International Situation

– in the Scottish Parliament at 9:30 am on 13 March 2003.

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Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament 9:30, 13 March 2003

Good morning. Our first item of business is a debate on motion S1M-4012, in the name of John Swinney, on the current international situation.

I must tell the Parliament that the debate is heavily over-subscribed even before I invite members to press their request-to-speak buttons, which I do now. Therefore, very strict time limits for speakers will be imposed by the presiding officers during the debate. We will give a 30-second warning towards the end of each speech, at which point members should close. No overruns will be allowed for any of the opening speeches or for those of other members. We will also bear in mind, when making our selection of speakers, those who did not get a chance to speak in the previous debate on the issue. It would be enormously helpful if those who are opening took less than their allotted time to allow more members to be called.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party 9:31, 13 March 2003

Two months ago, the Scottish National Party led a debate in this, our national Parliament. That day we set out our "deep and serious concern" that the United Kingdom Government was pursuing an "inevitable path to war." Two months on, and I believe that we were right then and that we are right today: Tony Blair and George Bush are determined to go to war, regardless of the United Nations, of world opinion and of the evidence. The final proof of that was revealed this week. Before a single shot has been fired, the United States is inviting tenders for post-war building work in Iraq—war in Iraq is now an economic opportunity for American construction firms. When thousands of lives, the middle east peace process and the stability of the world are all at risk, that is nothing short of an obscenity.

Much has happened over the past two months that demands further debate in our Parliament. Events have taken place that could shape the future of our world and our country's place in that world. In recent weeks we have witnessed further reports from the United Nations weapons inspectors, an accelerated military build-up, intense diplomatic manoeuvring and a deadline for war. Yesterday, the United Nations was thrown into chaos as the lobbying for war grew ever more desperate. However, despite the frantic efforts since our debate on 16 January and despite the marches, the arguments and the counter-arguments, one thing has remained constant: the people of Scotland have not been moved. We and millions around the globe are saying to Tony Blair and George Bush, "Not in our name."

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

Does Mr Swinney accept that there are serious people on both sides of the argument and that people in Scotland do not speak with a unanimous voice on the issue? The Westminster debate reflected the fact that people on both sides of the argument take the matter seriously and have come to different conclusions. We should give them the respect that they deserve and listen to what they have to say.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I could not agree more with Johann Lamont. That is why we are having a three-hour debate in my party's parliamentary time, which will give those of every shade of opinion the opportunity to set out their case to our national Parliament. Every shade of opinion in Westminster had a similar opportunity.

My position—a position that is endorsed by John McAllion's amendment—is that no case for military action against Iraq has been proved. I believe that any pre-emptive action taken by the US and the UK without a specific UN mandate would be contrary to international law. That was the point of the motion that Susan Deacon recently lodged. I believe that no UK forces should take part in any military action without a UN mandate that authorises specifically action that is based on clear, compelling and published evidence. I think that that is the point that the Liberal Democrat amendment makes, although I hope that Jim Wallace will confirm that later.

Photo of Bristow Muldoon Bristow Muldoon Labour

On the basis of Mr Swinney's argument today, does he maintain that the SNP was right to oppose the ending of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in 1999?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

In the interests of having a quality public debate about a war that the people of this country will face in the ensuing few days, we should concentrate on the dangers of such a war rather than play Bristow Muldoon's political games.

I want to make two clear points at the outset of my argument. First, the SNP and I will always support Scottish armed forces. Hundreds of Scotland-based servicemen and women are being deployed to the gulf and part of our support for our troops is our telling the Government—the people who give the orders—when it is wrong to commit our troops to action. Our courageous and professional servicemen and servicewomen expect to be deployed as a last resort when all other options have been exhausted. Today, although the inspection regime is delivering results, that is patently not the case.

The second point that I want to stress is that there is no disagreement in the Parliament that Saddam's barbaric regime is appalling and unacceptable. I find it offensive that those of us—in all parties—who oppose war are lectured on the nature of Saddam's regime. We are all well aware of Saddam's atrocities, but members of the Conservative Government were similarly aware when they approved the building of an Iraqi chemical weapons plant when Saddam was using poison gas during the Iran-Iraq war. Therefore, I will take no lectures from the gung-ho faction that warns of the dangers of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Those dangers have been heightened by the actions of previous UK and US Governments, which should be ashamed of their actions.

More than 50 years ago, the countries of the world came together in the city of San Francisco to establish the United Nations. Their primary aim, which was set out in the first words of the UN charter, is:

"to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war".

Crucially, the charter sets out that

"armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest."

The common interest is not the interest of the United States or the United Kingdom, but the interest of the world as a whole.

Nobody has given the United States monopoly power to decide what the interests of the rest of the world should be—that attitude is at best patronising and, at worst, profoundly dangerous. The proper forum for deciding the world's common interest is the United Nations and not the oval office. The United Nations has spoken; any unilateral war launched against Iraq would be contrary to international law. In a significant intervention, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, said only on Monday:

"If the US and others were to go outside the Council and take military action, it would not be in conformity with the charter."

From the world's top diplomat, that is as damning an assessment as it is possible to get.

It is clear that, as we debate the issue today—perhaps days from war—there is no UN mandate for military action in Iraq and there will, in the foreseeable future, be no UN mandate for military action in Iraq. For those of us who believe in the rule of international law, that means that there should be no military action in Iraq.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

I am obliged to Mr Swinney for giving way. He rightly puts much emphasis on international law. However, does he accept that for every statement on international law that argues that another UN mandate is required, there is an equally authoritative statement that supports the contrary argument? For example, the emeritus professor of international law at the University of Strathclyde is quoted today as saying that another mandate is not required. Surely Mr Swinney cannot be categorical on that point.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

If Murdo Fraser will bear with me, I will address that point directly.

The United Nations Security Council resolution 1441, which was adopted on 8 November, is not a mandate for war.


Hear, hear.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I am glad to hear that the Liberal Democrats agree with that point. Nowhere in resolution 1441 is there a specific authorisation of force. The resolution calls for disarmament, establishes an enhanced inspection regime and warns Iraq that it will face "serious consequences" if it does not comply. Writing in The Herald this week, Robert Black, professor of Scots law at the University of Edinburgh, said:

"There is absolutely no warrant in principle or authority for maintaining that this entitles one or more of the members of the Security Council, as distinct from the Security Council as a body, to determine what those consequences shall, in fact, be."

I am happy to give way to the First Minister, who is muttering asides.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Will Mr Swinney acknowledge that Mr Robert Black has been seriously wrong in the past on issues of concern to this country, including the Lockerbie disaster, in which hundreds of people died?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

His running down of distinguished Scottish academics is not exactly a tribute to the First Minister's stance.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

It was wrong to run down Scots law when that law worked in the international interest and in the courts in the Netherlands. Mr Black was wrong then and could be wrong again.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

If that is what the First Minister is reduced to, it says everything about what he has to contribute to the debate.

Professor Black has further argued that the recent draft resolution—the so-called "second" resolution—does not constitute a legal mandate for war. He has said:

"Any contention by the UK and US governments that Resolution 1441 (either alone or if supplemented by the draft resolution) legitimises in international law resort to armed intervention in Iraq is without legal foundation."

I accept that that is just the opinion of Professor Robert Black. However, I do not know whether any member watched "Newsnight" last night, during which a clip was played of the United States ambassador to the UN. When he moved resolution 1441, he could not be clearer: he said that resolution 1441 did not contain any automatic triggers for war. The First Minister's ridiculous argument is that we should question distinguished Scottish academics, but how on earth can he question the position of the person who moved the resolution in the Security Council? I do not see any member wanting to intervene now.

In the previous gulf war, when my party supported the position of the Government of the time, the UN had passed a resolution stating that "all necessary means" should be used to enforce compliance. We do not have a resolution that uses terms to authorise war because the UK and the United States know that the Security Council will not agree to such authorisation, because the majority of Security Council members know that the case for war against Iraq has simply not been proved. Even the 7 March resolution—which set a deadline, but does not constitute a mandate—will not receive Security Council approval. Whatever happens, President Chirac has said that France will exercise its veto. The Prime Minister's reaction is that for President Chirac to do so would be "unreasonable".

We are left with the question: when is a veto reasonable or unreasonable? Since 1980, Britain has voted with the majority of members of the Security Council on resolutions relating to Israel and the occupied territories on 14 occasions and the United States has vetoed those resolutions. Why is it reasonable to veto the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians and unreasonable to veto war in Iraq?

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

Does the member therefore agree that the concept of an unreasonable veto exists and does he accept that those of us who are concerned about the Palestinian problem question the United States' will in that matter?

Does he agree that there is an issue relating to people taking responsibilities inside the Security Council and the broader international community's acknowledgement of that?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I ask Johann Lamont merely to go and explain that to the Palestinian people, whose aspirations have been thwarted by the vetoes that I mentioned.

