide what side of history he wants to fall on”. Asked for comment, Scottish Labour directed The Scotsman to previous statements made by Mr Sarwar.
The pressure comes as Sir Keir attempts to head off his own rebellion in Westminster, tabling an amendment to the King’s Speech that will push the party’s own vote on the Middle East.
Reports from London suggested the wording would aim to win the support of MPs who had been demanding the Leader of the Opposition go further, including “concerns” about civilian casualties in Gaza.
However, any frontbenchers who back a rival SNP amendment calling for a ceasefire will be sacked, the party indicated. A party spokesperson said: “We’re not going to be engaging with the party political game playing by the SNP in Parliament.”
Sir Keir has previously called for “humanitarian pauses”, significantly different to a full cessation of hostilities.
Nine Scottish Labour MSPs have already defied Sir Keir’s leadership and formally backed a ceasefire, including frontbencher Pauline McNeill, former leadership candidate Monica Lennon, and former Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard.
Despite calling for one alongside London mayor Sadiq Khan, Mr Sarwar has not signed either motion. A vote in Holyrood next week is likely to force the leader to take a formal position, resulting in either a major rebellion against Sir Keir and the backing of a ceasefire, or a significant U-turn from Mr Sarwar.
Two weeks ago Mr Sarwar accused the UK Labour leader of having “hurt” Muslims and and all “peace-loving” people due to his comments on the conflict in the Middle East, and called on Sir Keir to back a ceasefire.
One disgruntled Scottish Labour source said: “There must be a deleted scene from Anas’s video where he says ‘and let me be clear that means a ceasefire now … but not if the SNP suggest it’”.
Mr Greer said there was a “moral obligation” for MSPs to back a ceasefire. "I am glad that a number of Labour MSPs have joined the Greens and SNP in calling for a ceasefire,” he said. “But the comments from leadership figures like [Scottish Labour deputy leader] Jackie Bailie and Keir Starmer have been a mix of deeply disappointing and downright horrifying.
"Starmer gave his support to Israeli war crimes like cutting off water and power to civilians and Baillie has thrown bizarre accusations at those of us calling for peace, a clearly desperate attempt to distract from Labour's support for Israel's increasingly extreme violence in Gaza.
"We urge Anas Sarwar to show the leadership his party is lacking at Westminster and defy his own deputy here in Scotland by supporting my ceasefire motion, and the others which have been submitted to the Scottish Parliament."
Kaukab Stewart MSP, SNP member for Glasgow Kelvin, said Mr Sarwar “must support a ceasefire”. She said: “SNP MSPs, led by the First Minister, have been consistent and clear that a ceasefire must be implemented now to ensure no more innocent lives are lost.
"It is now on Anas Sarwar to decide what side of history he wants to fall on. He must turn his back on the dismal absence of leadership from Sir Keir Starmer and support many of his own MSPs in backing a ceasefire.
"When the time comes to vote on this motion, Anas Sarwar must support a ceasefire, and not give in to the pressure from his bosses in London."
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