International Situation

– in the Scottish Parliament at 10:21 am on 25 October 2001.

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Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party 10:21, 25 October 2001

The previous debate concluded a little earlier than expected. I will plug the gap with two announcements. The Presiding Officer has selected a late amendment for this morning's debate on Scotland and the current international situation and a copy of that amendment is available from the reference point at the rear of the chamber. The amendment is in the name of the First Minister and reads:

"As an amendment to motion S1M-2347 in the name of Mr John Swinney, leave out 'compatible with' and insert 'accompanied by'."

I also point out that in the fourth line of Dennis Canavan's amendment, the word "role" should be "rule".

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

On a point of order. A further typographical correction is needed. In the sixth line from the bottom of my amendment, the word "development" has been used in the business bulletin. The amendment that was lodged said "deployment".

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

That is noted and is helpful.

I hand over to Sir David.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

As the Deputy Presiding Officer made clear, I have selected a late amendment in the name of the First Minister, which will be the first amendment that is taken.

The debate is heavily oversubscribed. If I may suggest it, the Opposition parties should reflect on whether it is wise to squash two important debates into one space of time. Doing so makes difficulties for the chair. Many members will be disappointed this morning, so I appeal for short speeches all round.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

On a point of order. Yesterday afternoon, the Scottish Executive placed three important pieces of business on the Parliament's agenda. Why should the Opposition parties be singled out?

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I am trying to make a perfectly neutral point. When two major debates of interest are held, it is impossible to fit everyone who wishes to speak into the short space of time. I have said that the Parliamentary Bureau will reconsider the matter in the light of yesterday afternoon's events, because I was not happy with them either. I am not singling anyone out. I am just saying that we cannot get quarts into pint pots. Many people will be disappointed this morning.

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

For the interest of Mr Gallie and the chamber, I point out that our business finished two minutes early last night.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I am sorry to say that that is precisely my point. At the end of the day yesterday, we were light on business. The Presiding Officers spotted that when we met for our pre-briefing. The bureau could not have known that when it made its decisions. I am asking the bureau to reflect on that when it meets next week. If I had had the flexibility to extend the statement beyond 3.30 pm, we would not have finished early.

We have taken time out of what I have already said is a tight debate. I call John Swinney to speak to and move motion S1M-2347.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party 10:30, 25 October 2001

If the Minister for Parliament can get the business of the Parliament to close early, perhaps he should be running the railways so that the trains run early, if not on time. That is my last flippant point for the morning.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I am sorry to interrupt you, but someone has a mobile telephone switched on. It is causing interference with the electronics. All mobile phones should be switched off.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

It is now six weeks since the terrorist atrocities in the United States inflicted misery on thousands and thousands of people of many differing nationalities. In the process, the atrocities changed utterly the nature of our international community. When the events took place, our Scottish Parliament—this precious democratic institution—met to express our outrage and, just as important, our democratic solidarity with the people of the United States. In the circumstances, it was vital that our Parliament met and it is equally vital that our Parliament meets today to discuss the current conflict. It is a matter of pride that the Scottish National Party has made the debate possible.

In recent weeks, I have not spoken to an individual in Scotland who has not expressed an opinion about the situation in Afghanistan. If the people of Scotland are talking about this crisis, it is only natural that our Parliament should do likewise. I am sure that people will say that the debate involves issues that are reserved and that are dealt with by London-based politicians. Of course, many of the issues are reserved, but all of the issues in this international conflict touch each and every one of us. Our Parliament should be able to debate them.

It is for many of those reasons that, when the military action commenced on 7 October, I asked the Presiding Officer to recall Parliament. Sir David told me that he was not persuaded that there was any need for the Parliament to meet immediately to discuss the impact on Scotland. With the greatest respect to the Presiding Officer, I could not take a more different view. At moments such as this, it is imperative that our democratic Scottish Parliament should meet to consider the situation and to express a view. The Parliament should also hear from ministers what steps they are taking to address the impact of the crisis on Scotland.

On 8 October, the First Minister made it clear, in comments to the media, that there was an impact on Scotland and that his Administration was taking action to address that impact. In the circumstances, it is vital that the Parliament should hear from the First Minister and I am glad that today we have that opportunity.

The impact on Scotland is formidable as the situation impacts on our domestic security. I appreciated being given a private briefing yesterday by the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister on the steps that have been taken to address internal security in Scotland. There is also the economic impact, which has resulted in a slowdown in travel and tourism business. We must give support and resources to VisitScotland so that it can actively promote Scotland to domestic and European markets to offset the inevitable fall in business from the United States. There is also the further weakening in economic confidence. Given that we are experiencing an alarming increase in unemployment and that our manufacturing sector is already in recession, that is particularly damaging for Scotland.

There is also an impact on Scotland's Muslim community, among whom fear and alarm has grown since 11 September. Many people in that community feel alienated by the international action that is now taking place. Race-related attacks in Strathclyde and in other parts of Scotland are reportedly higher than for comparable periods. The chief constable of Strathclyde police has already warned of a growing sense of insecurity among Glasgow's Muslim community. I felt that insecurity on my visits to mosques in Dundee and Glasgow. Each one of us has a duty to reassure what is a very concerned population.

We have to recognise that the current international situation creates concern in a whole number of ways in our Muslim community: concern that the conflict in Afghanistan could cause wider problems in the Middle East, which could spill over into other societies, and concern that while the military action is pursued, it is impossible to deliver the scale of humanitarian effort that is required to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan population.

In this conflict, the SNP has made it clear that our support for military action is conditional. We believe that any action should be targeted, based on evidence and undertaken with a determination to bring the perpetrators of the atrocities in the United States to justice. We have said that there should be a specific United Nations Security Council mandate for military action and that there should be no widening of the conflict beyond Afghanistan. We believe that once the dreadful Taliban regime has been rejected—and we hear this morning that that is proving much more difficult than had been expected—Afghanistan should become a United Nations protectorate to stabilise the country in advance of free elections being held.

We believe that if a conflict has to take place, it should be between combatant and combatant and not between combatants and innocents. We believe that a significant humanitarian effort has to be made on a much greater scale than is happening today. Such an effort is needed to meet the desperate needs of the Afghan population.

On the evening that the bombing commenced, the Prime Minister said that the operation in Afghanistan would be a balance between military, diplomatic and humanitarian elements. I quote the Prime Minister. He said:

"There are three parts, all equally important, to the operation in which we are engaged: military, diplomatic and humanitarian."

The Prime Minister continued:

"On the humanitarian front, we are assembling a coalition of support for refugees in and outside Afghanistan, which is as vital as the military coalition."

I welcomed that statement because it recognised the balance that has to be struck in this conflict. That is why the SNP motion is so constructed.

I count myself as someone who is becoming increasingly concerned that that balance no longer exists. The military action is being pursued with vigour, but the humanitarian effort is faltering badly. I want the Prime Minister to deliver the commitment that he gave to the public. The balance of the campaign must ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those who need it most. That is why we have asked the Prime Minister to set out a clear statement of humanitarian aims and to show how those aims are compatible with the current military effort.

The aid effort is vital: 52,000 metric tonnes of aid are needed each month to feed up to 7.5 million Afghans and, since 11 September, only 15,000 metric tonnes have been delivered to the population. For every 10 people who are starving today in Afghanistan, we are providing aid sufficient to feed only three. We are fast approaching the Afghan winter, when distribution will become even more difficult and the conditions more perilous.

Last Friday, I met representatives of aid agencies that are based in Scotland. Over many years, they have made a huge contribution to the aid effort in Afghanistan. They were Mercy Corps Scotland, Oxfam and the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund. Last night, many of the aid agencies were in the Parliament working with the Parliament's cross-party international development group. The message the aid agencies put to me was clear: a humanitarian catastrophe beckons unless aid reaches its destination. The flow of aid is just not fast enough to meet requirements.

Many of the aid agencies have called for a halt in the bombing campaign. Many did so with great reluctance because, while they have concerns about the bombing, they have just as many concerns about the ghastly nature of the Taliban regime and all that it represents. It is clear that the regime is an obstacle to much of the humanitarian aid reaching its target of the ordinary, innocent Afghan population. The Government has rejected the aid agencies' call for the bombing campaign to be halted. The aid agencies' question to the Prime Minister is: how he will deliver the commitment to pursue a military, diplomatic and humanitarian campaign of equal measure? That is a question that the Prime Minister so far has not answered.

Yesterday, in the House of Commons, my colleague Annabelle Ewing, the MP for Perth, asked the Prime Minister for a personal assurance that the military campaign was fully compatible with the humanitarian effort. The Prime Minister conceded that current efforts are, in his words, "not sufficient". We believe that the military campaign should be configured to ensure that the humanitarian aid effort can be delivered. The creation of a safe and reliable humanitarian corridor could help and—as has been done in the past—military resources could deliver such an initiative.

It is right for the Scottish Parliament to undertake this debate. Strong, divided opinions will be expressed in the Parliament and within political parties—and so they should be. We are democratic politicians in a democratic Parliament.

I conclude on a point that may bring some unity. Scotland has a rich history of contributing to international aid. In the Balkan wars of the 1870s, the first volunteers were the Scottish women's ambulance corps. In the first world war, Scottish public contributions funded hospitals in St Petersburg and Paris. In the second world war, we paid for two Scottish hospitals in Rostov-on-Don. In that spirit, we in Scotland can take the initiative to help the situation in Afghanistan. The aid agencies tell me that giving by Scots to their efforts to assist in Afghanistan has been much slower than they would have expected or have experienced in other tragedies. Their funds desperately need to receive a boost. I suggested to them, and reiterated at the weekend, that the party leaders in the Scottish Parliament could support a cross-party venture—I hope with media support—to encourage greater giving to Scottish charities. The agencies are fully supportive and yesterday the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister gave me some encouragement for the initiative, but I will let them speak for themselves.

With the proximity that television brings to homes across the globe, the events of 11 September will live with all of us who witnessed them. From the awful misery of that atrocity we must build not further conflict but tolerance, understanding and a world order that tackles inequality rather than feeds it. Surely, that is the challenge. There is no more fitting issue to debate in Scotland's national democratic Parliament.

I move,

That the Parliament recognises the significant impact of the current international crisis on our domestic security, on our economic prospects and on our Muslim community in Scotland and calls upon the Scottish Executive to continue to bring forward proposals to deal with these matters; supports the international community's desire to bring to justice the perpetrators of the acts of terrorism in the United States of America on 11 September 2001, and agrees that any military action in Afghanistan must, as the Prime Minister has asserted, be compatible with an effective humanitarian operation which meets the desperate needs of the innocent Afghan population.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I am grateful to Mr Swinney for cutting his time. I ask all those who want to take part in the debate to press their buttons now, as the debate is oversubscribed and I must make my selection.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. We have not yet seen the First Minister's amendment. Will you read it out before the First Minister speaks?

