AMID a sea of politicians offering unconditional support to Israel in the current conflict, Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf has stood out as far more supportive of peace and human rights.

Yousaf has condemned Israeli attacks on civilians as well as the Hamas terrorist attacks, has called for a ceasefire and has condemned collective punishment of Palestinians by Israel.

His stance has attracted criticism from right-wingers, with one Conservative MSP calling him “an embarrassment to our great nation”. On the Labour side, Keir Starmer continues to back Israel, dismissing calls for a ceasefire by saying Israel has “the right to defend itself”.

Yet the data suggests that on the issue of Palestine, Yousaf is far more in touch with the electorate than his critics. In contrast to the unified support for Israel that can be found across the British political class, Scottish voters are far more supportive of the Palestinian cause and favour a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

When asked in a poll last Thursday if they favoured an immediate ceasefire, 73% of Scottish voters rallied behind the idea – with a mere 11% opposed. This puts Yousaf on the same side as the overwhelming majority of voters, with his critics siding with a tiny fringe minority.

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Furthermore, when asked which side in the conflict they most sympathise with, more Scottish voters lean towards supporting Palestine (25%) than Israel (20%) – with 23% favouring both nations.

This makes Scotland the most pro-Palestine part of the UK – and far more pro-Palestine than England. Notably, in both Scotland and the broader UK, wholehearted support for Israel is embraced by very few people – the vast majority of respondents are either unsure or sympathise with both sides.

Scottish scepticism towards Israel’s military tactics is also evident from recent polling on Israel’s use of air strikes in Gaza. When asked if they think Israel makes an effort to minimise civilian casualties in such strikes, 49% of Scottish voters said no – with a mere 17% saying yes.

Only London had a higher share of respondents who were critical of Israel’s strikes (51%). This reflects the reality of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, in which Israel has killed 5100 Palestinian civilians, including 2000 children. 

Scotland’s support for Palestinian rights extends far beyond the present conflict. When asked back in May if the conflict in Israel and Palestine mattered to them, 30% of Scots said yes and 48% said no – a greater degree of interest than in England (27% yes to 57% no).

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It was clear, too, that the level of interest was not weighted in Israel’s favour. In the same month, Scots gave Israel a net favourability rating of -28 and sympathised with Palestine by 26% to 9%.

Indeed, over the past few years Scottish voters have consistently sympathised with the Palestinian people, with between a quarter and a third siding with Palestine in polls (and only one in 10 backing Israel).

Support for Palestine has been consistently high in Scotland since 2020, and remains high to this day. Not only is Yousaf very much on the side of public opinion in his support for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, his defence of Palestinian human rights is a common view amongst the Scottish electorate. 

Beyond general sentiments, Scottish voters also back policies that would favour Palestinians. Some 57% support a “two-state solution” (which would see the creation of a Palestinian state) with a mere 5% opposed to the idea.

Not only that but four in 10 Scots think the British government should recognise Palestine as an independent state now – with only 7% critical of such an idea.

And finally, on the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a mere 6% of Scots think such settlements are acceptable, with 34% opposed and the remainder unsure.

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What, then, can we learn from all this? Firstly, far from being an “embarrassment” to Scotland, Yousaf’s advocacy for Palestinian rights and peace puts him squarely in the centre of public opinion.

Scottish voters overwhelmingly want an immediate ceasefire, believe in the idea of a free and independent Palestine, are deeply critical of Israel’s settlement-building and do not trust Israel to avoid civilian casualties in the conflict.

All of these are normal points of view among Scots.

In truth, the real fringe minority in Scotland are those who support Israel’s actions without question – yet these opinions are disproportionately represented amongst the political elite, and so often appear to be the consensus viewpoint in British politics.

It is true that in espousing the totally standard opinions of peace, Palestinian human rights and respect for international law, Yousaf has distanced himself from the unified consensus of the British political elite. But in doing so, he has brought himself and his party much closer to the actual electorate.

Ell Folan is the founder of Stats for Lefties, a left-leaning statistics website