Mr Blair should be worried not only about France's veto—he should be worried that he has failed to win the argument, despite all his efforts. He has failed to do so because no one is clear precisely what his argument is. Last year, the argument was that there should be regime change; then there was to be a war against terrorism; then the argument was about disarmament; then the moral case was made. Last week, President Bush returned all the way back to the beginning and said that the matter was about regime change. If the United States and the UK cannot agree a justification between them, how on earth can they expect the rest of the world to support a war on Iraq?

The rest of the world supports the inspection process, which is starting to work. On 14 February, Hans Blix reported increased co-operation from Iraq. On Friday, he reported further progress. On interviewing scientists, he said:

"Iraq has provided the names of many persons", and on alleged mobile production units for biological weapons, he said that

"No evidence of proscribed activities have so far been found."

On destroying al-Samoud 2 missiles, he said:

"The destruction undertaken constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament ... We are not watching the breaking of toothpicks. Lethal weapons are being destroyed", and on chemical weapons, he said that

"There is a significant Iraqi effort under way to clarify a major source of uncertainty".

On the matter of time, he said:

"It would not take years, nor weeks, but months."

If the process can take months, why did the British Government set a deadline of 10 days? The international community has asked the inspectors to undertake an onerous task and we should give them the time that they need to complete the job that we have asked them to do.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

Does Mr Swinney agree that the inspections are achieving containment and that Iraq is currently no threat to us or to its neighbours?

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Does the member believe that Iraq would have made the recent concessions if there had not been the pressure of having troops on its borders?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The concessions have been brought about by the pressure of the international community to ensure that Iraq complies with resolutions that have been passed by the UN.

This week, it has become clear that the inspectors will not be given enough time. The United States wants the inspections to be over by tomorrow and the UK wants them to be over by Monday. Both countries have rejected the Franco-German proposal that they should be allowed 120 days and the non-aligned proposal that they should be allowed 45 days; the United States has decided to go to war and nothing will divert President Bush from that path. I doubt that anyone in this country honestly believes that the UK Government is in control of events or the time scale. It has never been more obvious that, on this issue, power lies with the United States and that the UK is simply an outstation for the White House's press office.

The British Government is now relying on what it calls six key tests—six conditions that it has set for Iraq in order to avoid war. One of those tests is that Saddam Hussein should appear on television. Last night, a former national security adviser to the White House called that test trivial—he was right. Tony Blair must understand that demanding a television appearance is no substitute for a legal mandate for war.

As with all wars, there is one certainty—civilians will suffer most and innocent people will die. According to the UN, up to 2 million people could be left homeless and some 900,000 refugees could be created. In February, the UN launched an appeal for $120 million to cope with the impending humanitarian disaster but, so far, western Governments have pledged just a quarter of that amount. The British Government has allocated an extra £1.75 billion to the Ministry of Defence to fight the war, but the Department for International Development has not received an extra penny to cope with the consequences of that war. I have no doubt that many of those who support war do so out of genuine concern for the Iraqi people and the conditions in which they live, but I would have more respect for the politicians who make such arguments if they backed their tough words with hard cash.

These are desperately dangerous times for the world and the issues are desperately difficult to wrestle with. No right-thinking person can feel anything but revulsion for Saddam Hussein's regime. However I, and the vast majority of people in this country, cannot escape the feeling that what is happening is plainly wrong. A unilateral strike on Iraq, ignoring international law and going to war without the evidence are all wrong.

Three years ago, in a widely admired speech, the now deputy leader of the Scottish Labour party told the Parliament:

"Please understand that the peace process is not just about an absence of war; it is about taking positive steps to resolve conflict."—[Official Report, 11 Nov 1999; Vol 03, c 614.]

As I survey the world today, I simply do not believe that enough has been done to resolve the conflict peacefully. The next few days will prove to be crucial for all of us who live on this fragile planet; decisions that will be made will have profound consequences for generations to come. Today, the Parliament can make its voice heard—I urge the Parliament to ensure that that voice is a voice for peace.

I move,

That the Parliament believes that no case for military action against Iraq has been proven; believes that no United Kingdom forces should take part in any military action without a United Nations mandate that specifically authorises such action and is based on clear, compelling and published evidence, and believes that any pre-emptive action by the United States of America and the United Kingdom without such a mandate would be contrary to international law.

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

I thank Mr Swinney for taking less than the allotted time, despite taking interventions.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour 9:50, 13 March 2003

In October 1977, I went on my first demonstration. We were protesting against apartheid and demanding the end of an evil regime. Britain was on the right side on that issue, but we called on the British Government—a Labour Government—to do more to help. In the same year, I met student refugees who had, fleeing a murderous dictatorship, come to Scotland from Chile. I also demonstrated for them against that regime. Throughout my adult life, I have cared passionately about pain, suffering, persecution and injustice around the world. People of all political persuasions and of none in Scotland and throughout Britain have done the same in the name of democracy, freedom and justice.

Just over 20 years ago, I met an Iraqi student who was based in Scotland and who told a conference about the horrors back home and the efforts of the Iraqi secret police to track him down at university in Scotland. When we gave him our support, we were protesting against Saddam Hussein and in favour of the British Government's doing more to protect those who were suffering under his persecution. Like many other Scots, my political views have been shaped by international events. They have been driven by a desire to change other countries, as well as my own, and shaped by the Falkland Islands and gulf wars. My views have been driven by our knowledge of the suffering that is experienced by so many people from Palestine to central America to the Balkans.

Because of the sacrifices of our parents and grandparents, my generation knows the benefit of international institutions in helping to preserve our freedoms and the peaceful existence that we have been able to enjoy. The European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the Commonwealth and the United Nations have each contributed to the stability and peace that has been enjoyed by Britain in my lifetime. That is just one of the reasons why they are vital as we enter another century and learn to co-exist in an ever-changing, complex and increasingly interdependent global community.

I enter this morning's debate on the side of peace, freedom and justice, and on the side of those who protest against injustice and for change, and of international institutions such as the United Nations.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

I am glad that the minister protested against apartheid in 1977. Whose side is he on now, however? Is he on the side of Nelson Mandela, who is against this war, or is he on the side of George Bush?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I am on the side of the people of Iraq. I remind Mr Sheridan that, for decades—well over a century—socialists have supported those who are being persecuted and have been willing to take action to defend them and their freedoms.

Labour's amendment states clearly the crucial role of the UN in helping to resolve all of the conflicts between nations in the middle east. We want all nations, including the United States of America and France, to work inside the UN, not alone. Labour's amendment supports the UN, which has already condemned the Iraqi regime and insisted that Saddam Hussein must co-operate with the will of the international community and do so fully, without qualification or equivocation. Labour's amendment recognises the efforts of the UK Government to secure another resolution in the UN security council in advance of any military action that might be required.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I hear what the First Minister says about the UK Government's attitude to a second resolution in the UN. Will the First Minister support military action if there is no second resolution in the UN?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I have three things to say in answer to that question. First, it would be wrong, in this country and elsewhere, to comment on hypothetical situations when the Prime Minister is involved in efforts, even today, to secure that resolution in advance of action.

Secondly, it is wrong for a country such as France—which has an international reputation that has had its ups and downs over the years, but which still has international responsibilities—to say in advance of whatever happens over the coming days and weeks that it would veto any resolution no matter what it said.

Thirdly, it would be wrong not to go back to the recent example that Mr Swinney was unwilling to comment on in his opening speech. In the last debate that we had in the Scottish Parliament on this subject, Tom McCabe reminded the Scottish National Party that it opposed the action in Kosovo, which was the subject of a veto but which no sane person now questions was right.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

That day, Andrew Wilson said that Alex Salmond was right to describe that action as "unpardonable folly". However, he was not right; he was wrong. That example proves that, at that time, the right decision was made in the right circumstances. In each and every circumstance, a decision has to be made that measures the circumstances of that time.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The First Minister said that he would not comment on hypothetical situations, but then went on to comment on actions that the French Government might take. The core question in this debate, when we strip away everything else, is: will the First Minister support unilateral military action without a specific mandate from the United Nations? Yes or no?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I will address that point. The amendment that I will move makes the point that action should be authorised by the United Nations.

Difficult decisions must be made in the next few days. Those decisions will, rightly, be taken by the elected Government of the UK on behalf of all of the people of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We believe that the House of Commons should, if at all possible, vote again before any conflict, but the decisions are complex and this is not a game. None of us wants unnecessary war and we all have concerns about the impact of military action on innocent people, but we also have concerns about the impact that not taking action will have on innocent people inside Iraq and elsewhere in the world.

