THE SNP have welcomed Keir Starmer’s “long overdue U-turn” after the Labour leader bowed to mounting pressure and backed calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said Starmer had been “forced into this position through public pressure”.

Ahead of Wednesday’s vote on an SNP motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, Labour produced an amendment which set out in detail the party’s position.

While not going as far in its criticisms of Israel, Labour’s amendment laments the “intolerable loss of Palestinian life” and urged Israel to abandon its plans for a ground offensive in Rafah, saying such a move would result in “catastrophic humanitarian consequences”.

The SNP’s motion on the other hand accuses Israel of collectively punishing Palestinians for Hamas’s attacks on October 7.

Flynn said: “I welcome this long-overdue U-turn from Sir Keir Starmer who now appears to support the SNP's call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

“However, the plain truth is Sir Keir was forced into this position through public pressure and, in particular, by the SNP.”

Labour MPs have been whipped to abstain on the SNP's motion but it remains unclear whether Labour's amendment will be put to a vote as the Speaker may select the Government's motion instead, which calls for an immediate humanitarian "pause".

Starmer’s (below) position on Gaza has shifted since the initial attacks in early October. He first defended Israel for blocking water and electricity supplies to Gaza, before calling for “humanitarian pauses” to allow essential aid in.

The National: Keir Starmer

His latest position is similar to the motion put forward by the SNP in November, which called for an immediate ceasefire and for Hamas to release Israeli hostages.

READ MORE: Labour call for immediate ceasefire in major climbdown on Gaza

But Starmer’s apparent refusal to back the SNP’s motion has been criticised as playing politics.

Labour NEC member Mish Rahman said: “Playing politics with people's lives.

“The SNP motion is significantly stronger than Labour's mealy-mouthed watered-down version which ignores Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians.”

Jess Barnard, also a member of Labour’s ruling body, criticised the party’s new position, saying: “It is a total moral failure that it has taken the loss of 30,000 Palestinians lives to arrive here.”

The SNP said the focus now fell on the Conservatives and urged Rishi Sunak to back calls for a ceasefire.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron this week called for a “stop to the fighting now” but it is unlikely the Government will back either the SNP motion or Labour’s amendment.

In a statement, Flynn (below) also outlined a theme of the SNP’s approach to the upcoming General Election by positioning his party as Westminster’s “conscience”.

The National: Stephen Flynn

He added: “It's telling that it took the SNP to insert a backbone into the Labour Party and act as Westminster's conscience on this conflict.

READ MORE: David Cameron pleads with Israel to 'stop and think' ahead of Rafah ground offensive

“Questions will naturally arise as to why it's taken Sir Keir so long to change his mind, what his long months of prevarication achieved, and whether he will reinstate the MPs he sacked in November for supporting the same position he finally holds too.

“These are all questions the Labour Party leader will now have answer - I am just relieved that he has finally changed his mind and changed his position.

“This change of position shows what Scotland can achieve when a strong team of SNP MPs puts pressure on the Labour Party to act in line with our values.”

Labour have also accused the SNP of playing politics on the issue.

Shadow Scotland secretary Ian Murray wrote to Flynn to set out Labour’s position and said: “I fully appreciate the politics of the SNP having a sole focus on the Labour Party with your motion and debate but, as you know, it’s incumbent on those proposing motion to seek support from the whole House.”

Murray said Labour’s amendment called for the same outcome as the SNP’s motion but also outlined a “plan for how to get to the peace we all crave”.

He added: “I hope you will accept our balanced and wide ranging amendment in good faith before the debate tomorrow so we can all turn our attention to working for the House to speak with one voice.”

Labour’s amendment calls for Israel to comply with an order from the UN’s highest court to prevent a genocide from occurring as a result of its bombardment of Gaza and also calls for other countries to “work together to establish a diplomatic process to deliver the peace of a two-state solution”.