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

There are copies at the back of the chamber. It is a short amendment, which simply replaces "compatible with", in the third line from the bottom of Mr Swinney's motion, with "accompanied by".

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Labour 10:43, 25 October 2001

Barely six weeks have passed since the events of 11 September. Already the world is different. Since the horror of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington we have seen the painstaking diplomatic efforts to build an international coalition against terrorism and an international consensus on the way ahead. We have seen Governments around the world take action to thwart the terrorists' activities and to protect their citizens. In the past two weeks, we have seen the powerful international coalition begin to take direct action to bring Osama bin Laden and the al-Qa'ida network to justice.

Throughout Scotland—as elsewhere in the world—people have recognised the gravity and complexity of the situation and the need for measured, determined and broadly based responses—diplomatic, political, military and humanitarian. As all of us know, foreign relations and defence are not matters within the powers of the Scottish Parliament. That is our constitutional settlement. It is for Westminster, the UK Government and the Prime Minister to decide on Britain's part in the on-going campaign. Scottish MPs have played their full part in that process.

To echo John Swinney's sentiments, this is a time for solidarity and absolute unity. I want to express our support for the Government and the Prime Minister in the range of actions that they have taken since 11 September as part of the international coalition against terrorism. Those responsible for the attacks on 11 September must be brought to justice and terrorism must be eliminated as a force in international affairs.

As has been alluded to, the current international situation raises issues that directly challenge us here in the Scottish Parliament and in the Scottish Executive: the potential threat to the security of the people of Scotland; the impact of events since 11 September on the Scottish economy; and the potential effect on the good relations among the ethnic and religious communities of Scotland. Our discussion of those issues today should be a time for unity, a time for us to come together to recognise the challenges that we face and a time to address those challenges in a spirit of consensus and determination.

It is, of course, the duty of an Opposition to oppose, but in Government too there are duties. Foremost among them is our duty to ensure domestic security, as far as that is within our power. While there is no evidence of a specific threat to Scotland from terrorism, the clear message that I want to convey today is that we are doing everything possible to ensure that we are prepared for any eventuality. That is why I took the opportunity to brief David McLetchie and John Swinney on the current situation—I hope that that was of help to them, because this is an issue that we all want to share in and be party to. Our approach means that the public can proceed with their normal day-to-day lives with assurance, but that does not mean that we should not remain vigilant.

The Executive and other authorities and agencies are taking action. The police have set up their own centre to improve the security and intelligence response throughout Scotland, with direct links with law enforcement agencies throughout the rest of the United Kingdom. I am confident that that will enable the police to take the necessary steps to address any increased threat.

Last Friday, the Scottish emergencies co-ordination committee met to review arrangements throughout the emergency services and other key organisations such as the health service and local authorities. That gave all those involved a chance to review the arrangements that are in place and to consider the need for any further action. New guidance on dealing with the threat of chemical, biological and radiological substances has been issued and specific guidance on anthrax has been provided to all GPs. Local emergency planning networks have been on alert since the events of 11 September. Scottish ministers have attended meetings of the civil contingencies committee, which is co-ordinating the UK response. I am sure that the whole Parliament would join me in paying tribute to all the agencies that are working to ensure that Scotland has the right level of preparedness for any contingency. Much of the work has been done quietly and away from the public gaze, but it is no less important to our country for that.

The Executive has been in discussion with the UK Government about the anti-terrorism measures that are being developed for consideration by the UK Parliament. Final decisions have yet to be taken and we stay in close contact with the Home Office to ensure that those measures are applied consistently throughout the UK, either through legislation here or by means of the Sewel convention.

The impact of recent events on the Scottish economy has rightly received much attention. The terrorist attacks came against the background of an already deteriorating global economic environment. As a global player, Scotland is not immune from global events. We recognise that, in some sectors, the short-term consequences will be serious. We must all have the confidence and the resolve to see our economic strategy through. It would be a completely unacceptable concession to terrorism if we were to allow the atrocities to undermine that confidence. If we do nothing else today, we must promote a positive message, in difficult times, that it should be business as usual. We should encourage people to travel and to fly. We acknowledge that there will be apprehension and misgivings, but if we stop doing the things that we have done for years we will concede to terrorism. That simply must not happen. We must not be distracted from our goal of creating a competitive, knowledge-based economy, building on Scotland's resources and skills, ensuring the conditions for Scotland's future prosperity and allowing us better to withstand short-term shocks.

The chief economic adviser's report, "Building for the Long Term: Understanding the Impact of the Terrorist Attacks on the Scottish Economy", confirmed that our strategy remains the right one. The foundations are sound and the work goes on. Yesterday, I met representatives of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, who suggested to me and to the Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning that we should bring together trade union leaders and the business community to consider the way forward, so that we can build on the solidarity and consensus that are required to make progress.

This is also a time for people in Scotland of all faiths and beliefs to recognise their common ground. Tomorrow, I will be visiting the Central Mosque in Glasgow, because members of the Muslim community in Scotland need to be reassured that the Executive and, I am sure, everyone in this Parliament are sensitive to their concerns and committed to their safety. We have practical measures in mind. Tomorrow, I will announce details of enhanced security for mosques in Scotland. That is important. We have said many reassuring words, and that is right, but we can make tangible progress in ensuring that those who want to inflict damage and vandalism on our mosques will be tackled.

I have also made it clear that we share the Government's determination to protect people from attacks based on religious hostility. In a civilised society, such behaviour is beyond the totally unacceptable. At UK level, the Home Secretary has made specific proposals, including the creation of a new offence of incitement to religious hatred and an aggravation of religious motivation that would allow a court to impose a heavier sentence for other offences such as breach of the peace. It is no secret that we have distinctive problems of our own, so we will take distinctive action and will make our position known to the Parliament soon.

I am sure that everyone in the Parliament recognises the need for effective humanitarian help for the innocent Afghan population. We watch the television and we hear the news stories. Being moved by the scenes that we see is not a party issue. As the Prime Minister has made clear, the humanitarian effort is just as important as the military one. It is an essential part of the world response to world terrorism. It is worth stressing that, as the Prime Minister has also made clear, the principal problem facing aid convoys going into Afghanistan is not the military effort of the coalition, but the activities of the Taliban.

In response to the question from Annabelle Ewing yesterday, to which John Swinney alluded, the Prime Minister said:

"I hope that the hon. Lady will accept my commitment to do all that we can to make sure that the humanitarian process is taken forward and will join me in calling on the Taliban regime to facilitate aid going into Afghanistan".—[Official Report, House of Commons, 24 October 2001; Vol 373, c 277.]

That is a vital point, and I hope that it is supported by every one of my colleagues in the chamber.

The UK Government has already set aside £40 million for humanitarian relief for Afghanistan. We all know that the Scots are generous people and that members of the public in Scotland will show their humanity, concern and sympathy for the ordinary people of Afghanistan in their response to appeals to help them. I say to John Swinney and to Jim Wallace, who is not yet in the chamber, that we want to support that initiative. It is a time for care and compassion. If Scotland can be encouraged to give more, we will certainly want to play a part in that, along with John Swinney and David McLetchie.

We look forward to a positive and constructive debate that reflects the spirit of unity among the members of the Parliament and the wide support of the people for UK and world action in the current crisis. I am mindful that there are sensitivities at a time such as this and I remind colleagues that we live in a dangerous world. There may be men and women of our armed forces in and around Afghanistan. Some of them will be putting their lives on the front line and it is not idle emotion to say that they expect from the people of the United Kingdom, from the people of Scotland and from democratic forums such as this Parliament the maximum support so that they can do their work on behalf of the nation with the greatest confidence.

I move amendment S1M-2347.3, to leave out "compatible with" and insert "accompanied by".

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative 10:55, 25 October 2001

In the debate on the current international situation, there is a danger that we may lose sight of the fact that all this started with an act of war perpetrated against the people of the United States of America, which resulted in some 7,000 deaths, by a group of fanatics who use religion as a justification for their murderous acts.

If this new outbreak of barbarity is to be defeated, it is essential that the civilised world unite against the scourge that is terrorism. That is why the Conservative party has continued to support the United Kingdom Government and the Government of the United States in building and maintaining an international coalition for that purpose. It is also why we have lodged our amendment, which aims to bring clarity to the Scottish National Party motion and to enable the Parliament to express unequivocally its support for the actions that Her Majesty's Government is taking on behalf of our people, and not the limited, conditional and qualified support advocated by Mr Swinney.

The key objectives are to end the bin Laden organisation's reign of terror and to replace the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which gives that organisation succour. To those who are rightly concerned about the suffering of the Afghan people, I say that the best way of relieving that suffering is to install a civil administration in Afghanistan that commands widespread support and with which Governments and international aid agencies can work to deal with refugee problems and the threat of widespread famine. It has been noted on a number of occasions that, during the recent conflict, the Taliban regime has been one of the major obstacles to an effective humanitarian effort.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Given the points that Mr McLetchie has made about the Taliban regime, does he now accept that the previous Conservative Government and the Labour Government elected in 1997 were wrong to support the Taliban Government?

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

I am here to debate the here and now, not past history. I do not deny that, in the complex world of international relationships, alliances, regimes and support for those regimes change. I see the world as the complex place that it is, not in the black-and-white fashion that Mr Sheridan constantly does.

There is a fundamental difference of values between civilised nations and the terrorists. Those who cast doubt on the wisdom of the present actions need to recognise that. We see humanity and concern for our fellow men as a strength of our societies, whereas people such as bin Laden and his followers see them as a weakness to be exploited. Lenin characterised the doubters, faint-hearts and apologists as "useful idiots" to be exploited in pursuit of the establishment of a totalitarian communist regime. I am in no doubt that Osama bin Laden takes an equally contemptuous view of their modern-day equivalents.

In what I have no doubt is a just war, we should not try to conceal the consequences of the actions that we have undertaken. We should not hide behind euphemisms such as "collateral damage". Those are the sort of weasel words that we hear far too often in the Parliament and they are designed to obscure the truth. We should treat the public with the respect that they deserve. They know that, when the military speaks of collateral damage, it means that innocent civilians have been killed. The use of such language only raises the suspicion that we lack confidence in the justice of our cause. Although any civilian casualties are, of course, a matter for profound regret, there never has been and never will be a war that avoids the loss of innocent civilian lives. We have to be open about that and deal with it in a mature way, recognising that it is a factor when our leaders have to take tough and difficult decisions. I believe that the public would welcome and respect such honesty.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

On the war being just, does Mr McLetchie agree that, if it is just for us to pursue Osama bin Laden in a way that affects innocent women and children—as he has admitted—it is also just for the representatives of those innocent women and children to pursue a war against us? If we dignify a punishment campaign by calling it a war, I presume that action can justly be taken against us.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

I do not see the equivalence between the position of the coalition and that of others.