March 16 will be the 15th anniversary of the largest-ever chemical attack on a civilian population: the gas attack that Saddam Hussein carried out on his own people in 1988. Let us be in no doubt about the impact of his regime on his own people and the threat that his regime poses to the world community.

Because we want a peaceful solution, we must have no doubts in our determination to back UN resolution 1441 and we must show no sign of weakness in backing the demand for the Iraqi regime to give up its weapons of mass destruction. Resolution 1441 confirms that Iraq is already in material breach of its obligations to the international community. It sets a final challenge for Saddam Hussein to openly and honestly give up those weapons and to co-operate fully and quickly. Resolution 1441 does not ask for evidence of his guilt; it confirms his guilt. The UN demands evidence that he has changed. The resolution was passed unanimously; there were no votes against it so there can be no doubt that it was a serious and final declaration.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I accept the point that resolution 1441 was not a trigger for war. The phrase that the UN traditionally uses in its resolutions that act as a trigger for war is "all necessary means". That was used in the resolution that triggered the previous gulf war. Resolution 1441 certainly does not give a green light for military action.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

There are different views on that matter. Our objective should be to secure a second resolution in advance of military conflict. That is exactly what the Prime Minister is trying to do. It is precisely because we want a peaceful solution and because we back the authority of the UN that I believe that our Prime Minister is right to propose this week that Iraq be given one final deadline and the clarity of simple tests to meet. There are those who would argue that that new initiative simply delays the inevitable and that action should be immediate. However there are public concerns; there is still the possibility that there will be a peaceful solution and one final effort is worth while.

We are not talking about a second resolution, of course; it would be the 18th resolution. It is the arrogance of Iraq in defying the consistent will of the UN that threatens the authority of the UN.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Two wrongs do not make a right.

Of course, the UN and countries such as the UK will not rush to war and they will attempt to achieve peaceful change. For the sake of the people of Iraq and the wives, mothers, husbands and children of our troops, that is our duty. For the UN to be taken seriously and for its resolutions to have any standing at all, we must sometimes be willing, in the right circumstances, to back words with deeds.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Not at the moment. Given the threat from international terrorism to this country and throughout the world, and given the callous nature of the regime in Iraq, which is not willing to give up its weapons of mass destruction, it would indeed be an act of unpardonable folly for us to stand on the sidelines and do nothing.

There are many views within the Labour party—which I am proud to lead in Scotland—about the way ahead on the issue. Those views are reflected in the Parliament, and they reflect the diverse views and opinions that exist in the communities that we represent. There is no one simple voice that speaks for all Scots on such a complex matter. Our job in the Parliament is to listen, to reflect, to speak from principle and to contribute to the representation and development of public opinion in our land.

I do not disparage any view that is expressed from principles that are deeply felt and honestly motivated. I am angry, however, at the inconsistent, dishonest and irresponsible views that have been expressed by the nationalist leadership. One day, the nationalists are against any wars; another day, war might be possible. One day, they are for the United Nations, but every other day, they second-guess its decisions. Now and again, they remember to mention support for the troops, but they are not prepared to help them to prepare for the possibility of battle.

Never have so many inconsistencies been expressed so often by so few. On Saturday, the nationalist leader says, "Not in my name, no way." On Monday, it is, "Maybe in my name, when I think the UN has got it right." In the same interview, Mr Swinney tells the SNP, "We will follow the will of the United Nations." He will allow that to happen, however, only if he agrees with the UN resolution.

When he is under pressure, the leader of the SNP says that he will support Scottish troops in conflict, yet he describes spending money on their preparation and safety as immoral. He should be ashamed. In two short months, the Scottish nationalist party has shown its inexperience and lack of principle. The only thing that is clear is that it is not fit for government.

I hope that we have a mature debate this morning, and that our speeches and decisions reflect well on this young Parliament. We have the right to debate issues, responsibility for which lies elsewhere. We should use that right sparingly and, when we do so, we should use it well. On an issue as serious as the current international situation, those in Parliament who wish to exploit genuine fears and worries for electoral gain should think twice.

International relations are complex—they are life enhancing, but they are also life threatening.

When we speak in Parliament, we should consider all the implications of our actions. When our Prime Minister has recognised public concern and has moved to ask the UN to give Saddam Hussein one last chance, we should not undermine his efforts to secure not just peace and justice in Iraq, but stability and strength in the United Nations.

Some will wish the elections for the second session of Parliament to be dominated by Iraq. They will do so not on principle, but because they do not want to defend their policies for Scotland. They will not succeed, however: Scots will see through that deception. In the weeks ahead I, as a concerned Scot, will persist in my interest in events that are unfolding elsewhere in the world. I also want Parliament to have a proper mandate: a mandate on the future of Scotland and on the direction that we take in the years to come.

On 1 May, people in Scotland will have a choice to make for Parliament and for the next four years. I hope and believe that they will choose between us on the way in which we will use the powers of devolution to make a difference here in Scotland. They will reflect on other matters and on how we conduct ourselves here, in their name.

The mark of leadership in Scotland is to speak on the big issues of the day, but to do so honestly and consistently. True leadership looks beyond the next vote, backs the right course of action and does not simply make statements to different audiences in a vain attempt to win votes at any price. Scotland deserves better than that, which is why I urge the Parliament to back our amendment.

I move amendment S1M-4012.6, to leave out from first "no" to end and insert:

"the authority of the United Nations is crucial to resolving conflicts in the Middle East, that Saddam Hussein is a danger to the international community, the region and his own people and that Saddam Hussein should co-operate fully with the implementation of UN resolution 1441 and notes the objective of Her Majesty's Government to secure a further resolution in the UN Security Council before any military intervention."

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative 10:05, 13 March 2003

As my colleague Phil Gallie made clear during the previous debate on the Iraq situation, the Conservatives accept that the Scottish National Party is perfectly entitled to bring this issue before Parliament for debate. Equally, we are entitled to point out that there is more than a hint of political opportunism in the motion before us. We are less than two months away from an election—[ Interruption. ]

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

Order. The opening two speakers were heard in silence and Mr McLetchie should be heard in silence too.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

Thank you, Presiding Officer. We are less than two months away from an election that should be about how we tackle crime, improve our schools and hospitals and strengthen our economy. People can draw their own conclusions from the fact that, instead of discussing those issues, over which this Parliament has control, the Scottish National Party wishes to talk about an issue over which we do not have control, and which has already been debated here on two previous occasions as well as in Scotland's other Parliament, at Westminster, where questions of foreign and defence policy are properly decided.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

Is Mr McLetchie seriously telling us that Scotland's Parliament should not debate the key issue of the day, when local authorities throughout Scotland and the UK have been debating it? Is he aware that all 79 councillors on Glasgow City Council, including the sole Tory, said that there should be no pre-emptive strike on Iraq? This is the most important issue of the day and we should be discussing it, not saying that this is not a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

I do not think that Mr Gibson heard my opening remarks. I said that we are entitled to have this debate. I also pointed out that Scotland has two Parliaments that are entitled to debate this subject, with legal responsibility lying with the Parliament down the road, where, in my view, it should remain.

It is clear that the Scottish National Party has concluded that it is not going to make any impression if it concentrates on issues that are our responsibility, and that its only chance on 1 May is to pose as the so-called anti-war party. I use the word "pose" advisedly, as that is exactly what the SNP is doing. Mr Swinney does not rule out war under any circumstances and neither do the Liberal Democrats. I accept that it is the position of some members that we should rule out war under any circumstances. Although I think that they are profoundly misguided, I respect their right to that opinion.

I am afraid that I have no such respect for the opinion of the SNP. It claims to support the United Nations but, at its recent party conference, its leader gave a speech denouncing military action even before we had heard what Dr Blix had to say. In its motion, the SNP is saying that it will support a United Nations resolution authorising action against Saddam, as long as that conforms to exactly what the SNP wants, and on its terms. The SNP reserves to itself the right to second-guess the Security Council, which is an arrogant delusion of grandeur on a truly epic scale. John Swinney and Jacques Chirac share one thing in common: both want to wield an unreasonable veto.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

From his former—or continuing—profession as a lawyer, Mr McLetchie will understand the importance of obeying the law. International law—the United Nations charter and other provisions—makes it quite clear that there is no ability for nations to take unilateral action such as that being proposed by the United States and the United Kingdom. Does Mr McLetchie accept that, in 1991, there was a particular, specific authorisation for military intervention, which had been passed by the United Nations, and that no such provision exists now? The source of that point is not me, but the person who proposed the resolution that Mr McLetchie hides behind in this debate.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

Mr Swinney's point about the automatic trigger and his reference to the US ambassador to the UN are interesting. The American ambassador was absolutely right. There is no automatic trigger in resolution 1441. The matter rests on Saddam Hussein's ability to adhere to the 17 previous resolutions, to declare, destroy and disarm, and to avert the possibility of war. All that is required is for the Hussein regime to comply with the resolutions that have been passed. My reference to automatic triggers concerned that point.

