The SNP remain outraged by brutality of the regime and especially condone the persecution of individuals exercising their right to protest.
The situation in Syria has fluctuated in its intensity, but the harsh reality is that civilians remain in danger and unable to speak out against the corruption and violence of the regime – risking their lives whenever they do.
I extend my solidarity to the students, young people, men, and women who are bravely appealing for support and seeking to incite change in Syria.
On the 12th of September, just before the onslaught of violence towards the protestors, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria stated that the “dire needs” of Syrians have been systematically ignored during more than 12 years of brutal conflict in the country. It is not uncommon to describe the continued war in Syria is a “monument to the failure of diplomacy”, and the SNP feel strongly that the UK Government has an obligation to do all they can to contribute to the safety of the Syrian people.
In 2020, in the middle of the global pandemic, the UK Government took the shameful decision to cut the money the UK spends on aid from 0.7% of GNI to 0.5% of GNI.
It was the only G7 country to do so.
Spending 0.7% of GNI on aid is a UN target and was a Conservative manifesto commitment in 2019.
Cutting international aid and development in the middle of a pandemic was a death sentence to thousands of people.
The 30% cut to the aid budget included a 67% cut to Syria, which the SNP vocally condemns, as this move has meant that those who speak up against brutal regimes are vulnerable to be persecuted and victimised by corrupt leaders, due to lack of international presence or support
Given that the protestors are speaking out against poverty, low standards of living, food shortages and the disregard of public services in Syria, the UK Governments policy of aid cuts is diabolical.
The SNP have a Policy Paper on an Independent Scotland’s approach to aid in response to the UK Governments cuts.
At the time of the announced cuts to international aid, SNP MP Alyn Smith spoke out about the reduction and condemned the UK Governments lack of commitment to the development of the countries that need it most.
SNP MP Neil Gray further asked the (then) Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, how the UK Government intends to provide support for those who are in desperate need of genuine development help. Clearly the UK Government feels no remorse for the continued demonstration that they have forgotten about the Syrian people who have largely been left to defend themselves against Assads regime.
Syria is very much still an aid dependant state, and there is a direct correlation between the decrease in aid spending from the UK Government and an increase in violence on the ground in Syria.
International aid to Syria is at an inflection point. More than 10 years into the Syrian conflict, the majority of Syria’s population is displaced and lacks adequate food.
Although the UK Government has contributed to the $2.5 billion a year in humanitarian aid from Western states, there is consensus from various international organisations that the flow of development aid into Syria must continue to rise.
In addition, the Assad government has manipulated aid for over a decade, withholding aid to opponents and channelling it to allies. If the UK Government truly wishes to be a leader in international democracy, then they must re-commit to doing all that they can to support the Syrian people.
Last year, the Syrian Government announced the exclusion of some 600,000 families from its subsidies program, which includes gas and heating fuels, bread, and other basic commodities such as flour and sugar. The move triggered protests in the southern governorate Suwayda and public criticism online.
The ongoing protests are asking for a basic increase of standard of living, and they have been peaceful in their methods. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19, states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and this is something that the SNP takes extremely seriously.
Human Rights are at the core of our Foreign Affairs priorities, and we are constantly assessing how we can be a good global citizen and support the needs of individuals around the world.
In recent years it has become apparent that the SNP have a very different approach to international peace and human rights to that of the UK Government. Scotland will conduct its human rights-based foreign and security policy consistently, and the SNP will emphasise the importance of the international rules-based order and compliance with international law.
Scotland has a long history of providing support to Syria, for example during the Syrian resettlement scheme, and this will not end now.
Please be assured that the ongoing violence in Syria is at the forefront of the SNP’s minds.
As such, I have circulated the information from The Syria Campaign to my colleagues and have encouraged them to tweet in solidarity with the protestors.
Additionally, I will personally table a Written Parliamentary Question to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Affairs what measures have been taken, if any, to provide support for the victims of the violence and the protesters in Suwayda, Syria.