The SNP's attitude to the war is clear—or obscure—from its motion and its leader's recent statements, which are ambiguous to say the least. The SNP seems to be moving towards calling for military action to be scaled down on the basis that that will somehow help the humanitarian effort. I have no doubt that the SNP is well-intentioned, but its sentiments are misguided. The two approaches are not mutually exclusive. As I have said, the best way to help people in Afghanistan is to remove the Taliban regime, which bears significant responsibility for the impoverishment of the Afghan people. Once the regime is removed, it is vital that we do everything that we can to help to restore the norms and values of a free society to that war-torn country, which already had 3.5 million refugees in adjoining nation states before September 11.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

I will not take an intervention, Robin.

The suspicion remains that Mr Swinney's ambiguous position is a result of pressures in his party. A number of his colleagues share the anti-war sentiments of Mr Sheridan and his party. The SNP's motion is about holding the SNP together rather than anything else.

It is vital that we do not fall for the propaganda of bin Laden and the Taliban regime. That would be the surest way of undermining the international coalition, which has been painstakingly built up.

Leaving aside the SNP's tortuous efforts at a foreign policy, which are best ignored, I should add, in fairness, that the motion notes the impact of the current situation on domestic security and on our economy. I appreciate the First Minister's remarks on domestic security and his courteous briefing to me and Mr Swinney yesterday afternoon.

Current events have had an impact on our economy. The First Minister acknowledged that the downturn in the economy preceded the terrorist attacks of 11 September. Undoubtedly, problems have been exacerbated and we should continue to ensure that the Government and the Scottish Executive take the appropriate policy measures to tackle the economic problems that, as has been said, were already present and have been made more difficult. As I have said several times, we should seriously consider reducing the burdens of tax and regulation on businesses and we should start by considering business rates in Scotland.

I am happy to accept the SNP's motion in so far as it applies to the economy and domestic security. I also welcome its acknowledgement of the impact of the current situation on the Muslim community in Scotland. I have said that those who perpetrated the appalling acts of terrorism hijacked the Muslim religion and that they are blasphemers. I utterly condemn anyone who seeks to use the current situation as an excuse to attack members of the Muslim community in Scotland. An ignorant few have done so and we must unite to show that mindless bigotry has no place in our society.

In the current circumstances, it is not surprising that there have been calls for new legislation to deal with incitement to religious hatred. It is understandable that many members feel that a symbolic statement or action is necessary to demonstrate our revulsion at such incitement. However, we should be wary about rushing headlong into ill-conceived legislation in response to a perceived public demand for something to be done. Recent history has taught us that legislation passed in haste has a tendency to make notoriously bad law. In this instance, legislation could be tokenism at best and counterproductive at worst.

All members want to protect Muslims in Scotland from attack. The question is whether a specific offence of incitement to religious hatred is the best way of achieving that. There is a danger that a profusion of such offences would threaten freedom of speech, which is a fundamental value that no member should want to undermine.

We should remember that freedom of speech means freedom to say things that may cause offence to others. The correct response to such comments is not always to legislate against them as crimes. Where would the legislation stop? Such comments should be exposed and opposed in open debate.

Before we consider passing legislation and creating a brand-new crime, we must examine our existing laws and our courts' sentencing policies to find out whether they are adequate. I welcome the First Minister's cautious and considered remarks on the subject.

All members want to rid the country of bigotry in all its forms, but we should not leap to the automatic conclusion that new legislation is the way in which to achieve that. Ironically, such legislation could be used against the Muslim community in Scotland and so further divide our religious and ethnic communities rather than promote greater tolerance.

I move amendment S1M-2347.2, to leave out from "the international" to end and insert:

"Her Majesty's Government in its aim of building the widest possible international coalition, with maximum United Nations support; welcomes NATO's decision to invoke Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty and its role in the international effort; agrees that the immediate objectives of the campaign should be to prevent Osama Bin Laden and the Al Qa'ida network from posing a continuing terrorist threat and, to this end, to ensure that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan ceases to harbour and sustain international terrorism and is replaced by a broadly-based government which is representative of all groups in the country; acknowledges that the attainment of these objectives requires the deployment of all available means, including taking steps to deal with the humanitarian crisis confronting Afghanistan and believes that halting the military action in Afghanistan at this time would hinder the achievement of these objectives and would simply prolong the suffering of people in Afghanistan."

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent 11:06, 25 October 2001

I welcome the opportunity for the Scottish Parliament to debate the international situation. That opportunity was denied it in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September.

We must unequivocally condemn such atrocities and express our condolences and support to the victims and their families. We must use every legitimate means to bring to justice those who are responsible for such atrocities. However, the response of the international community must be based not on vengeance or senseless retaliation, but on respect for the rule of international law and human rights—especially the right to life of innocent people.

An innocent life in Afghanistan is just as valuable as an innocent life in Scotland, New York or Washington DC. I fear that that is not adequately recognised by those who are responsible for the military attacks on Afghanistan. Those attacks have not been authorised by the United Nations; under international law, they are at least questionable and probably illegal.

Anyone with respect for democracy must abhor the Taliban regime—I agree with David McLetchie on that. The Taliban regime has a deplorable record in relation to the violation of Afghans' human rights. However, David McLetchie should remember that the United States Government helped to create the monster by giving the Taliban funding and weapons. That enabled the Taliban to take power in Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan did not elect the Taliban and do not deserve to be punished for the Taliban's misdeeds.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Conservative

Did not the Soviet Union create the mujahedin and the Taliban? The Soviet Union drove in as a military dictator and took over Afghanistan. It caused the split and fragmentation that led to those groups.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

I am not a defender of the Soviet Union—I never have been. No member should try to rewrite history. The Central Intelligence Agency's obsession with anti-communism led to the creation of the Taliban and its taking power in Afghanistan.

There is already evidence that many innocent people have been killed in Afghanistan as a result of the aerial bombing. Loss of innocent lives can make the entire situation worse instead of better. Such military action could be counterproductive in our campaign against terrorism. If we are to defeat terrorism, we must not alienate the people whom we need on our side. If we alienate those people, there is a danger that some of them may become terrorists or supporters of terrorist organisations. I am sure that we can all think of examples where the creation of only one martyr has led to the recruitment of an army for a terrorist organisation.

John Swinney's motion and my amendment refer to the need for an effective humanitarian operation to assist the innocent population of Afghanistan, particularly, I would say, those who are the victims of the current military action. Even before the recent military action, the people of Afghanistan faced appalling disaster. Millions of people in that country are living in abject poverty. A quarter of the children in Afghanistan are doomed to die before reaching the age of five. The United Nations has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe with 5 million people being threatened with death. Most of those are innocent women and children. Five million people—that is approximately the entire population of Scotland.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I recognise the seriousness of Dennis Canavan's point. However, does he not agree that the situation arises from years of misgovernment in Afghanistan and from other natural factors and that it cannot be attributed solely to any bombing campaign?

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

I did not say that it could. The disaster is not a recent happening; even before the recent military action there was disaster in Afghanistan. However, the military action is making things worse instead of better. The UN, Oxfam and other non-governmental organisations are reporting daily that the food convoys cannot get through because of the military action. However, a British Prime Minister is taking to the world stage and appearing as an apologist for George W Bush with a bomb in one hand and a loaf of bread in the other.

The United States Congress has recently voted £25 billion for the military action in Afghanistan. If we add the contributions from other countries, including the United Kingdom, the cost of the conflict is already more than the annual budget of the Scottish Executive. That is a waste of valuable resources that could be used to eradicate poverty in Afghanistan and other countries.

The Scottish Parliament now has an opportunity—one that was denied to our colleagues at Westminster—to send a strong message to the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States that the military action in Afghanistan is ill-conceived and unjustified and that it must stop.

In the campaign against international terrorism, it would be foolish for any of us to imagine that there are easy, quick-fix solutions. We cannot have a credible campaign against terrorism by subjecting the victims of terrorism to more terror. We cannot keep killing people in an effort to teach people that killing people is wrong. We cannot cure the world's ills by military might alone. A genuine lasting peace, which we all want, must be based on justice.

We must all work harder, in our own countries and in the international community, to ensure that terrorists and potential terrorists do not get the support, the weapons and the opportunities to commit their evil deeds. We must work even harder to eradicate poverty and injustice throughout the world. I ask the Parliament to support my amendment.

I move amendment S1M-2347.1, to leave out from "and agrees" to end and insert:

"but agrees that any measure to that effect must be based on the rule of international law and respect for human rights, particularly innocent people's right to life, and therefore calls for an end to the current military action in Afghanistan and for an effective humanitarian operation to meet the desperate needs of the innocent Afghan population."

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I thank Mr Canavan for coming in under his allotted time.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat 11:15, 25 October 2001

The Liberal Democrats support the motion, which recognises the real impact of the current international crisis on our domestic affairs, highlights the importance of an effective humanitarian operation in Afghanistan and supports the use of force that is designed to bring the terrorists of al-Qa'ida to justice.

The Liberal Democrats share the UK Government's resolve to destroy the terrorist network of al-Qa'ida and continue to support a robust and effective response to the atrocities of 11 September, including the use of military force. We regret that the crisis could not have been resolved peacefully but, given the obstinacy of the Taliban Government, there was no other option. The Taliban regime harbours bin Laden in defiance of world opinion and he fosters terrorism in the face of global decency. That is why the actions that have been taken so far are both just and proportionate.

The air-strikes that are aimed against the military targets of the Taliban and the al-Qa'ida organisation are designed to ensure that civilian casualties are minimised as far as humanly possible. That is in sharp contrast to the actions of those who flew aircraft into the twin towers on 11 September, whose purpose was to cause the maximum number of civilian casualties. I say to members such as Dennis Canavan and Margo MacDonald that the acts of 11 September and the current campaign in Afghanistan are certainly not morally equivalent.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

I think that I speak for Dennis Canavan when I say that neither he nor I would attempt to demonstrate such moral equivalence. Both of us say that neither action—the killing of innocents in America and the killing of innocents in Afghanistan—can be morally justified.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I thank Margo MacDonald for that point of clarification. She takes a pacifist view, which is perfectly honourable, but I do not share it.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat


As the air-strikes continue, as they must, there will soon come a time when we must commit ground forces to complete the task because—

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Will the member take an intervention on air-strikes?

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I will give way in a moment.

Air power alone will never achieve the objectives of rooting out the terrorists of al-Qa'ida. I ask all members, including Tommy Sheridan, to remember that, at this very moment, British Army and Royal Marine specialist ground forces could be being deployed within Afghanistan and may soon be risking their lives in military operations on the ground. It is essential that the support of the Parliament and of the people of Scotland is given to our service personnel, who will be putting their lives on the line for the greater good.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Mike Rumbles believes that the air-strikes must continue. The US estimated that Afghanistan had between three and 16 planes and said that it had achieved air superiority after three days of air-strikes. It has admitted bombing a village, a UN aid centre and a hospital. When does Mike Rumbles think that the air-strikes will stop?