The truth is that the SNP and, to some extent, the Liberal Democrats are guilty of fraud on this subject. Their leaders appear at anti-war demonstrations, giving the impression that they oppose war. However, their real position is far more equivocal. Such unprincipled politics have long been the hallmark of Mr Rumbles and his friends. However, it seems that the SNP has decided to compete for the mantle of the most two-faced party in Scottish politics. It is playing politics with the lives of Scottish servicemen, and its members should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

No. I ask Mr Sheridan to be quiet. I have not come to his party yet.

There is of course the chaos and division that is engulfing the Labour party.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative


The fact that that division spreads all the way up the Cabinet does nothing to help the credibility of the Government. Indeed, it merely reflects the fragility of Mr Blair's position. The main criticism that can be levelled at the Prime Minister

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative


The main criticism that can be levelled at the Prime Minister is that at least six months ago, he failed to set out a full and coherent account of the case against Saddam Hussein's regime. Instead, he simply expressed his personal commitment to ridding Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. He asked the British public to trust him. Not surprisingly, he has not managed to convince even his own party, let alone the British public.

Photo of Andrew Wilson Andrew Wilson Scottish National Party

Does Mr McLetchie not realise that now is not the time for playing the man and not the ball? Should he not raise his game and talk about the issues involved rather than the personalities?

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

I always rise to Andrew Wilson's challenges. I intend to do so today and, indeed, I have already done so.

The Prime Minister failed significantly in his task because the case against Saddam Hussein's regime is overwhelming. Saddam Hussein has been at war with his own people for more than 30 years. He matches his political hero, Joseph Stalin, in his success at liquidating domestic opponents. Iraqi dissidents in this country have realised that their country will not be freed from this tyrant without the help of the international community. Yet, to the eternal shame of the so-called anti-war movement, almost all the Iraqi groups that are fighting for freedom and democracy in their own country have been excluded from the anti-war coalition. That is not surprising, as they are an embarrassment to Mr Sheridan and his friends on the far left. We all know that the far left has never been too keen on either freedom or democracy.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

I am glad that Mr McLetchie mentioned the past 30 years of brutal repression under Saddam Hussein. Will he condemn the previous Tory Government for arming and trading with Saddam Hussein?

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

People in the French Government and French companies are some of the biggest arms traders.

I will address Mr Sheridan's underlying point later. He and others of his ilk are always quick to point out the so-called double standards of the west and of the United States in particular. It is true that we and the United States have supported unpleasant regimes, but that support was given on the basis that my enemy's—

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

But the member does not know—

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

I ask Mr Sheridan to please listen; he might learn something.

That support was given on the basis that my enemy's enemy is my friend, or that when faced with a choice we may have backed the lesser of two evils rather than neither of them. That has been the realpolitik of the past.

We must recognise that American foreign policy has changed after the traumatic events of 11 September. No longer are the Americans willing to put up with so-called friends who try to deflect internal discontent by stirring up anti-Americanism. The Americans have adopted a far more principled position that recognises that the safety and stability of the world depends on encouraging free and democratic regimes in the middle east.

I am sad to say that the knee-jerk anti-Americanism of many in the SNP and the Scottish Socialist Party blinds them to that truth. It also blinds them to the fact that the Iraqi people could not care less about the alleged hypocrisies of the past. They simply want our support in their fight for liberation now.

We should be quite clear that Saddam Hussein poses a threat to international peace and security. The UN certainly thinks so and has said as much in resolution after resolution over the past 12 years. Chapter VII of the UN charter specifically and exclusively deals with threats to international peace and security. Military force is specifically permitted if deemed necessary to deal with such threats.

All the 17 United Nations Security Council resolutions that have been passed about Iraq in the past 12 years fall under chapter VII of the UN charter. Indeed, resolution 1441 deliberately replicates the language of article 42 of the charter. No country that signed up to resolution 1441—including France—can be in any doubt about what it means. The resolution warns Iraq of "serious consequences" in the event of its failing to disarm. What could be more serious than military action?

Photo of Duncan Hamilton Duncan Hamilton Scottish National Party

Mr McLetchie is right to quote the term "serious consequences". Will he confirm that the definition of "serious consequences" is a matter for the Security Council alone and that it is not for member states to define the term as they wish?

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

I do not accept that that is necessarily the position. The language of resolution 1441 provides sufficient validation for the action that it is proposed should be taken.

Although a so-called second resolution—which would in fact be an 18th resolution—would be highly desirable, it is not and has never been a legal prerequisite for military action. A divided and indecisive outcome of deliberations in the UN would boost considerably Saddam Hussein's hopes of getting away with it once again. We must not allow that to happen.

In these difficult times, we must give our trust and support to the Government's judgment. Our security is at stake. The freedom and future of millions of people who are living under a repressive regime in Iraq are at stake. We should have the courage of our convictions and principles and should give the Government and people in Iraq the backing that they need at this difficult time.

I move, as an amendment to amendment S1M-4012.6, amendment S1M-4012.6.1, to insert at end:

"registers its concern that the report published by the International Development Committee of the House of Commons concludes that insufficient emphasis has been placed on the humanitarian implications of military action in Iraq and urges Her Majesty's Government, in co-operation with the United Nations, aid agencies and other governments, to address this as a matter of priority."

Photo of John McAllion John McAllion Labour 10:17, 13 March 2003

No member of this Parliament is responsible for the fact that just seven weeks before a Scottish general election we find ourselves on the cusp of a major war and need to debate where the Parliament stands in relation to that war. Although it is naive to assume that the war will not be a factor in the outcome of the Scottish general election, I honestly ask those who participate in the debate to put thoughts of that election to one side—at least for the next three hours. This subject is far too serious for petty party point scoring. Any party that seeks to exploit a war situation for party advantage will stand condemned in the eyes of the Scottish people—and rightly so.

I stress that amendment S1M-4012.6.2 is our amendment. Although it appears in the business bulletin in my name, five other MSPs have signed it and I hope that many more MSPs will support it at the end of the debate. The effect of the amendment is to ask the Scottish Parliament to support a single sentence, which reads:

"this Parliament believes that no case for military action against Iraq has been proven."

That is a simple but powerful statement. It has the potential to unite all members of the Parliament who are concerned to stop the outbreak of what now appears to be an imminent attack on the Iraqi people.

We know that the United Nations has not sanctioned any attack on Iraq. There is no second Security Council resolution authorising such an attack. Those who believe that any attack without explicit UN sanction and authorisation would be wrong and a breach of international law can vote for the amendment, because without such sanction and authorisation the case for an attack on Iraq has simply not been made or proven.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

No one doubts John McAllion's integrity on this matter. However, I ask him to take his mind back to the situation in Rwanda in the 1990s. Can he recall being critical of a Tory Government and of the United Nations for failing to protect the people of Rwanda? Does he not feel some compassion for the people of Iraq?

Photo of John McAllion John McAllion Labour

It is because I feel compassion for the people of Iraq that I am opposed to the horrendous strike against them that the Governments of the United States and, unfortunately, the UK are planning.

Those who are troubled by the United States and UK Governments' revisionism in relation to the United Nations charter can also support the amendment. The charter is crystal clear: the Security Council, and only the Security Council, can determine what constitutes a threat to peace or an act of aggression; and the Security Council, and only the Security Council, can decide what an international response to such a threat should be. The one exception to that rule is article 51, which allows individual or collective action in self-defence against an armed attack only until such time as the Security Council has put into place the measures to restore and maintain international peace and security.

Those are the facts. No one is arguing that the attack on Iraq would be justified under article 51. Under international law there is no such thing as an unreasonable veto. As an opinion-former said in one of the papers yesterday, a veto is a veto is a veto and that is the end of it.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

Does the member agree that there is a lot of evidence of the Americans exercising an unreasonable veto, which has created great problems for people whom we would wish to support, particularly in the middle east?

Photo of John McAllion John McAllion Labour

The tragedy for Johann Lamont and me is that our party supports the Americans, who use those vetoes against the interests of the Palestinian people. That is the point that I am trying to make. Britain has been one of the closest allies of Israel and America in the United Nations Security Council and that is why we have the problem.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I am asking the member whether he regards what the Americans have done in the past as using an unreasonable veto, which ought to be challenged. If it were challenged, he and I would be able to address the serious issues in the middle east.

Photo of John McAllion John McAllion Labour

It should be challenged inside the United Nations. If we abandon the United Nations completely, what else will there be to get some sort of discipline? The reality is that under the UN charter, there are simply no grounds for any pre-emptive attack against the people of Iraq. Therefore, those who are opposed to such an attack—and I know that members on the Labour benches are opposed to such an attack—can easily vote for our amendment, because it says simply that the case has not yet been made.

