A LETTER will be sent by East Lothian Council to the First Minister and the Foreign Secretary calling for support for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Councillors discussed the ongoing conflict, which has left millions of people at risk of starvation and thousands dead, at a meeting yesterday (Tuesday).

Councillor Shona McIntosh (Greens), who represents the Musselburgh ward, was supported by SNP Councillor Lee-Anne Menzies in submitting a motion to the committee.

The motion was amended by members of the Labour party and received widespread support – only Councillor George McGuire, leader of the county’s Conservative group, refused to back the motion.

Before the issue was discussed, Lel Gillingwater, clerk at the meeting, issued an advisory that “participants and [online] viewers [of the council meeting] may find the content of this motion upsetting”.

East Lothian Courier: Councillor Shona McIntoshCouncillor Shona McIntosh (Image: East Lothian Council)

Mrs McIntosh described footage from Gaza as “horrific”.

She acknowledged that, as a council, they could do “very little” to alter the course of the conflict but stressed they had “a voice and a platform”.

She said: “I brought this motion because I wanted us to try to use that voice to say that what we are witnessing is wrong on every level and it must stop.

“I think in doing so we are reflecting the views of our constituents because I have had several people get in touch and I think others will be expressing their upset about what they are seeing and asking if there is anything we can do about it.

“There are many things that I could say about the genocide that we can see being livestreamed to everyone that has a social media account.

“But I think it can be summed up with the most recent statistic, which is that 29,500 people have been killed and 70 per cent of those are women and children – 70 per cent.

“I find this very hard to think about because I have, as you all know, two small children and when you are doing all the sort of work that goes with caring for them, like brushing their teeth, putting them to bed and putting their clothes on, I have just found it very hard to do all that over the last few months while knowing the things that I have seen from Gaza.

“All these images of these tiny, little bodies and terrible things having been done to them.”

East Lothian Courier: Councillor John McMillanCouncillor John McMillan (Image: Gordon Bell)

Councillor John McMillan (Lab), East Lothian Provost, who represents the Haddington ward, will now write to the First Minister and the Foreign Secretary.

The two national figures will be asked to act upon the call of both parliaments to call for a ceasefire and build a lasting peace process.

They are also urged to “do all within their diplomatic powers to contribute to the call from around the international community for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire”.

Mr McMillan said: “I don’t want to say a great deal other than I have been hugely affected by all that I have seen.

“I have been affected by reading of history, of attendance at various churches in particular and by all the conversations I have had, many conversations I have had, throughout the county.

“I welcomed the motion but I felt in my role as provost that it was more appropriate that as civic head I should take the lead on this.”

Mr McMillan’s Haddington ward colleague George McGuire did not back the motion and instead opted to abstain.

East Lothian Courier: Councillor George McGuireCouncillor George McGuire (Image: East Lothian Council)

The Conservative councillor said: “I know none of us here want to see the situation going on any longer than it has to.

“We are all abhorred by it and no-one can ever justify the death of innocent people – women, children and men.

“But I just feel, personally, myself, that as an individual and as a councillor locally that some of the bodies, the powers that you have mentioned there yourself Provost, at the top of the pyramid can deal with this.

“For me, I think, I am happy to let them deal with this and try to get this stopped as quickly as possible.

“I will be abstaining from any vote on this today.”

Provost’s amendment to Motion to Call for a Ceasefire in Gaza

East Lothian Council notes the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, with 28,000 civilians dead and 2 million people now at risk of starvation as a result of Israeli military action, with 10,000 Palestinian prisoners , including 250 children in Israeli jails (noting that more than half of the population of Gaza is under 18) and over 100 hostages still in captivity from the Hamas terror attack on 7th October.

East Lothian Council:

● Condemns the Hamas terror attack of October 7th and calls for the immediate release of all hostages and for internationally supervised and agreed release of prisoners and inspection of their welfare conditions.

● Equally, condemns the indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza by the Israeli Defence Force.

● Stands in solidarity with all victims of this violence and urges an immediate ceasefire to avoid further suffering.

● Notes that the UNRWA Commissioner-General recently warned that the entire aid operation in Gaza is at risk of collapse and that Medecins Sans Frontieres has declared there to be no functioning health care system in Gaza

● Condemns the rise of antisemitism and islamophobia in our communities.

● Recognises that any response must fall within the bounds of international humanitarian law.

● Recognises that for a ceasefire to be successful and sustained, both sides must comply.

● Notes that the House of Commons voted to call for an immediate and lasting humanitarian ceasefire on 21st February 2024, and that the Scottish Parliament voted for a ceasefire on 21st November 2023.

● Notes and echoes the International Court of Justice’s call for Israel to take all measures to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza.

Accordingly, Council asks the Provost of East Lothian Council to write to the First Minister and the Foreign Secretary to ask them to:

● Act upon the call of both parliaments to call for a ceasefire and build a lasting peace process.

● Do all within their diplomatic powers to contribute to the call from around the international community for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, and to

● Urge the international community to reinstate humanitarian aid to be allowed into all affected areas and work together to rebuild and restore communities.

● Call for a two-state solution, including security for Israel and justice for Palestine, recognising the statehood of both and the desire for long lasting peace and understanding in the region.