Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dundee supporting the people of Gaza

As reported in today's "Courier", yesterday, along with two of my West End constituents who had contacted me about how the City Council can further support the people of Gaza, and Ali El-Awaisi, who was on board the Mavi Marmara when it was illegally stormed by Israeli commandos, I met with the Lord Provost, the City Council's Chief Executive and the council's Legal Manager.

Specifically, my constituents wished to raise the possibility of flying the Palestinian flag in the City Square (or the flags of the countries of all our twinned cities) and the City Council implementing a boycott of Israeli products or services, given the suffering caused by their blockade of Gaza and the illegal action against the aid flotilla that the City Council has already unanimously condemned at its meeting on 14th June. Ali handed the Lord Provost a petition calling for such a boycott. It already over 2500 signatures of local people on it - and more will be collected - showing the strength of feeling Dundee people over this issue.

I am very supportive of my constituents over the boycott issue but appreciate that the officers of the council will have to be satisfied of its legality and conformity to procurement and Best Value regulations. Thus far, the Chief Executive and the Legal Manager have raised issues they believe do not make a boycott permissible, but, given that one of my constituents brought with him information from the
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign that outlines the legal basis for excluding Veolia from public contracts (this company has a contract with Dundee City Council's Waste Management Department) and a number of other local authorities have now implemented a boycott, it was agreed that the officers would look at the legal basis for excluding Veolia provided yesterday.

It was also agreed that they would informally make contact with
West Dunbartonshire Council who unanimously agreed recently to reaffirm its existing boycott of Israeli goods and also two other authorities who have also been approached along with other authorities by supporters of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign on the matter. This will enable the City Council to be acquainted with the approach being taken elsewhere in Scotland – and particularly in relation to legal advice and conformity to correct procedures in relation to procurement and Best Value they have considered.

I have written today to the SNP, Labour and Conservative group leaders and to the Depute Lord Provost to request their support for a boycott. I am anxious that this matter is progressed in a spirit of co-operation between the various political groups and that we recognise the strength of feeling of the people of Dundee, as evidenced by the growing petition.