Scottish Council of Jewish Communites
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities

SCoJeC protest attempt to exclude us
from a meeting in the Parliament

Click here to read SCoJeC's letter to the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament

Click here to read the response from the Presiding Officer

Click here to read SCoJeC's letter to the Commission for Parliamentary Reform


27 April 2017          updated: 4 May 2017

SCoJeC Chair Micheline Brannan has written to the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament to protest about an attempt to have her and two colleagues removed from a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Palestine on 25 April. Philip Chetwynd, Treasurer of the Cross Party Group, referred to the three observers as ‘representatives of Zionist organisations’, called them ‘ideological terrorists’, and he said he felt intimidated by their presence. He had been intending to lead a discussion in the Group about the definition of antisemitism in Scotland – although this was not on the published agenda – but said he would not give his presentation because of the presence of the three observers.

After a short discussion, in which four Members of the Scottish Parliament stated that they could not support excluding anyone from the Group, and in which several speakers expressed concern that it looked as if Jewish people were being targeted, the consensus of the Group was that they should be allowed to remain. The agenda item was not discussed.

Commenting on the incident, Micheline Brannan, Chair of SCoJeC, said:

“I was surprised to find this item on the revised agenda that was tabled as the meeting started. Jewish groups regularly have observers at the CPG on Palestine. My colleagues and I had not said a word during the meeting. We were only there to listen and to learn. I considered that SCoJeC had a legitimate interest in any discussion on antisemitism in Scotland, and was astonished at this attempt to exclude us. I was distressed by Mr Chetwynd’s attack. I am proud that the MSPs present stood up for us, and that members of the public also supported us. I have written to the Presiding Officer to voice my concerns about the incident and look forward to his reply.”


Update: 4 May 2017

SCoJeC has received a reply to our letter to the Presiding Officer. He wrote "I acknowledge your very serious concerns about the conduct of particular members of the CPG", and that he "was very sorry indeed to hear of your experience at this meeting." However, he went on to say that the Code of Conduct for Cross Party Groups "does not contain any specific rules for how poor conduct ... should be dealt with", and that "decisions about membership ... is a matter for the Group itself".

SCoJeC Chair Micheline Brannan commented:

“While I am grateful to the Presiding Officer for his prompt reply, I am disappointed that he did not comment directly on Philip Chetwynd's offensive language. To call anyone a 'terrorist' is a serious and completely unjustified accusation. The attack on people who were only present to observe the discussion and had not even spoken calls into question Mr Chetwynd's suitability to hold office in a Parliamentary group.

Even if there was technically no breach of parliamentary rules as they stand, it cannot be acceptable to seek to exclude people purely on the grounds of their identity, and the current Commission on Parliamentary Reform provides a timely opportunity to amend the Code of Conduct to ensure that in future the Scottish Parliament has no place for antisemitism or any other kind of prejudice."

SCoJeC has therefore now written to the Commission to ask them to examine what changes may be needed to prevent such incidents. We have proposed that meetings of Cross Party Groups, just as those of Parliament itself, should be open to the public, in keeping with its principles of openness and transparency.


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