CHANTS of “ceasefire now” took place outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh as demonstrators gathered ahead of MSPs debating a call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The pro-Palestine protests began at 11am and went on until the early afternoon, with politicians from the SNP, Greens and Scottish Labour addressing the crowd, together with campaigners.

Some cars could be heard beeping in support as they passed the demonstrations, with one speaker briefly interrupted by a car passenger shouting “Free Palestine” out of the window.

At the rally in the morning organised by Scotland’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign, SNP MP Tommy Sheppard told the gathering he had been unable to go to Westminster last week to vote in for the SNP’s call for a ceasefire due to a surgical procedure.

He said: “Although my vote probably wouldn’t have made any difference to the result, I did want to record in the record of parliament my opposition both to the attitude of the British Government under Rishi Sunak and sadly of [the] opposition led by Sir Keir Starmer, who have been ridiculous and complicit in what has been happening.

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“I was saddened I couldn’t be there but what saddened me more was there were dozens of members of Parliament who were there, who had no excuse and who chose not to vote for that ceasefire resolution.”

He also added: “What has also sickened me has been the way in which the narrative has been advanced to try and spoil and weaken our resolve and our movement. To try and paint us as harbingers of hate and intolerance and to call events like this hate rallies, hate marches.

The National:

“Nothing could be further from the truth – we are motivated in this campaign, not by hatred but by love of our fellow human beings. By compassion - a desire to see human rights protected.”

Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer said: “I have spoken at many of these demonstrations over the years but I can’t think of a moment bleaker than the one we are in now.”

He prompted chants of “ceasefire now” as he said: “We are here to say enough is enough, the killing must end, we demand a ceasefire now.”

The protests continued into the afternoon with a rally organised by Stop the War.

Scottish Labour back a ceasefire which is at odds with UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who despite pressure to take a similar stance has continued to favour a "humanitarian pause".

Former Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard told the demonstrators he was “on the side of the people, who are calling for a ceasefire now”.

He said: “I am on the side of the United Nations, of humanitarian agencies, who are calling for a ceasefire.

“And I tell you whose side I am also on – the side of the people whose homes, whose schools, whose hospitals, whose refugee camps are being relentlessly bombed, that’s whose side I am on.

“And that is why I am voting for a ceasefire.”

Leonard said “some people” had called for a humanitarian pause – but called it a “contradiction in terms”.

He added: “What’s humanitarian about stopping bombing communities for a pause, and then starting all over again? Where’s the humanity in that?”

Lawyer and human rights campaigner Aamer Anwar, who also addressed the rally, told The National afterwards he rejected the idea of having a humanitarian pause.

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“It’s not humanitarian to pause for a few hours to stop bombing to allow some food in and then to carry on the bombing of innocent men, women and children,” he said.

He added that the vast majority of people were horrified by the attacks on Israelis carried out by Hamas on October 7.

But he said: “What happened on October 7 does not justify the collective punishment, the slaughter, the mass genocide, the bombing, the starvation of innocent men, women and children who happen to be Palestinian.”

He went on: “How do you tell Palestinian children to believe in peace when they are seeing entire generations of their families being wiped out before their eyes? That is not a recipe for peace.”

Among those attending the demonstration was Tina Booth, who had travelled from Hawick in the Scottish Borders.

She said: “I am overwhelmed by what is happening in Gaza and feel I couldn’t sit at home any longer – I had to show solidarity with people who are facing daily terror on both sides.

“I am a person of peace, not a person of war, so that’s why I had to come and stand here.”

David Gardiner, from Edinburgh, who was also attending, said: “We really need to show we want a ceasefire and a permanent solution.”