A debate on the Holodomor took place in the Chamber of the Scottish Parliament on 25 November but it stopped short of recognizing the famine as genocide.

Proposed by Marco Biagi SMP the motion debated read:

“That the Parliament notes the day of remembrance of the Holodomor, the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33, on 22 November 2014; further notes that conservative estimates place the number of mortalities in the millions; understands that many historians consider this an entirely avoidable tragedy and a deliberate act of genocide committed by the Stalin regime, and commends the work of campaigners in raising awareness of the Holodomor.”

Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP) opened the debate by saying that “the Holodomor ranks among the worst acts of genocide in human history” and yet “recognition, remembrance and understanding of what exactly happened are not as robust as they should be…(for) one of the most callous and destructive acts of the 20th century”.

Stalin’s regime had “inflicted a terror famine on the collectivised peasants of the Ukraine, the Kuban and other areas of high Ukrainian ethnicity… targeting also the cultural elite, the clergy and anyone else who was able to articulate or represent a sense of Ukraine as a distinct nation”.

“It is this evident and documented desire to wipe out Ukrainian national identity that so obviously points to an act of genocide and not simply an attack on the wider peasantry of the USSR…  

“The Holodomor was a man-made tragedy. It was a deliberate crime against humanity and it was entirely preventable…. 

“Although denial of the Holodomor by the Soviet regime, while it existed, was to be expected, there is no excuse for that now. To most minds, the documented evidence of Stalin’s loathing of Ukrainian nationalism, his views on the potential threat that it posed to his regime and his murderous attacks on Ukrainian culture and identity prove that the Holodomor was an act of genocide.”

Mr Gibson expressed disappointment  “that more nations and international organisations are not willing to recognise” this fact and he welcomed “the continued efforts by the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain and others to ensure that this crime is fully recognised and remembered”.

“As Robert Burns wrote in “Man was Made to Mourn”, 

“Man’s inhumanity to Man
Makes countless thousands mourn!”

“Few nations have suffered over the past century in the way that Ukraine has. I hope that, in this Parliament, we recognise that fact and the Holodomor in remembrance of so many innocent men, women and children who died.”

Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands) (Con) said that “we should never allow the world to forget the atrocities that were committed by the communist regime of the Soviet Union, and they should never be allowed to happen again.” 

He described the events of 1932-33 through the eyes of “a brave Welshman”, Gareth Jones, who exposed the Holodomor to the world.

“The Holodomor in particular was a tragedy, as the Soviet Government did not allow any western aid nor any policies that would have helped to relieve the situation... Unfortunately, many people back then and today have seen that approach as a way to physically weaken the concept of Ukrainian nationality.
Last year, the Euromaidan protests started and the Ukrainian nation rose to show its will for freedom and the desire to shake off Russia’s dominance, and to prove its ability to chart its own course. 

“Thousands of people have died in Ukraine this year, and its borders have been violated as Crimea was illegally annexed. Eastern regions were almost destroyed and lost their remaining economic viability, and people of the Donbas are left without water, electricity and food.

“That is not a new Holodomor and is not equal to it, but it is paramount that we continue to act with a sense of urgency”. 

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs (Fiona Hyslop) reflected on Kenneth Gibson’s words and how we all have a duty to face man’s capacity to be inhuman on such a horrendous scale. 

“The Holodomor was a horrific man-made tragedy on an unimaginable scale. It serves as an important reminder of the inhumanity and cruelty that can exist in this world. The pain and suffering of the Ukrainian people must never be forgotten…. 

“That the Soviets chose not to put an end to such horror when they had the ability to do so is inexplicable and a gross violation of human rights....

“The main goal of the famine was to break the resistance of the Ukrainian peasants and force them to collectivise. 

“I do not think that any reasonable man or woman, with any shred of humanity, would say that the end justified the means. 

“On the substance of one element of the motion, members will be aware that foreign affairs are, of course, a matter reserved to the United Kingdom Government. The UK Government’s policy is that the recognition of genocides is a matter for judicial decision under the terms of the 1948 United Nations genocide convention. The Holodomor predates the establishment of the concept of genocide in international law, and the convention was not drafted to apply retrospectively.

“That said, the events of the Holodomor are a tragic example of man’s inhumanity and act as a reminder that Scotland’s strong and enduring commitment to human rights cannot be taken for granted. That places a responsibility on us, as a nation, to ensure that other countries develop and maintain a similar commitment…

“I want to reflect on the contribution that the Ukrainian community has made to Scotland. I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Ukrainian community centre in Edinburgh where I learnt about the rich culture and traditions that the community brought with them to Scotland. 

“The community centre has a wonderful collection of materials that relate to the community’s history in Scotland, and the Scottish Government is working closely with the centre so that those resources can be displayed to the public and used to promote wider awareness of the Ukrainian community’s contribution to this nation.

“I add my voice and the voice of the Scottish Government to those welcoming the Ukrainian community to our and their Parliament. Humanity knows no boundaries, national or otherwise, and we should be together in recognising our sense of history, just and unjust. 

“There is no question in my mind but that the people of Ukraine were the victims of the most unspeakable offences, perpetrated by a vicious regime that had no hesitation in committing crimes against humanity, all for the sake of an ideology.

“The debate is about remembering those who were subjected to such inhumanity and indignity through no fault of their own. 

“The Holodomor is a tragedy of epic proportions. A ruthless dictatorship with a heartless ideology caused the deaths of many millions of innocent people.

“Presiding Officer, I have been invited by the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain to attend the event to remember the Holodomor this Saturday in Edinburgh. In attending on behalf of the Scottish Government, I will speak for the people of Scotland when I say that we must remember and we must never forget.“


Source: Scottish Parliament

For a full transcript of the debate click here.


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