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I hope that the air-strikes will stop as soon as possible, but there are military reasons why they must continue. As we know, the air-strikes are currently focused on the Taliban's front-line troops, which face the northern alliance.

I am saying—and we must all realise this—that it is only a matter of time before specialist forces are deployed on the ground. We must give our forces the necessary support, because they are operating on our behalf.

Many members have made this important point: the moral authority for our military action will be severely undermined unless we take every possible step to maximise the humanitarian relief effort. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans will perish if aid does not reach them before winter sets in. The Liberal Democrats believe that the international community must explore every practical possibility for delivering that aid, including perhaps the creation of safe corridors in Afghanistan under United Nations supervision.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I am interested in the point that Mr Rumbles is developing, because it gets to the heart of the debate and the disagreement in Parliament. I am becoming increasingly concerned that the compatibility between the military operation and the humanitarian aid operation cannot be sustained. Evidence is mounting of the failure to get humanitarian aid to the people who require it. Does he agree that that is the cause of the tension in the debate? I have made several suggestions about how the situation can be resolved by ensuring that humanitarian aid is brought forward. When should the military action be configured to support the humanitarian effort?

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I agree with Mr Swinney: we must maintain the military action against the Taliban regime and the al-Qa'ida organisation, but at the same time ensure that we make maximum effort to get humanitarian aid in. It is helpful that the focus of military action has switched to the units of the Taliban regime ranged against the northern alliance in northern Afghanistan. I hope that that raises the possibility that more humanitarian aid will get through.

On the domestic issues that face us as a result of the crisis, the Scottish Executive—in co-operation with the UK Government—must ensure that all the security and emergency plans and procedures that are necessary for civil defence in Scotland are in place. I am pleased to hear the First Minister say that the Executive has been doing that; I commend the Executive for that.

There is no doubt that the well-being of our domestic economy has been hit by the crisis. This would be a welcome moment for the Scottish Executive to consider enhancing the role of the Government in, for example, the tourism industry of Scotland, perhaps through the creation of a dedicated post of minister for tourism. I also suggest to the parliamentary business managers that a parliamentary committee for tourism could be set up. Those are only ideas, but they might help an industry that is being particularly hit. They would be welcome, practical steps for the industry at a time when it could do with more support from the devolved Government and Parliament of Scotland.

Last but by no means least—I am conscious of the time and want to let other members speak—I believe that the Parliament must send a clear message to the Muslim community and the wider communities of Scotland that any attempt to stir up bigotry over religious differences will not be tolerated. That is why I was so pleased to see Donald Gorrie's timely consultation document on his proposals for a bill to protect people from sectarianism and racial hatred. The proposals do not create a new offence; they would make sectarian behaviour and religious bigotry an aggravation of a current offence. I hope that they meet with success.

The Liberal Democrats support the motion. We share the Government's resolve to combat terrorism by effective and proportionate military action. We want more to be done to improve the delivery of humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan and we want specific measures to be taken to assist our domestic economy, especially the tourism sector.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

We are due to begin the wind-up speeches at 12 o'clock. No fewer than 13 members would like to speak, which is clearly impossible unless members can keep speeches to about three minutes. I may delay the start of the wind-up speeches for a few minutes, but I cannot do so for much longer than that.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party 11:24, 25 October 2001

For 12 years I worked for the victims of war and disaster in some of the poorest countries in the world, including Afghanistan. I should declare that I still do the occasional consultancy for international humanitarian agencies.

The organisation for which I worked, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, has a specific legal mandate as a neutral, impartial and independent intermediary in conflict situations. It is not a pacifist organisation. Its sole purpose is to bring humanity to those caught in the crossfire. My experience with the Red Cross has shaped how I feel and think about the current conflict.

Thousands of innocent people were murdered in New York and Washington. I have no doubt that al-Qa'ida and the other forces of darkness would like to murder many more. I am clear that the USA and the UK have the right of response under article 51 of the UN charter.

The question is, what sort of response? After all the Anglo-American rhetoric in recent weeks, it is instructive to listen to our European allies and the tone of what they are saying. They have consistently argued for a proper balance between the military and humanitarian elements of any response.

Last night the international development group of the Parliament convened a meeting addressed by senior representatives of the Red Cross, Oxfam and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. There was standing room only, with 27 MSPs present. The speakers were asked what the Scottish Parliament could do. Michael Kingsley-Nyinah of the UNHCR answered for all of them. He stated:

"Be the voice of conscience—get military and humanitarian action back in balance".

I have read the sitreps—the agencies' internal situation reports from the field. The volume of food is not the problem. Apart from the food that is already there, there will be 65,000 tonnes on the frontiers within a fortnight, a further 100,000 tonnes is en route and there will be more to come.

The problem is distribution. Of course, the bombing has disrupted that, as the snows will do in a few weeks. The Taliban have also disrupted and destroyed the food chain. They have seized the World Food Programme's warehouses in Kabul and Kandahar to feed their troops. Their forces, aided by those of al-Qa'ida and rogue armed elements, are deliberately destroying what humanitarian resources are left in the country. Consider some of the sitreps. They state that an NGO de-mining team in Kandahar was badly beaten—that was last week—and that the Taliban removed seven ambulances, six pick-up trucks and six cargo trucks. The International Organization for Migration offices were trashed and all vehicles were stolen. The Kandahar and Mazar-i-Sharif offices of Médecins Sans Frontières were looted, vehicles were stolen and staff were beaten. Can anyone blame the private truckers who move the food stocks and whose sole source of livelihood is their vehicle, for refusing to go into that situation?

There are no moral certainties in time of war. I fully support the right of Dennis Canavan and others to call for an immediate stop to the bombing, but in all conscience I believe that they are wrong. What the Taliban are doing to food supplies is one reason. Another is that, perversely, military activity may be the key to humanitarian relief. When Mazar-i-Sharif falls, the road to the south will be open and it should not be too long before humanitarian corridors, free of mines and fighting, can be opened elsewhere.

Poverty fuels terrorism. When people have no food, no hope, no dreams and no future, they turn to false gods. Those are the seas in which the terrorist swims.

If the British Prime Minister is serious about a global crusade there must be more than fine words—I support the work already done by Clare Short. A thousand million people in the world live below the poverty line. Something must be done about that. It would require immediate action to relieve debt and to open world trade to the poor, and a commitment to secure justice for the people of Palestine. If there is no peace and security for them, there is no peace and security anywhere.

There has been talk of a Scottish appeal for the victims of conflict. Who should that be for? It should be for the poorest of the poor: the Afghan women. Under Taliban diktat, no Afghan woman can be seen by a male doctor—the health record is appalling. Many women have been damaged by war mines in a country which has 12 million of them. Through our Scottish agencies, let us show solidarity with the Afghan women who are victims of war.

Finally, in the words that Michael Kingsley-Nyinah of the UNHCR spoke last night, let this Parliament be "the voice of conscience" that calls for military and humanitarian action to be put back in balance.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour 11:30, 25 October 2001

I welcome George Reid's constructive and well-informed speech. However, I am depressed by the terms of a motion that seems to support the desire for justice, but seems reluctant to support the means of achieving that justice. I am afraid that that fundamental confusion came through even more as John Swinney continued with his speech. That said, I am thankful that the SNP is not following its sister party in Wales in calling for negotiations with the Taliban regime.

Scotland's role in the world is inextricably linked with its role in the UK. I say that with the benefit of some experience as a member of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee. Furthermore, I delivered humanitarian aid to Muslim communities in central Bosnia during the conflict there.

The hard fact is that tyrants, aggressors and terrorists are not influenced by pious resolutions in small parliaments. Sometimes, aggression has to be confronted by effective force to make it possible to help a greater number of innocent victims. Although that is a difficult fact to face, we should not fudge it.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Does that explain why Israel has ignored UN resolutions 242 and 338 for the best part of 50 years?

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour

Israel has ignored many resolutions. I agree with Tommy Sheridan, George Reid and colleagues in my own party that part of this international problem is the failure to address the legitimate rights of the people of Palestine. However, I stick to my fundamental point.

Surely the key point is that the UK is a prominent and active member of NATO, with effective, professional armed forces that are equipped and trained to engage in peace-keeping, peace-making and—if necessary—high-intensity warfare. Scottish servicemen and servicewomen, including infantrymen from the Royal Scots Regiment, made a very significant contribution to the defeat of Saddam Hussein in Kuwait. I saw them there. I also had some interesting experiences with Scottish service personnel when they helped to defeat the ethnic cleansers in Yugoslavia.

Our servicemen and servicewomen made a real difference in those conflicts. They saved tens of thousands of lives and, crucially, made it possible to deliver desperately needed aid supplies. It is worth mentioning that our forces have experience of providing direct support to the Department for International Development and humanitarian non-governmental organisations in delivering quality aid where it is needed. Very soon, they should be able to undertake the same task in Afghanistan. When they do, they will do it well and with the benefit of much experience.

Our ability to contribute to such vital operations would be drastically degraded if Scotland were not part of the UK. If I can borrow a phrase, it would be unpardonable folly to take Scottish servicemen out of Britain's armed forces and to extract Scotland's contribution from the excellent work of Clare Short's DfID.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour

Defence and overseas aid are two crucial examples of the advantages of the collective responsibility of the UK.

My instinct has always been to support the victims of tyranny and oppression. That is why I went to Bosnia; that is why I have always supported the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people; and that is why I think that it is right that British forces are being deployed to root out the evil that wiped out 7,000 innocent human lives on 11 September. I have complete confidence in the judgment of the UK Government and Parliament on the issue and strongly support the British service personnel who are engaged in this difficult and dangerous operation.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 11:34, 25 October 2001

Unlike John Home Robertson, I believe that it is vital for Scotland's voice to be heard in the current global circumstances. We should make our views known and take what action we can, most especially on humanitarian aid. However, the flip-side of the coin is equally important. As current global circumstances are having a significant and increasing effect in Scotland, it is important that we take cognisance of them and make appropriate adjustments in light of them. As other members have concentrated on the former point, I will concentrate on the latter.

What is the current situation? Job losses have risen and manufacturing exports have declined, and it is important to bear it in mind that both statistics predate 11 September. The problem is worse now than then. In manufacturing, further closures have been announced and diverse voices, from the director of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce to the Scottish leader of the engineering union, have warned of a crisis and called for action. The manufacturing sector was already suffering from the high level of the pound and high fuel costs.

What action have we seen so far from the Government? We have received only lectures to the effect that those who acknowledge the extent of the crisis are apparently talking us into a crisis. The Government should wake up. No matter how deep it buries its head in the sand, the problem will not go away. The First Minister's suggestion of convening a meeting is no solution. The first priority must be to acknowledge the severity of the situation and to plan and prepare accordingly. With a pre-budget statement around the corner, surely now—if not before—is the time to make it clear that the high pound and high fuel costs are crippling our economy.