So too can those who sometimes shake their head in disbelief at the argument that an attack on Iraq can be justified on humanitarian grounds in order to liberate the oppressed people of Iraq. They know that the air and sea-launched cruise missiles that will rain down on Iraqi cities; the murderous payloads on B52 bombers that are stationed in airbases in southern England ready to strike against Iraq; the weapons tipped with depleted uranium that were used with such devastating effect in the first gulf war and are about to be used with even more devastating effect in the second gulf war; and the brand new MOAB—massive ordnance air burst—bomb, the biggest and most powerful conventional weapon ever constructed in the history of mankind, are not humanitarian weapons. They are weapons of mass destruction, which will kill thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis. It is a sick mockery to argue that an attack of that nature can be described as a humanitarian intervention on behalf of the Iraqi people, because it is no such thing.

In any case, the talk of humanitarian intervention coming from the United States and United Kingdom Governments has a distinctly hollow ring, because they are the very Governments that, for the past 12 years, have been chiefly responsible for a policy of sanctions against the Iraqi people that has killed more than half a million Iraqi children and more than a million Iraqi adults.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

Does Mr McAllion share my concern that if we embark on a policy of regime change, where do we stop—Myanmar, Zimbabwe, North Korea? Does he agree that the brutal dictatorship in Chile, to which the First Minister referred, was brought about by Dr Kissinger's policy of regime change, which resulted in the murder of President Allende?

Photo of John McAllion John McAllion Labour

I endorse everything that the member said. I want to concentrate on this issue, because it sometimes angers me to the point of distraction when I hear spokesmen from the United States of America speak about their concern for the humanitarian suffering of the people of Iraq. Those people never showed a flicker of humanitarian concern when the UN officials responsible for humanitarian aid in Iraq were resigning their positions in protest against the sanctions that the Americans were imposing, because those sanctions were the equivalent of genocide against the Iraqi people. Where has their conscience and concern suddenly come from for the people whom they were prepared to see die as a price worth paying in their campaign to restore American strategic interest in that area.

Those who feel anger at the American and British Governments for their hypocrisy can also support our amendment, as can those who believe that more time has to be given to the United Nations weapons inspectors and that containment is working and should be given more of a chance.

The reality is that if anyone here seriously doubts that an attack on Iraq is imminent, they just have to consider the position in which we find ourselves. The countdown to war is well past what Clare Short described last Sunday as "10 minutes to midnight". An army of invasion is massed on the borders of Iraq. The B52s, the F111s and the Tornadoes are in place and ready to strike against Iraqi cities. Aircraft carrier groups are in the gulf at this moment training and ready to go with a massive attack against the Iraqi people.

All that is needed now is a nod from the politicians, by which we mean the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. All that stands between war and peace is the democratic pressure that can be brought to bear on those two politicians.

Our amendment is deliberately minimalist, because it seeks to maximise the support and pressure that the Parliament can bring to bear on those who will make the decisions about war and peace. Some will argue that what the Scottish Parliament thinks will be ignored in London and will not even register in Washington. If that is the case, it simply highlights the democratic deficit under which we now find ourselves labouring in this country. I am appalled at the fact that a British Prime Minister of whatever party can use the royal prerogative to choose war without reference to the elected Parliaments of Westminster and Holyrood, ignore the millions of people who have marched in the streets against it and say simply, "We know better." It matters to me that democracy should matter to the Scottish people. It matters to the people in the streets that the Parliament takes a position. The best position that the Parliament can take is to put aside our differences on this or that point of detail and vote in favour of a motion that says simply that we are opposed to the war in Iraq. Please support the amendment.

I move, as an amendment to amendment S1M-4012.6, amendment S1M-4012.6.2, to leave out from "the authority" to end and insert:

"no case for military action against Iraq has been proven."

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat 10:27, 13 March 2003

Liberal Democrats—and, I believe, everyone in the chamber—are in no doubt that Saddam Hussein is an evil tyrant. As we have already heard in the debate, he has been responsible for the murder of thousands of his own citizens. He has used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and we are in no doubt that his stocks of such weapons should be destroyed. The key question is how. We firmly believe that it must be done through the United Nations.

When I spoke at my party's conference in Aberdeen two weeks ago, I quoted from John F Kennedy's inaugural speech and I think that the words bear repeating. He said:

"To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support—to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective—to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak—and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.

To those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction."

More than 40 years ago, President Kennedy believed that the United Nations was the world's best hope. I believe that, whatever its imperfections, he was right then and that remains the case today. When the international community has acted in concert it has been most successful. If we want to achieve international stability, we should acknowledge that only through united international action will it be achieved. Only when the United Nations—the organisation through which the international community operates—is seen to have the authority to command the respect of countries big or small, powerful or weak, will we achieve those objectives. That must surely mean that countries that have championed the United Nations in the past should not turn their backs on it now. At the present time, Britain and America sometimes give every impression that if they cannot get their own way at the United Nations, they will bypass it.

War, with all its appalling human consequences, should only ever be a last resort, when all other options have been exhausted. Surely we must give the United Nations and the weapons inspectors the time that they need to do their job. As the Prime Minister has often said, Saddam Hussein has had 12 years since the last gulf war to comply with the UN. For much of that time, not least in the period after the weapons inspectors were expelled, little or nothing was done. Now that the inspectors report some progress, surely a little more time cannot be too high a price to pay for the prospect of peace.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Would the member care to comment on the report from Scott Ritter, who was head of the previous weapons inspectorate, who declared that 95 per cent of all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were destroyed in the seven years between 1991 and 1998? Is he just misleading us?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

There is still a clear need for weapons inspectors. That was acknowledged in Security Council resolution 1441. According to the most recent reports by Dr El Baradei and Dr Blix, there has been a substantial measure of disarmament. The inspection effort is yielding results. That is why the inspectors must be given time to continue that work.

The threat of force has been an important catalyst in gaining the limited co-operation that has been forthcoming from Saddam Hussein so far. However, there is understandable concern that, with armed forces in place, there will be an inevitable move to war. We must remain able and willing to distinguish between being ready to act and acting, and between a credible threat of force and a certain use of force. We must refrain from taking military action, unless it is taken as a last resort and the United Nations Security Council considers that all other options have been exhausted.

That has been my party's consistent position. It was the position that Charles Kennedy outlined at the Hyde park rally and it was the position that Robert Brown outlined in Glasgow—to considerable barracking, I am told. Mr McLetchie demeans the political process when he attacks the integrity and courage of people who articulated their case with great principle on those occasions.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

Will Mr Wallace clarify an aspect of the twin approvals that are set out in the amendment in Nora Radcliffe's name? As I understand it, that amendment says that, for action to be taken, there must be

"an affirmative vote on a substantive motion in the House of Commons."

Let us suppose that there is such an affirmative vote in support of taking action but that action is not sanctioned by a further United Nations resolution because of the exercise of a veto. Is it the Liberal Democrat position that China can veto actions that the British Government thinks should be taken in our national interest?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

Yes, because the United Nations is the only United Nations that we have got. If we start to pick and mix which UN resolutions we choose to support and which we choose to ignore, that opens the way to international instability.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

On the same part of amendment S1M-4012.5, will the member clarify that the Liberal Democrat position is that a Security Council resolution that specifically authorises military action is required before such military action can commence?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

Yes. I will say more about that in a moment.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister laid down conditions that Iraq must fulfil to avoid war. If that is a step towards recognising that public opinion—indeed, international opinion—believes that more can be done before it is necessary to resort to war, it is welcome. Some of the tests are reasonable, but the first, which would involve a television appearance by Saddam Hussein, borders on the ridiculous. It is for the UN Security Council to agree the conditions that it wants Iraq to meet and I hope that the Prime Minister develops his proposals in that spirit.

I do not believe that resolution 1441 provides the trigger for war. Even in debate in the Scottish Parliament, legal opinions have been exchanged. When he was in The Hague to open the new International Criminal Court earlier this week, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, said that, without UN backing,

"the legitimacy and support of any such action will be seriously impaired. If the United States and others would go outside the Council and take military action, it will not be in conformity with the Charter."

From those words, it would appear that Kofi Annan believes that a further Security Council resolution is required.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Conservative

No. I have given way several times.

British military action will be justified only if there is a further resolution from the UN Security Council and an affirmative vote on a substantive motion in the House of Commons. John McAllion made a point that was not specific to the present dispute. I share his view that, although the royal prerogative has been used to go to war over many generations, its use is not acceptable in a modern democracy.

If military action is justified, such action must be accompanied by efforts to address the humanitarian and environmental consequences of war. Any post-conflict administration should be set up under UN authority.

Whatever views members have, we must all hope that we do not reach that point. We must hope that Iraq will be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction and that the people of Iraq will be liberated from Saddam Hussein's pernicious tyranny without resort to war.

