I WROTE this column with the images of the latest massacre in Gaza fresh in my mind. They were among the worst yet, if it is possible, that is, to quantify or compare to the horrors being unleashed on Palestinians.

Sunday’s atrocity, which came just days after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Israel should stop its offensive in Rafah, was described in harrowing fashion by journalist Leila Molana-Allen. She wrote on Twitter/X: “I’m receiving videos far too graphic to publish ... a body burned black, dragged from destroyed makeshift tents, a young child in pieces. One toddler has been completely beheaded in the attack. Parents are clutching their dead children, screaming.”

Meanwhile, the “rules-based order”, such as it ever existed, is being openly trashed. As an International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor applies for arrest warrants for Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant for a litany of heinous war crimes, the American response is telling. They want to sanction the court itself and openly state that if the ICC should be allowed to progress in this manner, their own leaders will be next.

Whatever your perspective, these are objectively historic developments. Even if you disagree with the ICJ and the ICC, that doesn’t change the fact of their provisions and rulings. The extent to which this is ideologically and geopolitically shattering for the West cannot be underestimated.

When, at the same time, Action Aid has to issue press releases about fighter jets launching missiles on makeshift shelters for already displaced civilians, we can be emphatic. The Western leadership has been on the wrong side of history. Morally, politically and legally. Closer to home, the British state has been central to this gargantuan crime. It has aided and abetted the policy of Israel through the continuation of arms exports, underlining their political apologetics.

In a parallel action, key figures in Westminster have demonised those who have been protesting for a ceasefire and justice for the Palestinian people. Within this context, the SNP leadership offered an alternative approach.

Humza Yousaf (below), to his credit, has been resolute throughout. Stephen Flynn has also been strong in Westminster on the issue. He, and SNP MPs, not only condemn Israel’s destruction of Gaza outright but pose concrete actions around arms exports.

The National:

Indeed, there are SNP MPs who have long track records on Palestine. I have shared platforms at demonstrations in recent months with several of them. Many SNP members and activists have been promoting and attending the various mobilisations, rather than supporting anti-democratic crackdowns against them.

At the height of Suella Braverman’s attempts to ban the demonstrations, Humza Yousaf as first minister took the side of the protesters. Such things are important and require a political spine.

But something has changed at the top of the party. The attitude of new SNP leader Swinney has been a far cry from that of his predecessor. He has said nothing about the ICC arrest warrants or the ICJ rulings, or indeed any of the atrocities to date.

The National recently published findings that he has not mentioned Gaza once this Parliament. A quick search on Twitter (X) shows that, throughout the last eight months, he had never once mentioned the words “ceasefire” or “Gaza” once.

The only snippet that seems to be available is in his first speech as leader in which he commends Humza Yousaf’s stance. That was it, until finally on Monday, and after Anas Sarwar had made comments, the SNP leader released an extraordinarily tepid tweet.

READ MORE: 'Unconscionable': John Swinney hits out at Israel's response to Rafah 'massacre'

No mention of an arms embargo, unlike the previous first minister, or even of Israel’s innumerable violations of international humanitarian law. Scotland’s independence-supporting First Minister has had little to say – in any regard – on this pivotal period in international affairs.

What happened to Scottish nationalism presenting an internationalist perspective, with the aim of taking its place in the world? No-one is claiming Gaza is all he should talk about but his general lack of advocacy on the matter should be interrogated.

Maybe the tone will change as a growing number of people notice the SNP leadership’s lack of urgency. I hope it does, as this is no time for political games. But there has been an undeniable step-change in how the issue has been dealt with. The question is, why?

My best stab at it is the following. The special advisers and the new leadership want to return to what they regard as “core issues”. They have categorised Gaza as an “activist issue” which lacks electoral salience. The order of the day is caution and consolidation.

If this is the case, they are wrong on both counts. Gaza is the moral issue of our time for broad swathes of society. A whole generation have been politicised by this era defining issue. Global institutions are embroiled in it, as are political leaders across the world, charities, aid agencies and so forth. It is in the media on a daily basis.

The National: John Swinney was campaigning in Dumfries and Galloway on Monday

Moreover, questions of war and peace have been pivotal to the development of the modern Scottish national movement – from nuclear weapons, to Iraq, and today the plight of the Palestinians.

On having a principled and popular position on Gaza, Swinney has been slow to catch up, and that’s being generous. On the morning following the strikes on Rafah which sparked international outrage, every major politician in the UK had something to say. Aside from Rishi Sunak, David Cameron ... and John Swinney. It appears comment was eventually made, one might speculate under pressure, rather than being self-motivated.

Perhaps there are other considerations, such as the Scottish Government’s links to the arms industry. As The Ferret recently revealed: “Raytheon, BAE Systems and Leonardo have all received six-figure grants from business agency Scottish Enterprise since Israel began bombing Gaza.”

Or maybe the leadership worry that Yousaf’s position put them at odds with the Nato leadership, who they are desperate to court.

Whatever the reason, the silence from Swinney on Gaza has been deafening. It is paramount that everyone in a position of power do all they can to prevent further massacres. That includes Scotland’s First Minister.

Not ambiguous tweets, not gimmicks, but concrete and concerted efforts to prevent the genocidal attacks on the people of Palestine.