Welsh and Scottish Governments join civil society organisations in rejecting the anti-boycott bill


“For a Government to outlaw the expression of ideas different to its own is wholly unjustifiable and entirely incompatible with the notion that we live in a functioning democracy’.”

Scottish Government Legislative Consent Memorandum on the anti-boycott Bill

By Mairead Canavan

Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) was delighted this week by the announcement from the Welsh Government that it is formally opposing the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill, better known as the ‘anti-boycott bill’ and recommending that the Senedd withhold its consent.

Welsh branches of Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) have campaigned together over the last several months along with a coalition of more than 70 civil society organisations to lobby their Members of the Senedd (MSs) asking them to oppose the anti-boycott” bill.

This decision by the Welsh Labour Government is the latest blow to Michael Gove’s toxic anti-boycott bill, following the Scottish Government’s decision to formally oppose it.

On July 19th the Scottish Government issued their Legislative Consent Memorandum on the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill outlining their reasons ‘for not recommending legislative consent’. The memorandum states that the measures included in the bill are ‘an assault on democratic expression and will stifle the ability for democratic debate’. In reviewing the measures of the Bill, the memorandum makes reference to apartheid-era South Africa, reflecting that:

‘The UK Government’s approach to apartheid government in South Africa, refusing to condemn it when others were actively boycotting it, demonstrates the danger inherent in this restriction. We are rightly proud of those in Scotland who took a stand against apartheid. Under the provisions of this Bill, many of them would have been silenced. For a Government to outlaw the expression of ideas different to its own is wholly unjustifiable and entirely incompatible with the notion that we live in a functioning democracy’.

In conclusion the memorandum states that: ‘This Bill represents an unnecessary and unwelcome limitation on the executive competence of the Scottish Ministers.’ And that: ‘The Scottish Government will not be recommending that the Scottish Parliament gives its consent to the Bill’.

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.

On September 20th the Welsh Government published their response to the proposed Bill. In the ‘Legislative Consent Memorandum’ to the Senedd finance minister Rebecca Evans said: “I cannot recommend consent is given while questions remain as to the compatibility of this Bill with convention rights and international law. “In addition, I note that there has been widespread criticism of this Bill from among the legal and academic community, in relation to the way it has been drafted and how it is intended to operate in practice. I share those concerns.”

Kathy Brooks, spokesperson for the Wales Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) branches, says: “We welcome the position adopted by the Welsh Government. We believe they recognise this bill is totally disproportionate and unnecessary, and an attack on the freedom of local authorities, universities and Welsh Government to make procurement and investment decisions in line with the policies made in the nations.”

Ben Jamal, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK (PSC), says: “This principled decision by the Welsh Government is the latest blow to this pernicious bill. The Welsh Government has rightly identified the incompatibility of the anti-boycott bill with conventions of rights and international law.

“This decision will add further weight to the growing opposition to this Bill – in the UK Parliament, Scottish Government, across civil society and amongst the general public. We urge all of those who recognise the threat the anti-boycott bill poses to democratic freedoms to ramp up the pressure on MPs to ensure it is defeated when it goes back to Parliament for its next reading.”

This news came in the week after the TUC passed a motion in support of Palestine and in opposition to the Bill.

The Senedd’s business committee has said the Welsh Parliament will consider the recommendation by November 24.

Featured image: Boycott Apartheid Bus, London, 1989. Photo credit: rahuldlucca under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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