The problem is not confined to manufacturing. The tourism and aviation industries are facing meltdown. Since 11 September, the Air Canada service has been withdrawn, the American Airlines service has been reduced and Continental Airways' proposed service into Edinburgh has been abandoned. All that has happened despite the knowledge that the value to the Scottish economy of tourism from America dwarfs the losses that we have already sustained through foot-and-mouth disease. Our tourism industry was in difficulty before both the foot-and-mouth crisis and 11 September. The high pound and high fuel costs made Scotland a high-cost destination; now we face devastation through the loss of the north American market.

It is not so long ago that the Executive was selling that market as the saviour of our tourism industry. Clearly it could not have anticipated the 11 September tragedy. However, why were all our tourism eggs put in one basket? I will tell the chamber why. Because of the exchange rate, it was easier to sell Scotland as a destination to the north American market instead of to the UK and European markets. Now we have been told that there will be an upweighting of the marketing budget to promote Scotland in the UK and Europe. That is simply a reallocation of resources that were already too meagre and to a great extent had already been spent or committed.

What about the proposal to promote Scotland in the UK and European markets? Our major competitor is Ireland, which outspends Scotland by more than 100 per cent in television marketing. London, which is the most populous place in the whole of the UK, spends £1 million, while the Executive, through its quango, spends not one penny.

As for the Highlands and Islands, when Ryanair discussed opening up the Highlands—beyond simply the long haul up the A9—and offering destinations to UK and Europe, what did we find? We found an airport authority, wholly owned by the Executive, which was wholly indifferent to the plight of the Highlands. That is just not good enough.

What happened on 11 September will live with us as not only a human tragedy, but an economic one. That is why the SNP has raised this debate; and it is for that and the other reasons that I have outlined that the Executive must take action now.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Conservative 11:38, 25 October 2001

First, I want to pay tribute to the men and women of our armed forces who are right now putting themselves in the front line in the fight against terrorism. All our thoughts are with them and their families, many of whom live in Scotland.

Although there is much to commend in the SNP's motion, I want to pick up John Home Robertson's point that there is much that it does not say. For example, we must question the fact that although the motion mentions support for "the international community's desire" for justice, it does not mention the explicit intention behind that desire.

The First Minister came to the debate with the right attitude. He spoke predominantly about what the Scottish Parliament can do to better Muslims' lives and to protect them from sectarian attacks and to safeguard Scotland's men and women from terrorist attack and the chemical and biological threats. That is what this Parliament can do.

We should also remind ourselves that there are 72 MPs from Scotland at Westminster and that they are not, as John Swinney suggests, London politicians. I am not sure that he would want to call the previous leader of the SNP a London politician. Those MPs are having the debate down there, and we should be debating how we can safeguard our society from the type of terrorist attack that killed 7,000 innocent people in New York and Washington, some of whom were from Scotland and the United Kingdom.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

Will the member take on board the fact that the members who think it relevant to debate the matter here and who give voice to what we feel are concentrating mainly on the moral and humanitarian aspects of the situation, and that morality and humanity know no artificial divisions between reserved and devolved powers?

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Conservative

They do not know any boundaries. However, we should be debating what this Parliament can achieve and leave it to others elsewhere to discuss what can be achieved there and the morality of the situation.

If the question is asked whether we have cause for the attack, we will answer that we have cause. Terrorism must be fought wherever it is. Terrorism, bullying and the use of fear to get one's way when no society wants that is wrong. We have a right, as the United Nations confirmed on 12 September and 28 September, to take action and defend ourselves. We have a right to make war on those terrorists who seek to limit our freedom. That is a just cause and I will go wherever necessary. I will not stop at Afghanistan. Wherever men and women bully people and use fear as their weapon, we must stand up to them.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Conservative

No, I will give way in a minute. Sit down and listen.

I have been in war zones and have seen people—from the third world and all over—fleeing in fear. I have seen people in Northern Ireland suffering from fear of terrorism. When I saw the fear in their eyes, frightened because their children had been bullied, obliterated, kidnapped or made into slaves by terrorist regimes, it gave me the passion to stand up and do something about it. That is what it is about—standing up and doing something about it.

The biggest obstacle to getting aid to the Afghan people is the Taliban regime. As George Reid correctly pointed out, we must first remove that regime in parts of Afghanistan if we are to deliver aid to those who need it. They need a lot of aid and it would be a crime to abandon Afghanistan once we have removed the bin Ladens of this world and the terrorist network. We should press for as much money and aid as possible to be sent to those countries, to ensure that those people do not despair. We should be there to ensure that terrorism does not raise its ugly head. We must take action to remove the terrorist regime.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Conservative

I was going to address the SNP's defence policy, but that would mean that I would have to finish, because that was it.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Conservative

I ask members to support the motion.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party 11:43, 25 October 2001

To John Home Robertson and to Ben Wallace, I say that "man's inhumanity to man" is not a reserved matter—it is something that the Parliament is entitled to discuss. We live in a global society, not a kailyard called Scotland. It is the right of the Parliament, of every individual in Scotland and of every parliament throughout the world to discuss this global affair.

I have three points to emphasise. The first relates to the geopolitics of the situation and has been referred to already. If we are seeking peace in the world and an end to terrorism once and for all, a key ingredient of that will be to deal with the situation in the middle east and to bring to an end the willy-nilly breach of international law by the state of Israel. Nothing does more to spread terrorism and the kind of problems that we have had than the present activities of the Israeli state.

My second point relates to geo-economics. Naturally, we are concerned by the impact of terrorism on Scotland, the UK, Europe and north America. However, according to the World Bank, the most negative impact of the recent events will not be on Scotland, the UK, Canada or America, but on Africa. In sub-Saharan Africa, 46 per cent of the billion people to whom George Reid referred live on less than US$1 a day. Half their aid has been cut off in recent years and the big worry in Africa—especially in countries such as Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and the Sudan—is that international attention is now, understandably, focused on the middle east and Asia. The worry in Africa is that the people there will now be ignored completely and that, in trying to solve one crisis, we will create another deeper crisis in Africa. We must take an internationalist position. That is why John Swinney's initiative to help to boost aid from Scotland and to encourage political leaders to put their hands deep into their pockets for the international community is to be commended. I hope that it will be taken up as an exemplar by other parts of the UK and Europe.

My third point is that we should recognise the dire humanitarian situation in Afghanistan—a country with a population of about 21 million people, 25 per cent of whom are already refugees in Pakistan, Iran and the other three "stans" that surround Afghanistan. Many Afghans are also in effect refugees in their own country. We owe it to them and to the humanitarian principles on which the UN was founded to put our hands in our pockets and do everything that we can to save them from the annihilation and starvation that they are facing. We heard last night that Oxfam needs $50 million to address the problem, but that it has been able to raise only $31 million. Let the nation of Scotland fill that gap of $19 million to the best of our ability, along with others in Europe. We are a rich country; it is high time that we put our hands in our pockets to demonstrate our humanity and our belief that those people be given the kind of treatment that they deserve.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour 11:48, 25 October 2001

The Parliament does not often hear speeches from members that can properly inform, persuade and make us think again. However, we heard a profound speech from George Reid that was extremely illuminating and which will make some people stop to think carefully.

The world was obviously shocked by the events in America on 11 September. With the shock and the grief has come understandable anger. Throughout the world, the clear message has been given that those who are responsible must be brought to justice. It is to the credit of the Prime Minister and the British Government that the US Government was persuaded to think carefully before engaging in action. I hope that a sense of proportion will continue to prevail in the coming months.

As well as taking action to track down those who are responsible, politicians throughout the world must ensure that that action does not lead to further atrocities. We have seen that it is all too easy to start something that is difficult to finish. The Russians found that out to their cost in Afghanistan. The reaction against terrorists must not be allowed to develop into a wider war, but must be tempered by an effort to consider some of the real grievances and problems that exist throughout the world, which can be a breeding ground for fanatics who are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice.

We must also ensure that, in taking action, everything is done to protect the innocent people of Afghanistan who have suffered terribly over many years. Ordinary people in Afghanistan have had to endure suffering brought about not only by other Afghans, but by foreign powers playing global politics at the expense of the people of Afghanistan. Any action should ultimately ensure that the people of Afghanistan are freed from the shackles of oppression and are allowed to pursue their lives in peace and with stability in their country.

We have seen the evidence of the human cost of the Taliban regime: the starvation, the cruel oppression of women and the destruction of the infrastructure of Afghanistan—such as was left when the Taliban took over. It would appear that the protection of Osama bin Laden is a higher priority for the Taliban than the protection of the women and children of Afghanistan.

In recent weeks, we have seen human suffering in Afghanistan grow. Everything possible should be done to support those faced with starvation and disease. As George Reid and others were, I was shocked to hear last night from Oxfam representatives that the Taliban have begun to demand extortionate payments from World Food Programme convoys seeking to cross into Afghanistan. The donations that John Swinney is encouraging the people of Scotland to make should not end up lining the pockets of the Taliban.

The execution of military action is properly the reserve of Westminster. However, I hope that the Scottish Parliament can usefully spend its time in the coming months considering what we can legitimately do within our devolved powers. Whatever happens, let us resolve that justice, humanity and common sense guide us through the difficult period ahead.

Photo of Dr Winnie Ewing Dr Winnie Ewing Scottish National Party 11:52, 25 October 2001

In my life, I have been privileged to have been able to visit 28 third world countries as a member of the Lome delegation from Europe. Most, although not all, were in Africa. I have seen enormous refugee camps in Angola, Ethiopia and on the border of Somalia and I will never forget those experiences. What shocked me were the outstretched hands.

How many of us meet the non-governmental organisation people who work in those places? They go on doing their jobs and live in terrible conditions, as George Reid mentioned, and half our population does not even know about the wonderful things that they do. Perhaps when the current situation is over we should give them an accolade, as the city of New York intends to do for its fire fighters. Those people do a wonderful job under conditions in which there are never enough administrators, nurses, doctors and so on. Many people in this country are willing to help and would go if we could channel them better.

The United Nations does a wonderful job, but it is overstretched. Why? It is because member states do not give—as recommended—1 per cent of their gross domestic product to the third world. The UK does not and America certainly does not. However, Denmark does and that is why I was not happy with the way in which John Home Robertson dismissed small countries. Many people in the NGOs thanked the small country of Denmark because it gives more than 1 per cent of its GDP to the third world. I hope that an independent Scotland would do likewise and not what most countries, including European countries, do.

