THE SNP's motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza can highlight to the world how the UK Government has “utterly failed” in its response to the conflict in the region, an expert on international human rights has said.

Professor Kurt Mills, an academic at the University of St Andrews and an editor with Global Governance, the house journal of the Academic Council on the United Nations System, said that both the Tories and Labour had been “disappointing” in their responses to Israel’s siege and invasion of Gaza.

Speaking of the UK Government specifically, Mills told the Sunday National: “It's had a really horrible response. It hasn't lived up to any of its responsibilities.

“There's this thing called the ‘responsibility to protect’ which the UN recognised in 2005, which basically means that the United Nations and individual countries have a responsibility to take action and try to prevent mass atrocities when they're happening – and mass atrocities are obviously happening right now in Gaza.

“The UK has basically been enabling that, both ideologically and with other types of support, rather than trying to stop it. It’s really quite disappointing.”

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Asked what the UK could be doing instead, the professor explained: “The Government could put pressure on Israel to change. It could prevent arms that are being used in Gaza from being exported from the UK to Israel. It's not doing that and there's no prospect that it will.

“It could take a leadership role in the United Nations, in the Security Council, in the General Assembly, in the Human Rights Council, using all of its diplomatic levers to try to put pressure on Israel, but it has utterly failed to do that. Really, really failed.”

Earlier this month, Nicaragua told the UK that it would consider taking action in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) because arms it has provided to Israel may have been used “to facilitate or commit violations of the Genocide Convention”.

In January, the ICJ had said that arguments of a genocide in Gaza were “plausible” and ordered Israel to take actions to prevent one from occurring.

Asked what Scotland could be doing, Mills said the country was “very much limited in what it could do to have practical effect”.

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The professor (above), who has penned books on the human rights responsibilities of states on a global stage and international responses to mass atrocities, went on: “However, I think it's actually quite important that the First Minister has come out quite strongly condemning what's going on in Gaza.

“This sends signals to the international community that Scotland is different. Obviously, this plays well for any attempts to become independent, but beyond that, I think it highlights a clear difference between Scotland and the Westminster government on a whole variety of foreign policy issues.

“I think this runs through the leadership and the Government in trying to contribute where Scotland can internationally, given all the restrictions that it has.”

The SNP have tabled a motion at Westminster, which will be debated and voted on this week, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. A previous motion on the same topic triggered a wave of frontbench resignations in Keir Starmer’s Labour as he tried to prevent his MPs from backing it.

The SNP have faced accusations of political manoeuvring with their second motion, but Mills said the motion and debate also served crucial roles.

He said: “I think it's actually really quite important because it holds the Government and others’ feet to the fire. It pushes them to come out with a position – and each time, they come up with a position that's not living up to their international responsibilities.

“I mean, yes, politically, it's good for the SNP, but it also highlights to the world that the [UK] Government is really failing.

“Yes, it's political posturing, and that's what happens at Westminster, but at the same time, I actually think this is an important thing to do, to put continuing pressure on the Government and others to change their policies.”

Mills further criticised Starmer’s response to the conflict. The Labour leader faced significant backlash after he said Israel “has the right” to withhold water and electricity from civilians in Gaza, something widely considered to be a breach of international law.

The National: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer

Mills said Starmer’s (above) response had been “just mind-boggling”, especially considering his background as a human rights lawyer.

The professor said: “I would have expected him to call out the Israeli government. I would have expected him to say – regardless of whether or not we actually call it genocide – there's still war crimes and crimes against humanity going on on a daily basis, beamed into our houses on TV, via the internet.

“It's there for everybody to see and the language being used by the Israeli government is trying to justify all of this is very clear.

“So it's very disappointing that he turned his back on all of this and instead seems to be cracking down on Labour members who are trying to call out the Israeli government for what's going on.”

Starmer is expected to appear at the Scottish Labour conference in Glasgow today.