It is inevitable that the Iraq crisis is in the forefront of the minds of politicians and public alike and it is appropriate that we should discuss it in the Parliament. However, we should be clear that we are offering a view to the House of Commons, to those who were elected to represent Scotland there and to the United Kingdom Government.

Under the settlement to which we have agreed, that is where responsibility for decisions on foreign and defence policy lies.

In one important respect, we in the Scottish Parliament have a responsibility at this time of tension. In the context of the present international situation, we have a responsibility of care to the many diverse communities that make up Scotland today. As happened in the aftermath of 11 September, small, prejudiced and ignorant groups may try to exploit anxieties to justify attacks against ethnic communities. Therefore, I am sure that members will understand that I must leave the debate shortly, to visit members of different ethnic communities in Edinburgh. The visits were scheduled to take place before today's debate was arranged. It is understandable that many members of those communities are concerned about the impact that the current international tension could have on them. I am sure that I speak for all members when I make it plain that we will not tolerate the stirring up of prejudice on the grounds of race or religion. When I meet members of ethnic minority communities this morning, I will make it clear that they are entitled to the full protection of the law. I will convey to them the full support of the Parliament in that regard.

The Liberal Democrats support the continuing United Nations efforts to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction peacefully, under Security Council resolution 1441. For as long as the Security Council judges it beneficial, those efforts should include the work of the UN inspectors in Iraq. Military action can be only a last resort. It can be taken only if it is sanctioned by a further Security Council resolution and by an affirmative vote on a substantive motion in the House of Commons.

I move amendment S1M-4012.5, to leave out from first "believes" to end and insert:

"condemns the failure of the Iraqi regime to respect international law and human rights; supports the United Nations' (UN) efforts to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction under UN Security Council Resolution 1441; calls for the inspectors to be given sufficient time and resources to continue their work as long as the Security Council assesses that progress can be made; believes that only as a last resort, once all other options have been exhausted, should military action in Iraq be undertaken, and opposes any military action not sanctioned by a further resolution from the Security Council and an affirmative vote on a substantive motion in the House of Commons."

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

We come to the open debate. There will be a strict four-minute time limit.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party 10:37, 13 March 2003

On September 12 2001, the day after the mass murder in New York and Washington, Le Monde carried a banner headline, the translation of which is, "We are all Americans now." That headline encapsulated our feelings of outrage and grief. In London, in a speech of great clarity and compassion, Tony Blair called for justice and mercy, a campaign to extirpate the terrorists from their lairs and a ruthless war on the global poverty that fuels terrorism. I warmly endorsed that speech. Just for a moment, it seemed that good might come out of evil.

Today, the French, the Germans and other old Europeans are openly vilified in the American media. Afghanistan, which has been almost forgotten, is slipping back into anarchy, and some of the poorest countries of the world—Angola, Cameroon and Guinea—are being openly bullied and bribed in the Security Council.

The Executive amendment is right to stress the primacy of the United Nations, but members should look at today's headlines:

"Blair's gamble as allies prepare to go to war" without the UN, or

"War looms as Prime Minister prepares to bypass United Nations".

How can that be? It can be only because the war is not about Iraq. It is about a new world order, it is about the cold war being over and it is about the world's only superpower being determined to impose its own order of pre-emptive strike and pax Americana. That is a serious argument.

Even though I oppose it, I concede that there is an argument for Britain to be part of that order. Such a case is based on perceptions of British self-interest and realpolitik. However, such a case can never be argued on the grounds of compassion and international law.

In recent weeks, our television studios have seen a stream of pundits unburdening themselves of the pain and agony that they personally experienced before deciding to march unto war. Let me tell members what pain is by providing just one personal flashback from war. Pain is a little boy with what is left of his leg in an Oor Wullie bucket of antiseptic, taking it out, turning it over, looking at it and then looking at me as though I knew the answer. I had no answer then, as I have no answer now, except to keep my mouth open.

The war has already claimed its first victim, which is the truth. The resolution is not a mandate. A mandate must specifically authorise the use of military force, as happened in the Korean war and in the previous gulf war. A mandate must be rooted in compelling evidence. In war these days, the truth is that it is safer to be a soldier than to be a civilian. Nine out of 10 casualties of war are civilians, most of whom are women and children. The allies look for a surgical strike with not many dead. I have my doubts about that, but even if it were true, the killing goes on long after the war is over.

Last week, the Scottish Trades Union Congress called on all silent MSPs to say where they stand, and many have done so today. Many in the chamber take the old European view, which was articulated by John McAllion, that there is no case for military action against Iraq. The case has not yet been proven. Perhaps later today, we can rally round that one position across the parties—the Liberals, the SNP, the John McAllions, the members of the Labour party and, indeed, perhaps some members of the Tory party.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour 10:42, 13 March 2003

Like many people throughout Scotland and the United Kingdom, I am deeply troubled by the current international situation. We know that there is a variety of views, ranging from outright hostility, to the view that Blair is a warmonger or that another United Nations resolution is needed, or to the troubled view that we must deal with Saddam Hussein. The division in the debate is reflected in what I am told by people in my party or my constituency or by my friends and in what I am told in my own home.

It is ironic that the one division that does not exist, which some would like to see, is a division between the peoples of Scotland and England on the issue. Indeed, as I reflect on our troubled world and on the divisions that our international community faces, I wonder how much more irrelevant it can be to have a party that is based entirely on the desire to seek further division within our country.

The decision will not be made in this chamber, but we have an opportunity to explore these serious issues, perhaps with a freedom and space that is not available to those who are weighed down with the burden of making that decision and recognising its limitations. I will express my views on the matter, as I have always done freely to constituents who have come to me. My view is serious and troubled and is not taken lightly.

A consensus exists in this country around the role of President Bush and the American Administration. One of my constituents told me that he was troubled about the war and sometimes thought that we should go one way but that at other times he was anxious and wanted us to step back. However, that man Bush, he said, is not helping. Bush is seen as a cowboy who is gung-ho and desperate for war.

On the previous occasion on which we debated the matter, when there had been no debate in Westminster, we had the arrogance to say that only we could speak for the people of Scotland.

We should reflect on what people said on behalf of the people of Scotland in that serious debate in Westminster.

Even if there is a mistrust of Bush, who is characterised as the cowboy, we should not crudely divide the debate into goodies and baddies. It is far more complex than that. However, that distrust of American motives is what makes the role of the United Nations so central. If we do not have international structures, where will we be? What will happen if those structures are seen to exist only to be manipulated or disregarded? Indeed where will we be if, as Mr Swinney would have it, not only the Security Council but Mr Swinney himself must be persuaded? We must argue for the importance and centrality of the United Nations.

I understand the debate about the legality provided by resolution 1441 but, no matter how compelling that case may be, if we are unable to persuade the majority of the United Nations, we must reflect on and respond to that. I believe that the six tests are at least a movement by our Government in that direction. People mock the idea of Saddam Hussein going on television, but I wonder what message ordinary Iraqis might take from hearing that man admit that he will bow to the will of the united international community.

There is a hunger to know that we are not being duped by Bush and that Blair has driven down the United Nations road because he believes that to be proper rather than because he wants to provide a cover for the United States. Even if we do not trust the motives of the American Administration, we must acknowledge that there may be serious reasons why we must go to war.

Unlike some, I do not have a Pooterish self-importance on this matter. I ask people to reflect on what was said in Westminster by Ann Clwyd, who is not a Blair clone or a Johnny-come-lately to the debate but someone who has reflected on these serious issues and who says that we must go. We know that the country is anxious and troubled about what is happening. I urge a key and central role for the United Nations, which should be seen not simply as something to be won round but as something that is central to building a safer world for us all to live in.

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative 10:46, 13 March 2003

Today, we take our stand on United Nations resolution 1441, which is framed under chapter VII of the UN charter. In chapter VII, article 39 states:

"The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security."

Article 42 is particularly significant.

As David McLetchie has already confirmed this morning, although a second UN resolution supporting implementation of resolution 1441 within a given timetable would be highly desirable, a second resolution is not, and never has been, a legal prerequisite for military action. Britain's law officers have expressed no contrary view on that point.

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative

I will not give way at this stage, as I have only four minutes.

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative

The honourable member will have his chance. I wish to make every word count and do not wish to be distracted. He can take up the matter with the United Kingdom's law officers, not one of whom has expressed a contrary view.

After the previous war with Iraq, the UN-inspired no-fly zones were imposed specifically in order to prevent the Iraqi dictator from committing further acts of genocide or crimes against humanity. On many occasions, American and British aircraft have been fired at while enforcing those no-fly zones. It is therefore undeniable that the dictator has entered into hostilities over a prolonged period. In addition, the kind of weaponry that Saddam Hussein is currently developing could be put into a suitcase and brought into our centres of population by one individual with devastating consequences. The threat is immediate and it is real.

