Pressure has continued to grow on the UK government and its support of the arms trade after more bombs were dropped on Yemen.
On the night of 27 April, the Saudi-led coalition struck Yemen’s capital Sana’a. The strikes killed 38 Houthi fighters, according to Saudi media. But reports from the ground have claimed that civilian properties were also targeted.
On the weekend of 21 April, scores of civilians were hit by Saudi bombs. The targets included a wedding where at least 20 people were killed. The bride was among the dead. Houthi rebels reportedly launched eight missiles into the kingdom 28 April.
Saudi Arabia is the UK arms trade’s largest customer. Arms sales to the kingdom have risen by almost 500% since the start of its intervention in the Yemeni conflict. In March, the UK government signed a provisional deal for the sale of 48 BAE Systems fighter jets to the regime.
British arms in action
In a piece for the London Review of Books, Labour and Co-op MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle said the UK is “bullish” when it comes to arms sales. The MP also claimed the government is “overriding” human rights and security concerns in pursuit of contracts. Speaking of the conflict in Yemen, Russell-Moyle wrote:
British bombs are being dropped by British planes maintained by British personnel over one of the world’s poorest countries. Tens of thousands of people have died, if not from direct bombardment then from starvation or disease as a result of the Saudi-led blockade and the deliberate destruction of civilian infrastructure.
Opposition parties across the board have questioned the current policy towards Saudi Arabia. Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas gave an impassioned speech on the issue in parliament while the SNP’s Chris Law has called for an arms embargo.
“Time for an ethical investment policy”
In the Scottish Parliament, the Greens’ co-convenor Patrick Harvie questioned the SNP’s commitment to opposing the arms trade.
The Canary revealed on 25 April that a charity tied to SNP-run Glasgow City Council is supporting an arms event in the city this June. BAE Systems is the main sponsor of the Undersea Defence Technology event at Glasgow’s SEC.
Harvie argued that public funding should not be going towards the arms industry. The Glasgow MSP said:
Glasgow City Council is also apparently promoting an arms fair at the moment which involves, um, undersea technology. The kind of weapons which the Scottish Government, and many of the rest of us, continue to oppose in, in relation to Trident. Surely it is time for an ethical investment policy which moves away from the arms trade, wholesale, and invests instead in sustainable and ethical businesses.
You can watch the exchange below:
There may be contradictions but the SNP does support an arms embargo with Saudi. And it’s little wonder.
Yemen remains one of the world’s largest humanitarian crisis zones. Agencies have estimated that at least 22 million people, three quarters of the nation’s population, are in desperate need of aid.
While the UK Government claimed its heart has ‘gone out’ to the victims of recent bombings in Yemen, nothing has been done. Its inaction shouldn’t be allowed to continue.
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