A FORMER Scottish police chief is handing back his MBE in protest against the UK Government’s stance on Gaza.

Joe Grant, the former general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), was awarded his Member of the Order of the British Empire title in the late Queen’s 2009 birthday honours list for services to policing.

However, he told The National he had taken the decision to return the medal and title to demonstrate against the UK Government’s position on the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

“The [UK] Government are staying silent, they're not calling for ceasefire – but they're not just doing that,” Grant said. “They're also silencing legitimate people who wish to protest.

“I think hundreds of thousands in the UK have been on the streets while millions of others have been horrified by what's happening there.

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“We did hear calls for ceasefire by the Scottish Government and across the Scottish Parliament. But we've been left with weakness, or cowardice, in the void of silence from their counterparts in the UK, and that troubled me greatly.”

Born in Coatbridge, Grant retired and moved to South Africa in 2009, the same year he was awarded an MBE.

He first joined Strathclyde Police in 1981 before going on to serve as general secretary of the SPF, the body which represents some 18,000 police officers across Scotland, from 2005-2008.

In an email sent to the Cabinet Office to give up his MBE, Grant (below) raised concerns about the “prosecuting of dissenting voice” in Scotland and the UK.

The National:

“A barometer of any democracy is to allow, indeed, encourage discussion, debate or lawful protest on matters of the day,” he wrote.

“That lawfare is utilised to silence, prohibit, criminalise 'just expression' as it is being used against Mick Napier of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign is anathema to me.”

Napier is currently facing charges under the Terrorism Act 2000 after telling a crowd he wanted to “thank” Hamas “for breaking out of the Gaza concentration camp on October 7”.

“They were slated to die in Gaza and they fought their way out,” he said.

Scottish PEN, a national part of the global freedom of expression organisation, criticised Napier’s arrest and raised concerns that it appeared “to follow a pattern of restrictions being placed on the ability to protest more generally”.

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Grant said he could not stay silent – “for me, silence is complicit” – and so looked to his own form of protest.

“I'm going to give you a tiny wee story here,” the former police chief said.

“As a kid, a progressive teacher at my primary school in Coatbridge had us each knit a blanket square, which we put together and sent off to Nelson Mandela, who was at that time in jail.

“Now, I live in South Africa, I have since 2009. So I'm conscientised to apartheid and the effects are still existing almost 30 years after the end of apartheid here.

“So, me returning the medal is my current-day blanket square.”

The National:

Grant was given his MBE by the then-prince Charles at a ceremony in 2009 (above). Asked if giving it up had been an easy decision, he said it had not.

“It was a very special moment for my family and I, the receipt of this,” he said.

“I value this honour and I value that memory without a doubt … It was something I enjoyed and I value the memory of it. But its symbolism must go.”

Grant said he had first tried to return his MBE in late October, but found it difficult to get a response on how to go about handing back the honour.

In early January he was told he could return the medal and cease using the letters after his name, but that he would remain on the original honour roll.

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Israel has been running military operations targeting Gaza with renewed vigour since Hamas attacks on their country on October 7 saw some 1200 killed and 240 others kidnapped.

In the two months after the attacks until early December, Israel displaced some 1.9 million Gazans, according to the UN. At the time, the Gazan health ministry said about 18,000 Palestinians had been killed and 49,500 injured in Israeli attacks since October 7.

In mid-December, the UK’s Foreign Secretary David Cameron began to call for a “sustainable ceasefire” in the region, rather than an immediate one.

Late in 2023, South Africa took Israel to the International Court of Justice saying the magnitude of death, destruction and humanitarian crisis in Gaza meets the threshold of genocide under international law.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "It would be inappropriate to comment on any individual honours recipient."