In February, President Joe Biden suspended U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia in a bid to end the war in Yemen. The decision represents a major shift in U.S. foreign policy and has been welcomed by the international community. The Scottish Green Party has called on Scotland to follow the U.S.‘ lead and end all cash grants for companies profiting from the war.
The Yemen war : the world’s worst humanitarian crisis
According to the United Nations (UN), the Saudi Arabia-led Yemen war represents the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Since 2015, Saudi involvement in the Yemen conflict has led to the deaths of thousands of civilians.
The country has also experienced major healthcare issues due to the conflict such as a large cholera outbreak and widespread famine. In fact, the UN claims that 80% of the country is in need of urgent humanitarian aid.
Scotland’s role in fueling the crisis
The Scottish Greens have pointed out that the Scottish National Party (SNP) is far from blameless in fueling the conflict in Yemen. It was shown that governement agencies are directly funding the arms dealers that abet war crimes.
According to the Scottish Greens website, external affairs spokesperson Ross Greer declared: “This move by the White House could be a big step towards ending this terrible war. If Boris Johnson wants to help end the immense suffering of Yemen’s people, then he must follow President Biden’s example.”
Saudi Arabia is systematically using weapons produced by arms manufacturers such as BAE, Leonardo and Raytheo. Despite the sustained evidence incriminating these companies, they continue to obtain public funding from Scottish Enterprise, a Scottish Government agency.
As a matter of fact, Government statistics show that the UK has licensed at least £6.8 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabian forces since the war began.
“If the Scottish government wants to live up to its own rhetoric on human rights, it must end these handouts immediately.”, said Greer as reported by the Morning Star.
It’s also worth noting that the UK has recently been under fire after the governement announced its decision to cut foreign aid to Yemen by 50%. The governement justified the motion by citing the financial difficulties the UK is experiencing due to COVID-19.
The response from the UK government
Scottish Enterprise retorted that the millions given to the arms firms is intended to help them diversify their business. However, it has failed to provide evidence that could support this claim.
The agency added that any checks are “based on independent evidence from authoritative sources”. Thus, if investigations raise human rights concerns the support for these companies could be reduced, reported the Morning Star.
However, Emma Cockburn, Scotland Coordinator at Campaign Against Arms Trade, stated that “Assurances from the Scottish government that this public funding is to support diversification efforts mean very little when it still stands to benefit companies that profit from war and global instability.”
Therefore, the Scottish government ought to examine their own intimate relationship with these arms firms. The agency might also reevaluate their criteria when making decisions on whether a licence should be granted.