The Scottish Government has given over £8m in public grants to companies exhibiting at a London arms fair hosting states accused of human rights violations.
DSEI, which is taking place in London this week, is one of the world’s biggest arms fairs. The event is organised by arms dealers in collaboration with UK Defence and Security Exports, the UK Government’s arms promotion unit.
It will be attended by hundreds of arms companies, and the guest list includes countries condemned by human rights groups such as Amnesty International, including Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UAE and Uzbekistan.
Critics of DSEI described it as a “marketplace of death and destruction” and a “shameful festival of violence”. DSEI said the UK Government is “fully embracing the opportunity to engage with the international defence community”. Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Government’s investment arm, claimed it does not “support the development or manufacture of munitions”.
The UK is the second biggest arms dealer in the world. Human rights groups critical of DSEI include Campaign Against Arms Trade, which found that the Scottish Government’s funding body, Scottish Enterprise, has given at least £8.2m in funding since 2019 to 13 arms companies exhibiting at the event.
Emma Cockburn, Scotland Coordinator for Campaign Against Arms Trade, called on the Scottish Government to bring an “immediate halt to the pipeline of public funds pouring into arms companies that clearly do not care about peace or security”.
She added: “Despite the tick-box exercise in human-rights checks from the Scottish Government, it is clear that companies like Raytheon and Babcock only care about perpetuating conflict, because conflict increases profits for their shareholders and that is where their priorities lie.“
Scottish Greens external affairs spokesperson, Ross Greer MSP, described DSEI as a “shameful festival of violence” and said the guest list is a “roll call of repression”.
He added: “Successive UK governments have thrown considerable political support behind many of these regimes. The Saudi Arabian regime brutalises its own people and has inflicted the world’s worst humanitarian crisis through its bombing campaign in Yemen, Turkish forces have carried out decades of ethnic cleansing against the Kurds on a par with the worst Russian crimes in Ukraine, whilst Israel upholds a system of apartheid against the people of Palestine.”
A Scottish Enterprise spokesperson said: “The aerospace, defence and shipbuilding companies we work with employ tens of thousands of people across Scotland. Our aim is to help make their Scottish operations as economically sustainable as possible and to support the continued diversification of their product lines, with a view to sustaining and growing employment.”
They added: “Decisions to assist companies are based on the economic potential of proposed projects, all of which are delivered in line with the economic and social impacts contractually agreed with the company. Scottish Enterprise’s funding does not support the development or manufacture of munitions.”
DSEI will feature over 2,800 defence and security suppliers plus more than 230 new exhibitors. “DSEI is the premier hybrid event of its kind and is crucial in bringing governments, the armed forces and the wider industry together,” its website states.
DSEI event director Grant Burgham said: “This year’s DSEI will also feature the largest and most significant presence from [the] MoD, UK Strategic Command, UK Space Command, the Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy, the British Army, Defence Equipment and Support, the UK MOD Science and Innovation (DSTL, DASA, DIU & Ploughshare) as well as Defence Medical Services.”
Main image: CHALLENGER II on the DSEI-2019 Exhibition. Credit: Swadim