KEIR Starmer has been heavily criticised for threatening to U-turn on a pledge to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia, with opponents insisting he cannot be trusted.

In 2020 when he was running to replace Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader said that the UK “should stop the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia” over concerns about their use in the Yemen civil war.

But he seemed to water down this promise on Sunday when he told the BBC he would “commit to a review” of weapons sales but was not definitive when it came to the Saudis.

He was asked multiple times about whether he would stop selling weapons to the Middle Eastern nation but just repeated: "We will do a review.”

During a conversation with Laura Kuenssberg, he also said there is “no inconsistency” between his previous promise to give the Commons a say before authorising military action and his support for strikes against Houthis in Yemen.

READ MORE: Alan Cumming gives verdict on David Cameron and Keir Starmer

MPs were not recalled to the Commons to sign off on any action before the UK launched RAF strikes last week in a bombing raid with the US.

Janet Fenton, secretary of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), said it was clear Starmer no longer provided a trustworthy alternative to “colonialist” status quo at Westminster.

She told The National: “Keir Starmer’s most truthful remark in his conversation with Laura Kuenssberg is that he has ruthlessly changed the Labour Party. 

“Niceties of what he actually meant in 2020 on Parliamentary consent, or swithering about his 2020 unambiguous ‘should stop’ take on arms sales to Saudi will not advance conflict resolution or diplomacy. 

“While he has changed the Labour Party, under his leadership it no longer provides a trustworthy alternative to the colonialist policies of the existing status quo at Westminster.”

Saudi Arabia intervened in the Yemeni civil war on the side of president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in 2015, targeting Houthi positions in the country in a severe campaign which led to a “humanitarian catastrophe”, according to UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs Stephen O’Brien.

In February 2020, Labour MP Jo Stevens shared an article claiming that Western powers including the United States, United Kingdom and France were dragging out the war in Yemen for private profit.

The National: Ross Greer

She wrote: “The staying power of the conflict in Yemen is its greatest tragedy – one which our current Tory government refuses to look in the face.”

Responding, Starmer wrote on social media: “@JoStevensLabour is right – it’s why we should stop the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, as we said in our manifesto.”

Green MSP Ross Greer (above) said he was not surprised by Starmer’s “backward step” on arms sales, given his failure to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

“No one opposes the platform Sir Keir Starmer won the Labour leadership on more than Starmer himself. One day he might find a principle he’s willing to stick to, but the evidence so far suggests that is unlikely,” he told The National.

"The Saudi regime is one of the most brutal and authoritarian dictatorships in the world.

“It has spent almost a decade using UK-made fighter jets, bombs and missiles to kill thousands of civilians and inflict a terrible humanitarian crisis on the people of Yemen. Arming the regime is wrong, you don't have to be a human rights lawyer to know that.

READ MORE: Fresh Trident safety fears as submarines' 'life expectancy' extended repeatedly

"This backward step should come as little surprise though. In one of his first major foreign policy tests as leader of the opposition, Starmer has actively supported Israel’s brutal bombing campaign and collective punishment of people in Gaza, even ordering Labour MPs to join him in opposing calls for a ceasefire. 

"Now he has ripped up another leadership pledge for a parliamentary vote ahead of any military action. Does he have any promises left to break or row back from?”

Elsewhere in the BBC interview, Starmer said there is “no inconsistency” between his previous promise to bring in a Prevention of Military Intervention Act and backing strikes on Yemen.

When running to succeed Jeremy Corbyn in 2020, Starmer promised to bring forward legislation under commitments to prevent “more illegal wars”.

He said at the time that he would “pass legislation” to say “military action” could only be taken if a lawful case was made, there was a viable objective, and consent from Commons had been given.

But his swift backing of the RAF strikes in Yemen that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak authorised without consulting Parliament raised questions about the pledge.

SNP foreign affairs spokesperson Brendan O'Hara said: "Keir Starmer has broken so many of his pledges that no one has a clue what he stands for.

“Whether it's flogging arms to Saudi Arabia, opposing a ceasefire in Gaza, backing Brexit, supporting Tory austerity cuts, or denying Scotland's right to choose our own future - it's clear Starmer's Labour Party can't be trusted.”

Chris McEleny, general secretary of the Alba Party, said: “Starmer’s latest U-turn means that weapons will continue to be built in Scotland at DM Beith [munitions depot] and sold to Saudi Arabia without the people of Scotland having any say. 

“Only with independence can we ensure that Scotland isn’t dragged to illegal wars or that weapons built by the Ministry of Defence in Scotland aren’t dropped on civilians in Yemen.”