THIS week has shown the very worst of Westminster. It was impossible to watch Wednesday night’s House of Commons debate on the situation in Gaza without feeling a sense of anger and disgust.

Cynical political calculations and career considerations overtook humanitarianism, with most MPs being all too aware of the crisis that has been inflicted on Gaza and purposefully choosing to look the other way.

Hospitals, schools and homes have been destroyed by a relentless five-week-long bombing campaign which has killed 11,000 people, including thousands of children.

So much of the destruction has happened in front of our eyes. Twenty-four-hour news and social media have made it almost impossible for anyone to avoid the terrible images of devastation and pain coming from Gaza.

Watching it may be difficult, but that doesn’t mean that we should look away.

Behind the suffering there are thousands of human stories, lives that will be forever altered and dreams that will go unfulfilled.

Whether it is those innocent civilians murdered in Israel on October 7, or those equally innocent civilians now being murdered in Gaza and the West Bank.

In the face of these atrocities, there is a moral responsibility on all politicians and governments to call for the release of hostages taken by Hamas and an end to the siege and the bombardment.

Our unique responsibility 

There is a unique responsibility on those of us here in the UK though, given this country’s historic responsibility for the situation through the 1917 Balfour Declaration and more recently through decades of arms sales to Israel.

It is shocking that anyone could look at that scale of the suffering and not even bring themselves to call for the killing to end.

If Wednesday night’s ceasefire vote was a basic moral test, then far too many MPs failed it badly.

READ MORE: Keir Starmer rocked by resignations as Gaza ceasefire vote exposes cracks

Perhaps the most shocking position taken was that of the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer.

The National: Keir Starmer

As a former human rights lawyer he knows the terrible severity of war crimes being committed by Israel and the total disregard their occupation forces have shown for international law and Palestinian lives.

Yet what he offered up was a pathetic word soup of equivocation.

Starmer refused to vote for a ceasefire and whipped his MPs to reject it too. Most of them followed his lead, including both of Scottish Labour’s MPs.

That is despite Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar rightly backing an end to the violence (though he has yet to sign my own motion or any of the others lodged at Holyrood calling for that ceasefire, despite nine of his MSPs doing so).

I didn’t come into politics to hide my feelings when I see such hideous injustice, and I don’t believe most Labour MPs did either.

Labour's feeble excuses

Yet, Labour member after Labour member took to Twitter to explain that they did back a ceasefire but they refused to vote for one because they didn’t think it was achievable.

It totally misunderstands the situation. None of the MPs who voted for a ceasefire did so in the belief that their vote was enough to end on its own to end the killing.

They did so because they know that the things we say and do matter, and so do our principles. If the international community and governments like the UK’s take a bold and unequivocal stance for peace then it can make a difference.

That is why we should all recognise the conviction and principle of the 56 Labour MPs who defied their party leadership and voted for peace. They deserve our respect.

That particularly goes for the 10 former frontbenchers who stood up to some of the worst political blackmail and did so at a professional cost.

They stood on the side of humanity, and the stance they took will be remembered.

Scotland can boycott Israel

But anger at Westminster should not stop us from ensuring that Scotland is not directly or indirectly funding the oppression of Palestinians.

The Scottish Government has very limited powers over foreign affairs, but one important tool at our disposal is public sector contracts and grants.

The United Nations has identified 97 companies that are complicit in Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements.

READ MORE: Keir Starmer insists Labour 'united' despite massive Gaza ceasefire rebellion

These settlements are a terrible injustice, and one of the biggest roadblocks to peace.

Since the Hamas terror attacks in Israel on October 7, more than 180 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli settlers and soldiers in the West Bank.

The National: Humza Yousaf

At FMQs yesterday, I called on Humza Yousaf to ensure that none of these companies are benefitting from public money.

He clearly shared my outrage at the violence and agreed that the Government would examine what could be done to ensure these companies would not receive public money.

It is a commitment that I welcome and one that stands in stark contrast to the moral cowardice from Westminster.

We can build on this next Tuesday when the Scottish Parliament holds a debate on the conflict. It will be a chance for us to send a message and take a stand for humanity where Westminster and so many others have failed.

It will be an opportunity for MSPs from all parties to come together and show moral and political leadership by sending a clear message of peace and solidarity to the people of Gaza.

Every Scottish Green MSP will vote to back a ceasefire, call for the creation of humanitarian corridors for displaced people and medical aid and for renewed efforts to establish a free and secure Palestinian state.

I hope that every MSP who cares about the rights and lives of Palestinians will show the courage of their convictions and do the same.