I speak with heartfelt grief about what is going on. I am glad that Africa was mentioned because I have seen wonderful things and terrible things in Africa. The most wonderful thing that I saw was in sub-Saharan Mali. A man was digging furrows in a dead piece of land. I asked what he was doing and was told that he was waiting for the rain. The rain might never have come, but at least the land would have been ready for the rain if it had come. That is what the world is allowing to happen. Our world is wealthy, but we are allowing terrible tragedies to occur. People are starving and dying. As has been said, children are dying of starvation before they are five years old. Life expectancy in Afghanistan is only 40.

We must sort out this monster, Osama bin Laden, whom the west helped to create. I am a child of the second world war and my older brothers fought in it. How many people today remember the name of the Japanese general that sent in the suicide bombers? He is a footnote in history and that is what we must make of Osama bin Laden. One way or another, we must do that, which is why I support the motion. I am puzzled that the Scottish Executive bothered to lodge an amendment to replace the motion's word "compatible"—which was used yesterday in the House of Commons by my daughter—to "accompanied by". That is petty and stupid. We are all surely on the same wavelength on the matter. We all want military action to be compatible with the delivery of aid. That was the burden of John Swinney's speech.

The situation changes from day to day and we know that, when a country is fighting a war, it cannot inform the electorate of everything that happens. However, we are all terribly worried about aid getting through. We should ask the UN to take practical steps, such as sending trucks with armed guards to deliver the aid. We are united on this and it is a pity that we are involved in petty disagreements about issues that do not count.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP 11:57, 25 October 2001

The recommendation that Winnie Ewing mentioned that member states of the UN dedicate 1 per cent of their GDP to international aid was made in a report that was produced by Willy Brandt 20 years ago. I must point out that the UK does not dedicate even 0.7 per cent of our GDP to international aid. I hope that today's calls for aid are heard in Westminster and that we begin to dedicate a proper level of resources to aid.

The First Minister—who unfortunately has not been able to stay for the rest of the debate—called for unity. David McLetchie told us that the debate was not about history. As a socialist, I will express unity in terms of compassion for the loss of innocent lives on September 11 in New York and Washington. What I will not do as a socialist is express selective compassion or selective horror. David McLetchie is wrong: history is extremely important in today's debate. The debate is about world order—or world disorder, if we think about what the United States of America has been responsible for in its pursuit of global political, social and economic domination.

In May 1996, the then US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, appeared on the "60 Minutes" television show in America to talk about the situation in Iraq. The interviewer said that there had been reports that half a million children had died as a direct result of economic sanctions and that that was

"more children than died in Hiroshima".

The interviewer then asked:

"is the price worth it?"

Madeleine Albright replied:

"I think this is a very hard choice, but the price is worth it."

Half a million kids. There were kids in the public gallery earlier; I ask the chamber to reflect on the fact that kids in Scotland, kids in America, kids in Iraq and kids in Afghanistan are just that—kids. They are innocent and they do not deserve to die as a result of the sort of direct economic sanctions that America has imposed on Iraq and the bombing strikes that it has launched.

Before starting the air-strikes, Mr Bush said, "We're a peaceful nation." I need only mention China, Korea, Guatemala, Indonesia, the Belgian Congo, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Grenada, Libya, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Iraq, Bosnia, and Sudan. To that list I add Afghanistan. Since the second world war, America has been at war with or has bombed 20 nations. That is relevant to the debate. The terrorist networks that are springing up throughout the world are doing so on the basis of that history and in response to that type of oppression and injustice.

In the socialist camp, we have no time for terrorism. We believe in mass, organised action. We believe in disobedience if it is civil, but we are not going to be placed in camps by Mr Bush. David McLetchie said that the matter is complex—he is right. That is why the George Bush's nonsense—

"Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists"— is not good enough as far as the debate is concerned. I am not with the terrorists, nor am I with George Bush. I am with the forces of peace.

We need a genuine international court. We need justice to be pursued, not through killing more innocents, but through a credible inquiry that has the support of nations throughout the world.

John Home Robertson admitted that the situation is a bit like that of Israel ignoring UN resolutions. We cannot merely pass motions, because countries just ignore them. That is why we are taking military action against Afghanistan. On that basis, I wonder when military action will begin against Israel.

Photo of Colin Campbell Colin Campbell Scottish National Party 12:01, 25 October 2001

I will try to keep my speech short because I know that we are under pressure for time.

We all understand that all people in the world are victims of history. That accounts for much of the passion in what Tommy Sheridan said and some of the other things that members have said in the course of this important debate.

I regard wars as memorials to the failures of politicians. Unfortunately, history is littered with such memorials. The price of bad politics is, at worst, dead people. However, there are times when the application of judicious force is essential. The current situation is one such time.

Bombing planners are advised and controlled by lawyers who have international legal experience and whose legal judgment is the criterion for whether the planners are choosing a legitimate military target with low, or no, risk of civilian casualties. The United States is probably aware—I am not an apologist for everything that the United States does—that any apparent carelessness will risk the integrity of the fragile coalition that they have built against terrorism.

The fact that the situation in which we find ourselves was caused by the indiscriminate murder of civilians in the United States has been mentioned. That was a random killing of civilians who were going about their normal business. I remind members that random killing of people through the distribution of anthrax is also going on. We should try to be objective when we compare one set of activities with the other. The attackers are being completely indiscriminate in their actions.

I endorse the position of the Scottish National Party that, in addition to accurately targeted and executed military action, a parallel humanitarian programme should be set in train. Coupled with that effort—indeed, essential to it—must be diplomatic efforts. As George Reid said, it is vital that humanitarian corridors be set up, as should safe drop zones for humanitarian aid. With good will, it should not be beyond the negotiating powers of the UN and all the participants in Afghanistan to allow access to reputable NGOs and international humanitarian organisations. That would create no-war corridors, which both sides would be pledged to respect—although, to be frank, I do not think that everybody would respect them.

I deeply respect the right of pacifists to their point of view. My wife is a pacifist and her father-in-law was a pacifist during the war. I have been round that argument often. I respect everybody who wants to minimise civilian casualties and bring as much relief as is humanly and administratively possible. We all share that aspiration. Although some unpleasant little shots—which were quite unnecessary, given the overall tone and the purpose of the debate—have been fired round the chamber, we are all on the same side and have the same aims. However, those with whom the military operation is designed to deal would perceive cessation as a sign of weakness that would encourage them. That is not to anyone's benefit—not the populations of the world to whom they are hostile, nor the unfortunate inhabitants of Afghanistan, whom they currently oppress.

Photo of Lloyd Quinan Lloyd Quinan Scottish National Party 12:05, 25 October 2001

The debate is of great importance. However, it takes place within the context of perceptions. The problem that was created by September 11—which was probably created many years ago, between 1946 and 1948 in Lebanon and Palestine—is at the heart of the problem of perceptions.

I know from many meetings that I have attended over the past two or three weeks that the perception in the United Kingdom is that the Muslim community in Scotland now believes firmly that the war in which the United States is engaged is a war against the Islamic countries. That is causing great polarisation. The principal reasons why they believe that are our failure to deal with the situation in Palestine, the situation in Iraq and the situation of the Saharawi people. Those people are all victims—as perceived by the Muslim community—of western Governments.

If we do not begin to address properly our involvement in other countries, particularly in the middle east, polarisation will continue. We perceive that the attack on Afghanistan is an attack on terror, on Osama bin Laden and the al-Qa'ida network. The general perception in Pakistan and many other Muslim countries is that it is an attack on Islamic people.

I believe that by one set of actions only can we prevent perceptions from polarising and leading to more events that are similar to those of September 11. There must be a complete cessation of the bombing of Afghanistan, we must force the state of Israel to respond to UN resolutions, Israel's current occupation of Palestinian National Authority areas must cease, its bombing and shelling of hospitals and power stations must cease and the murder of innocent villagers, such as the 22 whom the Israeli defence forces killed yesterday, must cease.

If we believe that we can separate the events—seen on al-Jazeera throughout the Muslim world—on the West Bank and Gaza, we are kidding ourselves. Even this morning and yesterday the Prime Minister, Mr Blair, had to speak to Muslim leaders to assure them that the war is not against Islam but against terror. He did that only to be told at the end of the meeting that no matter how many times he says that, every death of an innocent Muslim child or civilian as the result of a free-fall bomb dropped from 30,000ft simply reconfirms that those are nothing more than words.

The Muslim world has given civilisation much over the years. In the west, we have spent the past 15 to 20 years—particularly since the fall of the Shah of Iran—talking about Islamic fundamentalism, but seldom about Christian fundamentalism. I read an article in translation yesterday that talks about the Christian fundamentalism that is carrying out the war against Islamic people in Afghanistan.

We must begin to understand that our perceptions cannot be imposed on other cultures. We must listen to what they are saying. If the people of Pakistan—an unstable country that has nuclear arms—believe that what is happening in Afghanistan, in Palestine, in Iraq and with the Saharawis is a deliberate attack on Islam by the west, we must take that on board. As every bomb drops, that perception grows. We must say, "Stop now!", not just for sake of the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, but for the future.

Photo of Brian Fitzpatrick Brian Fitzpatrick Labour 12:10, 25 October 2001

Today's debate has in the main been measured and serious, and that is quite appropriate. Many, if not all, of us will never forget where we were when we realised the utter indescribable evil of what happened on 11 September. Many members were here in the Parliament. I was with colleagues in room 3.13 of parliamentary headquarters. We watched as a patch of clear blue sky that should never have been there opened up in a familiar New York skyline. We watched as the heavens rained down people.

The situation took me back to the time not so long ago when I was making my way to the Faculty of Advocates library, which is just down the road. I met a member of staff who knew that I, like him, had very small children. He told me that a madman had gone into a primary school and slaughtered innocent children. Like him, I could not get to a phone fast enough. That was irrational and unthinking, but it was a bolt of fear. I just wanted to speak to my wife and she just wanted to speak to me. Her worry was the same as mine: "Where are my children?" Terror leaves its residue on us all. It makes us vulnerable, but that is its purpose.

However, let this debate—as with other debates throughout Britain, Europe and the rest of the world—serve to remind us that our best response to those who seek to destroy our way of life is that which was outlined by the First Minister today. In all its terrible tragedy, 11 September serves to remind us how we are interconnected one with another. Let it also remind us of the need for a robust defence of our democratic institutions and way of life. Our best response to bin Laden and those who somehow—God knows how—manage to find meaning and purpose in hurling planeloads of innocent people into buildings full of innocent people, is to get on with the business of democracy. As Hugh Henry mentioned, we need to ensure that our democratic institutions go on unaltered. That is the best legacy for those who survive and the best memorial to those who died.

Photo of Brian Fitzpatrick Brian Fitzpatrick Labour

I would rather not.

The First Minister spoke to the first part of Mr Swinney's motion. I thank the First Minister for the information that he gave on the full participation of the civil contingencies committee, on the impact on our economy and on his support for Scottish Muslims.

