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West Bank plays to beat of Scottish independence

As Scotland gears up for the vote, there is a sense of solidarity thousands of miles away in the West Bank

Published: Updated:

Bagpipes may be a familiar sight in Scotland but an unlikely community has used the instrument to throw their weight behind the referendum vote for independence on Thursday.

Performing in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Palestinian bagpipers are using the distinctive sounds to support the call for a Scottish independent state.

The most pipe bands in the region come from Beit Jala, an Arab-Christian town near Bethlehem battling with their own issues of independence.

“As a bagpipe player, and knowing the history of bagpipes, I like to call it an instrument of war,” said Majeed Qonqar, 31, who joined the scouts group when he was 10, told Agence France-Presse.

“The Scots used to have bagpipes on the battlefield, so for me, it’s part of resistance,” Qonqar added.

The instrument is typically played during Christmas, Easter and other public events by Beit Jala Greek Orthodox scouts who have now backed the call for an independent Scotland.

The locals feel threatened by further land confiscation by Israel in order to complete the separation wall between Israel and the West Bank. They say they “identify with people in Scotland wanting to break away from Britain in the historic referendum on Thursday,” AFP reported.

“Every person wants to be able to decide for themselves. So if they want to separate from the UK, then of course I support them,” bagpipe player Issa Musallam, 23, told AFP.

The fact that scouts and thus bagpipes were brought to Palestine by the British is not lost in Beit Jala's small scout, where rehearsals and marches take place.

Gaza war impacts on referendum?

The recent violence in Gaza which erupted in July, had also prompted a surge in support for Scottish independence, amid rising frustration over the UK government’s “weak” stance on the conflict, prominent politicians and campaigners say.

Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, a 50-day-war, left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, according to Palestinian and U.N. officials. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians were killed.

Some of those in favor of a full split from the UK had said a “yes” vote would allow an independent Scotland to form its own foreign policy – and potentially go further in condemning Israel’s actions.

But several “no” campaigners played down the impact of the Gaza crisis on the referendum, with some asserting that Scotland would have more influence on the matter if it was to remain part of the UK.

[With AFP]