However, the Prime Minister should not take our support as being unconditional. He must keep the House of Commons fully informed and he must be able to command the confidence of, and a majority in, the House of Commons. Our Parliament should not be seen to be tying his hands by rushing to a premature judgment, as evidenced in some of today's amendments. The British people expect no less than that our United Kingdom Government should at all times act, and be seen to act, in the national interest.

I mention the wise words of President Roosevelt, who said:

"the whole world is one neighbourhood".

The House of Commons International Development Committee has just recommended that the Department for International Development should issue a statement outlining its humanitarian contingency plans so as to

"provide reassurance that adequate importance has been attached to the humanitarian consequences of military action."

We want to see a greater focus on that issue, which is a theme on which our amendment concentrates.

This is the third debate that we have had on Iraq and I repeat what I said in the first: I am associated with 603 City of Edinburgh squadron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. It is now public knowledge that many of its reservists and countless others have been called up. It is my conviction that if the Government, with the support of the House of Commons, asks our armed services to act on behalf of the nation, it must be given our total support.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat 10:50, 13 March 2003

I speak in support of the Liberal Democrat amendment. It can be summed up as follows: we should go to war only if there is clear and unequivocal evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which, as yet, there is not.

The current policy of UN inspections appears to be making progress and should be allowed more time. Indeed, as I said earlier, it is achieving containment so that Iraq is not currently a threat to us or to its neighbours in the middle east.

We should work at all times through the United Nations, following as far as is possible the paths of diplomacy and peaceful coercion. If we do not, we will undermine international law and the United Nations, perhaps damaging beyond repair that fragile but essential international institution—our "last best hope" as the Deputy First Minister said in his speech. Distinguished former Conservative ministers such as Kenneth Clarke and John Gummer hold similar views.

I am not a pacifist, although I respect those who are. I have no illusions about Saddam Hussein's brutal dictatorship. I have great respect for my former colleague in another place Ann Clwyd, the member of Parliament for Cynon Valley, who has long espoused the Kurdish cause. I am certainly not anti-American. I have lived and worked in the United States and I have great admiration and affection for the American people and my many friends there.

However, I have serious concerns and major reservations about the Bush Administration and the direction of its foreign and defence policies. The policy of regime change might have a superficial attraction but, as I said when I intervened on Mr McAllion, Iraq is far from being the world's only brutal dictatorship. North Korea, Myanmar and Zimbabwe come immediately to mind. Where do we start and where do we stop?

As the former Conservative chancellor Kenneth Clarke said in the House of Commons:

"the revolting nature of the Iraqi regime and its cruelty, much though we deplore it, is not a legal basis for war." —[Official Report, House of Commons, 26 February 2003; Vol 400, c 294.]

What if we go to war without the sanction of the United Nations? In military matters, I respect the views of those who are far more expert than I. It might well be that, as Air Marshall Sir Timothy Garden has said, America's overwhelming military might will prevail far more quickly than it did in 1991. But at what cost? The rich Iraqis can flee by plane and car. It is the poor and the 50 per cent of Iraqis under the age of 14 who will be left to suffer. A region that is already incredibly tense will be further destabilised. Foreign forces could be pinned down in Iraq for years, keeping peace between the minority Sunnis and the majority Shi'as. There will be further alienation of the Muslim world and more terrorist attacks could be provoked. Nothing is certain—much or all of this could happen, but we cannot be sure.

What of the cost of the war? Lincoln thought that the American civil war would last 90 days and cost $250 million, but it lasted four years and cost $3.3 billion. It was predicted that the first world war would be short and relatively inexpensive. The Vietnam war cost 90 per cent more than was forecast. William D Nordhaus of Yale University has forecast that the cost of war against Iraq will be between $50 billion and $140 billion. The cost of peacekeeping over a 10-year period could add a further $615 billion.

In the previous gulf war, the allies contributed $54 billion to America's military costs. That will not happen this time. Think what we could do if a fraction of all this money went to the global fund against malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. Millions of lives would be saved and millions of minds won.

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party 10:54, 13 March 2003

All round this country right now there is a sense of anxiety that does not recognise the division between devolved and reserved matters. It is based on a deep-seated unease about the motivation and justification for, and the legality of, a war against Iraq. In its first stage, that war will see 3,000 bombs and missiles rain down on an innocent Iraqi population.

People are questioning the real motivation for waging war on Iraq, which is a broken country with a leader who is evil but contained, while North Korea flaunts its developing nuclear capability for all to see, and the tally of UN resolutions that have been breached by Israel without sanction exceeds 60. People doubt that there is justification for a war that is based on no clear or compelling evidence.

Last week, Hans Blix said that

"no evidence of proscribed activities have so far been found".

He spoke of

"a substantial measure of disarmament" by Saddam. In those circumstances, war would not be what it should always be—a last resort.

There is also the question of legality. Article 2 of the United Nations charter is unequivocal. It prohibits the use of force except in self-defence—which neither the US nor the UK can argue with any credibility—or with the specific authorisation of the United Nations Security Council. As we have already heard in today's debate, even the ambassador of the United States to the United Nations admits that resolution 1441 is not a mandate for war. Even if the second resolution that is currently tabled at the Security Council was passed, it would not be a mandate for war.

In an earlier intervention, Duncan Hamilton was absolutely right. It is for the Security Council and only for the Security Council to define what the serious consequences mentioned in resolution 1441 should be. It is not for the UK or the United States to do so unilaterally. Only a resolution authorising the use of all necessary means would be a mandate for war. No such resolution has been tabled because, as a British official said on 25 February, it would not be passed.

War without a United Nations mandate will be illegal. It is incumbent on the First Minister, as Scotland's leader, to say unequivocally that he would not back illegal action against Iraq. That is important because each of us as individual citizens must ask what it will mean for international law if the United Kingdom and the United State choose to ignore the United Nations just because they can.

The United Nations is not a perfect institution—the people of Palestine have learned that to their cost over the years. However, the only alternatives to the United Nations are the notions of survival of the fittest and that might is right. That is the stuff of nightmares.

We are probably only days from an illegal war and I say to the First Minister that there is nothing hypothetical about that. We are days from war and it might be too late to stop it, but each of us has an obligation to try. That obligation rests most heavily on those of us who are elected to speak for Scotland. So let us do that today; let all of us speak on behalf of the majority of people in Scotland who want peace not war, and who want international law and not the diktat of the United States. Let the Parliament unite and speak with one voice and let that voice say to Tony Blair, "Not in our name."

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour 10:58, 13 March 2003

I want to make a short contribution to the debate to place on record my concerns about the international situation.

Although I have marched with others to demonstrate my opposition to war, I make my comments on the basis that, as an individual and in the same way as Johann Lamont, I have given serious thought to the issue. I am sure that I have thought about the issue no more than anyone else in the chamber, but I have my unique opinion.

It goes without saying that our opinions do not carry the same weight of responsibility as do those of our MPs at Westminster, because they have direct and constitutional accountability for foreign affairs. However, it is fair that our constituents see that the Scottish Parliament is engaging in this debate. If we are truly serious that the Parliament should continue to express its view as the international situation unfolds, we must respect all views expressed in the chamber and the reasoning used to come to those views, even though we might disagree with them. George Reid made an excellent contribution—the views from all parties are wide and varied, which reflects the views of the country at large. However, I find it difficult to believe that the SNP has only one view within its ranks, or so it would appear.

On the substance of the argument, the scene changes from day to day and therefore we must ensure that we are taking in all the information. It is a complex situation and a changing world order and, as clever as some of us like to think we are, no one can really be sure that their opinion is the right one; they can be sure only about what they believe to be true. I cannot be sure that I am right, but my belief is that the case for going to war has not been made. I believe that the inspectors should be allowed to do their job, that a peaceful solution is possible and that the threat of immediate danger does not appear to be present. Bill Clinton said only yesterday that if we can take more time we should do so, because we cannot bring back a life. We should think about that.

If there is to be a new approach to world order through the United Nations, there has to be an agreed basis on which to develop a strategy to deal with rogue states or countries that commit serious violations of international law, genocide or other inhumane acts. It is essential that there are criteria to determine how the world's policeman will act. It does not bode well for the United States that it did not sign up to the International Criminal Court. The US must show its commitment to acting as part of a wider international forum, and not just in its own interests.

I first learned of the Iraqi horrors in the 1980s when I was a student. Like Jack McConnell, I have been active on all those issues internationally. I worked closely with the General Union of Iraqi Students and organisations whose members' lives were literally in danger—they could never go back to the countries in which they were born. I saw the evidence of the Kurds who were gassed in the city of Halabjah. It pained me that world interest was sparse at that time.