There are genuine concerns in the Muslim communities in Scotland, as there are throughout the rest of the UK. I have met leaders of the Muslim communities in my constituency before and since 11 September. I trust that one welcome outcome of our debate is that, just as throughout the rest of Britain, the members of the Parliament and the people of Scotland have universally rejected the old and devalued rhetoric. The current conflict is not Chesterton's age-old struggle, nor is it a rerun of the great game, nor is it even a clash of civilisations.

David McLetchie mentioned legislation. I say that we should see what is proposed. Let us see what we can do. In and of themselves, laws will never eradicate sectarian hatred. People change people, but laws can help. We must of course be careful that civil liberties do not become a casualty along the way. However, it is not acceptable to incite people to kill Muslims, Catholics, Jews or others because of their religion. That is no more acceptable than it is to kill people because of their race.

Last night, a constituent of mine, who is worried not least because of his own relatives in Pakistan, told me that the fact that the Prime Minister moved quickly to discuss the situation with religious and community leaders demonstrated what the Koran calls the "wisdom of the learned". Would that the others who have held his post had done so. Some people might know that, unlike Mr Canavan, I am a firm supporter of our Prime Minister. I support his careful leadership in building a coalition for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan. I support what he has done for delivering on the peace process in the Middle East and for the rebuilding of hope for Africa. I support his declaration on the interconnectedness of us all. In recent months, we have had good cause to be proud of our Prime Minister. I trust that the thoughts and wishes of us all are with our Prime Minister, with the men and women of our armed forces, with the people of Afghanistan and with the victims and survivors of the attacks in the United States.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I have allowed the debate to overrun in view of its importance and the number of members who wanted to speak. I apologise to members who have not been called, but we must now move to wind-up speeches. John McAllion will wind up in support of Dennis Canavan's amendment.

Photo of John McAllion John McAllion Labour 12:15, 25 October 2001

The way in which the debate has been conducted this morning has, for the most part, justified holding a debate in the first place. We have heard many excellent and thoughtful speeches. I sense that the Parliament is reflecting the confusion and lack of certainty about this war, which characterises Scottish public opinion outside the chamber. That is no bad thing.

Indeed, at a time when the debate about the war is bringing thousands of Scots on to the streets in protest against the war, packing public meetings across the country—some for the war, some against it—and is dominating the national press and media, particularly in the letters pages as people write in to express their views, it would have been a real tragedy if the only sound to come out of the Scottish Parliament was the plaintive cry, "Don't mention the war because it's reserved to Westminster and nothing to do with us". I am delighted that the Parliament decided to go ahead with the debate this morning.

Obviously, I am speaking in support of Dennis Canavan's amendment. During the debate, several members implied that because British armed forces are preparing to put their lives on the line, it is somehow disloyal on our part not to give maximum support to the politicians who are requiring the British armed forces to put their lives on the line in the first place. That is not something with which I can agree. As far as I am concerned, the British armed forces are fighting—if they fight—to defend democracy, the right to dissent and the right of freedom of speech. The armed forces are subject to military discipline and cannot give expression to what they think about the war, and since they are prepared to lay down their lives silently on our behalf, it would be a real betrayal not to question the political judgments and decisions that have been made. The real betrayal would be in not asking tough questions and not challenging the politics that require them to lay down their lives. Those who question what the Government and the coalition are doing are speaking out on behalf of the British armed forces.

It is right for us to ask what the armed forces are fighting for. Is it just to destroy Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, as some members have argued? If that is so, is the widespread bombing of Afghanistan proportionate to that end? We do not know, and will not know until long after the war is over, what the real nature of the bombing of Afghanistan has been. For example, we are told that it is targeted, using smart weapons that will ensure the minimum amount of civilian casualties. I have to say that I have heard that argument before, from the very same sources. I heard it during the Gulf war when we were shown video games almost every day on television—video footage of the pinpoint accuracy of the new weapons that would ensure the minimum of Iraqi causalities. It was only long after the war was over that we discovered that only 7 per cent of the 88,500 tonnes of bombs dropped on Iraq and Kuwait were smart weapons, that some of those smart weapons had gone astray and that the rest of the massive total were dumb bombs, which—we found out years later—killed a quarter of a million innocent men, women and children.

We have already heard that in the war in Afghanistan innumerable Tomahawk cruise missiles have been fired. Those missiles cost £400,000 every time that they are fired. They are not fired for or with minimal effect—they are fired with maximum damage and effect. What that damage and price is, we do not yet know. The allies have admitted that 2,000 bombs, most of them dumb bombs, have already been dropped on Afghanistan. They have been dropped from B-52s from a height of 40,000ft. Those are the same B-52s that caused 600,000 innocent people to die in Cambodia. Do not tell me that innocent men, women and children are not being killed in Afghanistan because they are. I cannot support that killing in any way.

Would those deaths be justified if the objective were to overthrow the Taliban regime? The Taliban are vile beyond words—everyone in Parliament agrees with that. However, they were vile beyond words back in the 1990s, when the US Government, the UK Government and the Pakistan Government armed, supported and helped them into power in order to remove the northern alliance, which was thought to be worse than the Taliban. Now we are being asked to believe that we have to remove the Taliban to put the northern alliance back in power. That cannot be right.

The events of 11 September are seared into the imaginations of every man, woman and child who watched them on television, but part of the reason for that is that we watched them live on television. There are no live pictures of the bombing of innocent men, women and children in Afghanistan, but because we cannot see it, that does not mean that the horror for them is any less than was the horror for the men, women and children who died in New York and Washington. There is an equivalence between the suffering of the innocents in Afghanistan and the suffering of the innocents in New York.

There are alternatives. The terrorists who brought down the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania have been brought to justice without a war. The terrorists responsible for the events of 11 September could be brought to justice without a war. I urge members of this Parliament to support Dennis Canavan's amendment, because there is another way.

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative 12:21, 25 October 2001

This has been a significant debate. Two fundamental freedoms are at stake: freedom to live without starvation, and freedom to live without terrorism. I am a fundamentalist in their defence. It is needless to add that starvation and the illnesses to which it gives rise, and the violence that is associated with terrorism, can each cost countless civilian lives. It is clear that the crisis caused by the flight of many thousands of refugees is every bit as important as dealing with the dangers of terrorist aggression, so we have to approach the subject—as many MSPs have stressed today—with, at the forefront of our minds, not just the cause of democratic freedoms, but the desperate threat of starvation to millions of people in Afghanistan and outside its boundaries.

Scotland has a strong and admirable record of supporting aid agencies. I should mention my own interest, as president of the International Rescue Corps, which helps to save lives in emergencies, including, in particular, after earthquakes. For the sake of objectivity, I mention that apart from the corps' many successful missions abroad, it offered to help in Afghanistan after its severe earthquakes, just as it offered to help New Yorkers after the collapse of the twin towers.

While we acknowledge the Government's success in establishing an international coalition, which includes European countries, Russia, China, Pakistan and India, as well as the United States and Arab countries, we recognise that one of the harsh realities of the attack on the twin towers and the military conflict is that civilian casualties have arisen. Nonetheless, we believe that every effort must be made to keep civilian casualties to an absolute minimum. Clare Short stated in the House of Commons:

"It must be a focused and just war with no civilian casualties."—[Official Report, House of Commons, 8 October 2001; Vol 372, c 897.]

That must be the ideal, however hard to achieve, even if, as George Reid hinted, there may be few moral certainties in time of war. As Hugh Henry said, the response must be proportionate.

I add to that by emphasising John Swinney's obvious, but central, point. We have large Muslim and ethnic minority communities in Scotland, and they are appalled by what happened on 11 September. I quote from the excellent article by Shami Khan in the Evening News on 13 September:

"The Pakistan Society, as a representative of the Muslim and ethnic minority communities of Edinburgh and Lothian, utterly condemns the horrific, barbaric and cowardly acts of terrorism which took place in the United States."

I endorse what he wrote under the heading:

"Don't blame this atrocity on Muslim neighbours".

We support the British Government in its aims, which include assisting with humanitarian aid. Clare Short made a positive contribution in that regard during her recent visit to Pakistan. We also appreciate the nature of the military aims, which were outlined by Michael Ancram:

"first, to bring Osama bin Laden to justice and to destroy his al-Qaeda organisation. The second is the longer term but equally essential eradication of international terrorism ... The third is to enable the people of Afghanistan to regain their rights and to live in peace, not least by a determined effort to free them from the threat of famine".—[Official Report, House of Commons, 16 October 2001; Vol 372, c 1065.]

It follows that a definite objective must be the departure of the Taliban regime, in which case it is essential not to leave a vacuum. I say to John McAllion that it is important that any future Government represents all tribal interests, and that a Government emerges that is dissociated from international terrorism, and which genuinely represents all Afghanistan.

As David McLetchie and Ben Wallace stated, we have made no secret of the fact that we support the British Government at this time of danger in the world. These are difficult times, and no conflict of this nature can take place without substantial risk. If eternal vigilance is the price to be paid for liberty, courage in the face of adversity is necessary to protect the democratic freedoms that are essential to our way of life.

I end by quoting from Sir Winston Churchill's last great speech to the House of Commons on 1 March 1955. He said:

"We must never allow, above all, I hold, the growing sense of unity and brotherhood between the United Kingdom and the United States ... to be injured or retarded. Its maintenance, stimulation and its fortifying is one of the first duties of every person who wishes to see peace in the world and wishes to see the survival of this country."

He went on:

"The day may dawn when fair play, love for one's fellow men, respect for justice and freedom will enable tormented generations to march forth serene and triumphant from the hideous epoch in which we have to dwell."

Those words are as relevant today as they were when he spoke them nearly 50 years ago. I end with his last message of hope:

"Meanwhile, never flinch, never weary, never despair."—[Official Report, House of Commons, 1 March 1955; Vol 537, c 1905.]

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat 12:26, 25 October 2001

This has been a serious and wide-ranging debate, which has touched on the complexities of the political situation in the middle east and of global poverty. It has been marked by some very serious and thoughtful speeches. Even if members disagreed with those speeches, they will have recognised the sincerity with which opinions were offered.

I would like to join John Home Robertson, Ben Wallace, Mike Rumbles, Brian Fitzpatrick and Lord James Douglas-Hamilton in paying tribute to our armed forces as they engage in some very difficult operations. Many of the members of those forces are based in Scotland and it is important that they know that they carry out their duties with the support of members of this Parliament.

I disagreed with the speeches made by Dennis Canavan, John McAllion and Tommy Sheridan. However, it is very important—not least at times when a country is at war—that the right of those who wish to challenge the conventional wisdom is respected. Although I disagree with what was said, I respect the viewpoint that was put forward.

Dennis Canavan asked whether there was a difference between the value of the civilian lives taken in Afghanistan and the value of the innocent lives that were taken in the World Trade Center. There is, of course, no difference. However, as Mike Rumbles pointed out, there is a difference between the acts carried out on 11 September, which were deliberately designed to maximise innocent casualties, and the action of the coalition forces in Afghanistan, which is designed to minimise them. That is an important and fundamental difference.

