Scotland’s First Minister has called on the international community to create a refugee programme for those fleeing the hostilities in the Middle East.

Speaking to the SNP conference on Tuesday, Humza Yousaf urged the Israeli government not to use “collective punishment” against the Palestinian people for the actions of Hamas, which he said “can never be justified”.

The First Minister told the party faithful there were currently one million people displaced within the Gaza Strip, after Israeli warnings to leave ahead of an expected ground invasion.

Mr Yousaf’s in-laws: Elizabeth and Maged El-Nakla are in Gaza with his wife Nadia’s cousin having been injured by shrapnel.

He said: “There are currently around one million people displaced within the Gaza strip –  I am therefore today calling on the international community to commit to a worldwide refugee programme for the people of Gaza.

“I am calling on the UK Government to take two urgent steps.

“Firstly, they should immediately begin work on the creation of a refugee resettlement scheme for those in Gaza who want to, and are able to, leave.

“And when they do so, Scotland is willing to be the first country in the UK to offer safety and sanctuary to those caught up in these terrible attacks.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman said he was “not aware of the SNP approaching the Government formally” about Mr Yousaf’s refugee scheme call.

The No 10 official told reporters the UK Government’s “first focus” was on reopening the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt to help Palestinians to leave the strip.

“What takes places after that I’m sure we will give a great deal of thought to but I’m not aware of any formal proposal for a resettlement scheme,” the spokesman said.

The First Minister, whose brother-in-law works as a doctor in Gaza, also called on the UK Government to support the medical evacuation of injured civilians in the territory.

Humza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf addressed the SNP conference for the first time as leader (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“When we can get through to him on the phone, he tells us of scenes of carnage.”

“Hospitals running out of medical supplies, doctors and nurses having to make the most difficult decision of all. Who to treat and who to leave to die. This cannot be allowed to continue.

“I therefore urge the UK Government to support the medical evacuation of injured civilians in Gaza.

“Let me be clear, Scotland is ready to play her part and our hospitals will treat the injured men, women and children of Gaza where we can.”

The First Minister, making his first speech to an SNP conference since taking over as leader in Aberdeen, thanked members for their support since the Hamas attack which stranded his family members.

“This is a party I consider my home, full of people I see as my extended family,” he said.

“I have never felt the love, kindness and solidarity of the SNP family as much as I have over the last 10 days.

“So on my behalf, and on behalf of Nadia, my girls and our family in Gaza, from the bottom of my heart, let me say thank you.”

Mr Yousaf spent the end of last week with both the Jewish and Palestinian communities in Scotland, telling members they are “communities I love”.

“I want you to know that as First Minister and as a fellow human being, I share the pain and sorrow you are feeling,” he said.

“I have attended your synagogues, your churches and your mosques. You are communities I have grown up with, danced with, laughed with, and in this last week, that I have shed many tears with.

“Each and every person in Scotland, from all of the vibrant communities of our nation, must feel safe here.

“As long as I am First Minister, let me be abundantly clear, there is no room for antisemitism, Islamophobia or hatred of any kind here in Scotland.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK is committed to supporting those directly from regions of conflict and instability.

“Since 2015 we have offered a safe and legal route to the UK to over half a million people seeking safety but our approach must be considered in the round, rather than on a crisis-by-crisis basis.”