Quite properly, the debate has reflected on issues relating to humanitarian aid. George Reid's speech was one of the most profound contributions that has been made to this or, indeed, to any debate that has taken place in this Parliament. I noted what George Reid said: that military action might be the key to providing humanitarian relief. It would be naive of us to think that the cessation of military activity would lead the Taliban at once to open all entrances to Afghanistan and to wave the aid convoys through. I doubt that that would happen.

Alex Neil, Hugh Henry and Winnie Ewing, as well as George Reid, made the point that global poverty fuels terrorism. That is a profound issue, but one for another day.

John Swinney proposed that a collective appeal be made to the Scottish people to support the aid charities. I endorse the call that he and others have made. To date, the Afghanistan appeal has not raised as much money as many people would have liked. It would be invidious to pick out any particular charity, but over many years the Scottish people have responded very positively to aid appeals.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I am grateful to the Deputy First Minister for his comments on my initiative. I want to take him back a couple of sentences in his speech to the nub of the debate and to a point that I made in my intervention during Mike Rumbles's speech. I have argued that military action must be compatible with and supportive of the humanitarian aid operation and that the balance of the current conflict must reflect that. Does the Deputy First Minister believe that the way in which the conflict is being pursued maximises the opportunities to get humanitarian aid to those who require it, or does he think that the balance needs to be changed?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

I think that the World Food Programme stated that it is not the bombing that is stopping the food getting through, but the activities of the Taliban regime, which are far more blocking. As I said, I do not believe that simply stopping the bombing would mean that the Taliban would suddenly wave the convoys through.

I want to deal briefly with the responsibilities that the Scottish ministers have in circumstances such as at present, to ensure the security and safety of people in Scotland and to tackle the economic impact.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

I do not have much time.

The First Minister set out some of the actions that are being taken to ensure the security of the people of Scotland; we will continue to contribute to the emergency planning procedures for the United Kingdom as a whole and to monitor and evaluate the emergency procedures that are in place. If it becomes necessary, we are willing to issue new guidance as required. There is no evidence of a specific threat against Scotland, but people should be assured that we continue to review our capability to deal with contingency situations.

On Tuesday of this week, I attended a memorial service at the Citizen Firefighter statue, which was organised by the Scottish fire brigades to pay tribute to those in the emergency services who lost their lives in New York. Although we hope that our emergency services will never be called on to deal with a similar situation, it is important that we acknowledge the courage and commitment of those who serve in them.

David McLetchie, Mike Rumbles and Brian Fitzpatrick raised the question of religious hatred. They indicated that laws alone are not always the answer. I think that Martin Luther King junior said that

"the law cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless", at least.

The First Minister made it clear that we share the United Kingdom Government's determination to protect people from attacks that are based on religious hostility. Such behaviour has no place in a civilised country. The Home Secretary has produced specific proposals, and we are committed to affording the same level of protection to the Scottish people as is the case in other parts of the United Kingdom. As the First Minister said, we are considering the Home Secretary's proposals. We have not decided how they should apply in Scotland.

A number of members said that Scotland has some distinctive problems, such as sectarianism—Donald Gorrie's consultation paper of this week airs that issue in a measured and considered way. We intend to take distinctive action. We will let Parliament know what that will be in due course, after giving proper consideration to the various options.

Kenny MacAskill and Mike Rumbles referred to the global economy. It is difficult to be precise at this time about the impact of the terrorist attacks on the Scottish economy, but there will be an impact. However, some of our key policies that are already in place, such as enhancing skills and ensuring that we have the proper infrastructure for a competitive, knowledge-based economy, remain as important, if not more important, in the aftermath of what has happened. The Executive will keep under constant review the impact on individual sectors and will work with business to address short-term impacts and to lend what assistance we can.

Mike Rumbles referred specifically to tourism. We are marshalling the resources of VisitScotland and the enterprise networks. VisitScotland is up-weighting its spend on the United Kingdom, domestic and European markets, while retaining a presence in the United States market. There might be an effect on long-haul travel, but short haul and short breaks continue. We are also trying to learn lessons from the foot-and-mouth outbreak that will boost our tourism industry.

I refer to the Executive amendment. Winnie Ewing asked why we should quibble about a few words and defended the use of the word "compatible", which her daughter Annabelle used yesterday in the House of Commons. It is not a quibble, because the SNP motion states that

"military action in Afghanistan must, as the Prime Minister has asserted, be compatible with".

In fact, the Prime Minister did not use the phrase "compatible with", which is ambiguous and could be misinterpreted. It is therefore important that we clarify that position and return to the words that the Scottish National Party originally lodged, to say that any military action must, as the Prime Minister has asserted, be "accompanied by" an effective humanitarian operation. With that small amendment, the Parliament can unite around a motion that is a measured and sensitive expression of our view in the face of a complex international crisis.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party 12:35, 25 October 2001

I express my solidarity with the American people after the tragedy that took place on 11 September. I have not had the opportunity to do that in the chamber. We must remember that the attack on the World Trade Center affected not only the USA. Citizens of many nations and people of many religions were killed.

Several thoughtful speeches have been made that expressed different views. It is sad that David McLetchie's speech cannot be counted among those thoughtful speeches. His tone was unfortunate and discordant. I am tempted to describe him as a wannabe colonel, but most real colonels would never adopt such a tone in their speeches. I do not want to be drawn into a historical debate, but I will paraphrase an old saying: those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. Perhaps David McLetchie should ponder that.

The events of 11 September and the action in Afghanistan have left their mark on Scotland in many ways. Perhaps the part of our nation that has been most directly affected is Scotland's Muslim community, which has been in a state of fear and alarm since then. In The Scotsman yesterday, Syed Jaffri, a businessman with premises in Glasgow and Edinburgh, described the situation as "intolerable".

We cannot ignore the real and perceived threats to the safety of a section of our community. I accept that the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister have given a commitment to reviewing the criminal law, but I am concerned that the problem exists now and cannot wait for some future solution. Every one of Scotland's politicians must take every opportunity to reassure our Muslim community of its safety and security and to condemn those who perpetrate racial and religious prejudice. The First Minister, and the Deputy First Minister in his role as Minister for Justice, must ensure that the existing legal protections are vigorously enforced consistently throughout the criminal justice system—by every part of it. At times, that does not seem to be the case.

It is hardly surprising that the Scottish economy has suffered, given our massive dependence on the tourism industry. Several members referred to that, including the First Minister. He talked about the short-term consequences, but we should also be concerned about potential long-term consequences.

The debate was intended to ensure that here in our Parliament, Scotland's view of recent world events can be expressed, that the impact of those events on the people and the economy of Scotland can be recognised and that the ways in which Scotland can help can be addressed. Those matters are hugely important, and this is our national Parliament, so we should discuss such matters. I hope that the diversity of the views that we heard will continue to be countenanced throughout the chamber and in all parties. Mr McLetchie's comments in that regard were ridiculous.

I respect the conscientious arguments of pacifism, although I had not appreciated that Tommy Sheridan was a pacifist. The SNP has supported the decision to take military action. I am not a pacifist. The views of most people lie somewhere between pacifist beliefs and the extremes of David McLetchie's views. The concerns that some express are also shared by most people. We have only to go around with our ears open to know that. It is not exactly hold-the-front-page news. There are concerns about whether the humanitarian campaign is compatible with the military action. George Reid made it clear how they can be made compatible. One need not oppose military action to believe that we can pursue a humanitarian agenda, too. I want to say, in passing, that it is a pity that George Reid's job as Deputy Presiding Officer precludes him from making more contributions in the chamber, as we have all benefited today from the speech that he made.

I repeat the point that was made by John Swinney, which relates to what Jim Wallace had to say about the difference between "compatible with" and "accompanied by". As John Swinney pointed out, Tony Blair's statement had three parts, all of which are equally important to the operation in which we are engaged: military, diplomatic and humanitarian. The concern of the SNP, and it is my own concern, is that that balance is seriously out of kilter—objective analysis would not suggest anything different. In particular, the humanitarian side of the equation is losing out. Humanitarian aid is simply not getting through.

The much-publicised airdrops from US planes are indeed a drop in the ocean of what is needed. That is especially true if comparisons are made between the amount of money that is being spent on armaments compared with the amount spent on aid. If we are honest, the humanitarian exercise is more a part of the diplomatic campaign than of a humanitarian campaign.

More must be done to head off a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Because of lack of food, 7.5 million people are at risk. In Pakistan, there are about 2 million Afghani refugees. Goodness knows how many more Afghani refugees are in other surrounding states.

I would be at the head of the queue of those making criticisms of the Taliban regime and have done so on previous occasions, including in the House of Commons. However, the issue is not only about the Taliban not allowing humanitarian aid to get through. That is a convenient excuse, but it cannot be allowed to put the balance so much out of kilter. Tony Blair said that the military, diplomatic and humanitarian aspects were equally important: in practice, that has not worked out. We should be clear that, unless we get the aid issue right, building the peace will become infinitely more difficult. Building the peace is absolutely vital if we are to minimise the likelihood of being in this position again.

The SNP has been criticised for calling the debate. Some of the criticism has been explicit and some implicit. However, there can hardly be a living room or a pub in Scotland where the debate is not taking place in one form or another. Can we really say that the one forum where the debate should not be happening is in Scotland's Parliament? I cannot imagine that that could be thought to be appropriate.

The First Minister recognises the direct challenges that we face in Scotland. He outlined a series of measures that, as a result of the crisis, are to be undertaken by the Executive and other agencies. Those are proper measures. I shall list four—although there might be more—which involve the police; the emergency co-ordinating committee; new guidance in regard to bio-terrorism; Executive discussions with Westminster; and the proposal from the Scottish Trades Union Congress for an economic summit. Those are proper measures and should be pursued. However, they ought also to be discussed in the chamber. I wish that the Executive had initiated a debate of this kind, as we should talk about actions that are very properly being undertaken.

I reiterate that the aim in the long term must be peace. Lord James Douglas-Hamilton quoted Winston Churchill. I want to quote Franklin D Roosevelt. In the very different but perhaps similarly challenging circumstances of 1945, he said:

"The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one Nation. It cannot be just an American peace, or a British peace ... It must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world."

However small our nation, let us resolve—at least here today—that Scotland, too, will play its part in that co-operative effort.

Meeting suspended until 14:30.

On resuming—

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament 2:30, 25 October 2001

Before we start question time, I will mention two matters. First, I am sure that members would like to welcome the speaker of the Swedish Parliament, Miss Birgitta Dahl, who is sitting in the distinguished strangers' gallery. Secondly, I take the opportunity to tell members that I shall be missing for the first half of next week as I have to attend the annual conference of the presidents of the regional legislative assemblies of Europe. I trust that members will grant me leave of absence.