There can be no doubt about Saddam Hussein's record, which is off the scale. He is a known aggressor and he should be tried for his crimes against humanity. However, it is the lack of consistency in our approach to the problem of Saddam Hussein that troubles many people. I have listened to Jack Straw, who has said good things about the international situation and the problems that Palestinians face. He said last week that the Israeli Defense Forces must leave Palestinian territory and expressed concern at the number of civilian casualties that have resulted from the demolitions that are being carried out on the west bank. Let us not forget that there is an illegal occupation of the west bank and the Gaza strip, towards which the UN has failed to take the same approach.

I commend our Government for what it has done but, like many people, I feel that the lack of consistency is causing a lack of trust in the war aims. I would never say never, but I do not believe that there should be war now.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green 11:02, 13 March 2003

A second resolution that is achieved through bribery and bullying at the Security Council will not make a war somehow more legitimate. A second United Nations resolution will not make war any less wrong. That is the view that my party and I take. My proposed amendment, which was not selected for debate, called on the Parliament to endorse peaceful alternatives to war. I will run through a few such alternatives before I develop my argument further.

First, we should let the United Nations weapons inspectors do their job—we should end the hypocrisy around that. Secondly, we should lift the economic sanctions—there are good reasons for doing so. Thirdly, we should do what we can to help the Iraqi people to create democracy. Fourthly, we should apply international law—there is now an International Criminal Court, in which we could try Saddam Hussein in his absence and send out a strong moral message. Fifthly, as Keith Raffan called for, we should properly fund the United Nations to pursue peace, because 15p per person per year from the world is not going to achieve that in our lifetime. We have to provide better funding for the United Nations.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

Will Robin Harper join me in endorsing Mr Swinney's valid point that it is absurd that £2 billion has been allowed for the Ministry of Defence to carry out the war, but that no extra resources have been given to the Department for International Development for reconstruction afterwards?

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

I absolutely agree with Mr Raffan.

Sixthly, we should reform the Security Council.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

No. I have taken one intervention.

I have with me a letter that 20 members of the European Parliament subscribed to and which is signed by Paul Lannoye, Francis Wurtz, Ulla Sandbaek and Proinsias De Rossa on their behalf. I shall read out a little bit of it:

"For the last 25 years, Iraqis have lived under conditions of war and sanctions. When you visit the country, you see poverty, destruction, misery, diseases, and above all a severe feeling of humiliation. Twelve years of sanctions have destroyed what was not destroyed during years of war. A whole generation has never experienced normal life. People are dependent on food rations. Fifty percent of Iraqi children are undernourished. The majority of pregnant women are anemic. 5 million people have no access to clean water. 20% of basic medicines are on the embargo list. Hospitals and schools are in a state of dilapidation. Imagine what a war means under such circumstances! ... Please listen to the message from old Europe: disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, stabilization of regions in conflict, are our common goal. But we don't believe that there is a military solution. We are concerned about the unforeseeable consequences of a military action. There are other peaceful ways to solve the Iraqi crisis. Let's sit together and discuss how we can do it together."

I support John McAllion's amendment. We heard this morning, from John McAllion and George Reid, two of the most powerful speeches in the history of this Parliament. They were superb speeches and have persuaded me. Even if my amendment had been accepted, I would have dropped it in favour of pleading with everybody to support the amendment in the name of John McAllion.

Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing Scottish National Party 11:06, 13 March 2003

The debate has been fascinating. I am impressed by the clear and cohesive arguments that are being propounded from various parts of the chamber. I hope that we can progress in that way. It is a shame that one or two speeches have contained cheap party-political points that have nothing to do with Iraq, because these are difficult times in which we live.

I do not think that any member of the Parliament disagrees that Saddam Hussein is evil. I wish that more parliamentarians and politicians had raised their voices in the past. Only a few people in the House of Commons—the Liberals, ourselves and a few honourable exceptions from the Labour benches—pointed out what Saddam Hussein was doing to the Kurds, the marsh Arabs and the Shi'ite Muslims. The international community was silent on the matter. If we had dealt with some of those issues, we might not be in the position that we are in at the moment. Jim Wallace put his finger on it: how do we deal with this man Saddam Hussein, whom we all recognise as a tyrant and dictator?

I am speaking from a personal point of view, as a constituency MSP. Within its boundaries, Moray has a large concentration of service personnel. We have substantial Royal Air Force bases at Lossiemouth and Kinloss. Indeed, Fergus Ewing and I live in Lossiemouth and we have a close working relationship with all the personnel there. I emphasise to members who are speaking in the debate and who are thinking about how they will press their buttons this evening that our forces are an integral part of our communities. They are not aliens. They do not live separately from us. They are our friends and neighbours. They live next door. Their children go to our schools. They go to our hospitals. Many of their partners work in schools and hospitals and take part in other aspects of our community life.

Over years, the forces from Moray have been deployed in the gulf. They have patrolled the no-fly zones in north and south Iraq and in the past weeks hundreds have been deployed to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Cyprus and other parts of the region. Some are just awaiting command instructions. Marines from 45 Commando in Arbroath, in the constituency of my colleague Andrew Welsh, personnel from Scottish units of the Army, such as the 7th Armoured Brigade, and naval forces are also present. Those people deserve our support. I take offence at those people—at David McLetchie in particular—who say that anyone who votes against an immediate rush to war is in some way not supporting the troops. I would be more convinced if I saw the Government and the Ministry of Defence giving our troops the support that they deserve while they are out there, because some of the stories that come home are horrendous.

As legislators, we have a duty and a responsibility to all our service personnel to give them a legal mandate that is agreed internationally without reservations—that is the common interest to which John Swinney referred in his excellent speech. The most unusual thing to happen to my parliamentary office since 1987 has been the number of phone calls that it has received from families of service personnel. They lived through the gulf war and through Kosovo but, this time, many families are saying, "Why?" That question comes from the grass roots of the services. We owe them a duty not to put them into a conflict that has no legal mandate.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 11:11, 13 March 2003

I make it plain that I oppose an American and UK invasion of Iraq. The continuing build-up of US and UK armed forces around the Persian gulf makes an onslaught on Iraq seem bleakly inevitable to some. However, that is not necessarily the case.

I have long been unhappy about aspects of the American Government's foreign policy, from the carnage that was inflicted on south-east Asia to the overthrowing of the Allende Government. However, we must remember that many American people implacably oppose war against Iraq.

President Bush's astonishingly crude comment that

"Either you are with us, or you are" a terrorist has encouraged the spread of hateful anti-Europeanism in the American media and among some American people. President Bush—supported by Prime Minister Blair, Prime Minister José María Aznar of Spain and Prime Minister John Howard of Australia—seeks to make war on a country for reasons that are unacceptably vague to many of his fellow Americans and to many of us.

What has taken place has wrought serious damage on the United Nations and inflicted grave harm on the relationship between the USA and Europe, which will take many years to heal. That is particularly true of the relationship between America and France. I hold no brief and have no respect for President Chirac. I am mindful of his hand of friendship to President Mugabe and I recall that he signed the deal with Saddam Hussein for the sale of a nuclear facility to Iraq. As David McLetchie said, Chirac's comments about using France's veto even when he does not know the terms of a new resolution were disgraceful. Nevertheless, he proclaims that he voices concerns that are shared by millions of Europeans and countless others elsewhere in the world. At the same time, I have not forgotten that Donald Rumsfeld was President Reagan's special envoy to Saddam Hussein 10 years ago—how international friendships change over the years.

When recently discussing the possibility of war, Archbishop Mario Conti said that he believed Tony Blair to be an honourable leader. I agree with the archbishop. I am convinced that Tony Blair is no British cheerleader for the Bush Administration and I believe that he has sought to restrain American aggression in the middle east. However, Tony Blair must not stand aside while Washington bullies the Security Council into compliance. The UN would be universally reviled if that happened. Its member states must not succumb to bribes and threats. If the American leaders decide to act unilaterally against Iraq, that act of pre-emptive aggression will be disastrous not only for the people of Iraq, but for international stability. I suspect that that would not be the first or last time that American hyperpower would act in such a way.

I do not have time to mention Israel and Palestine in detail—Pauline McNeill did that—but that situation is a major source of oppression, terrorism and instability in the middle east. America is strikingly and regrettably silent on that subject.

Whatever we do now must be based on a tough containment of the evil Iraqi regime. UN inspectors must remain in Iraq for a long time to undertake their work comprehensively. Everyone knows that the inspectors could go there only because of the massive American and British military force over the border. That force should become a UN-led army. Containment is strengthened by the continuation of the no-fly zones, which give some protection to the Kurds in the north and the Shi'as in the south.

Sanctions should go. Saddam Hussein has imposed all kinds of cruel hardships on the Iraqi people, but sanctions have also had a dreadful effect on Iraqis' lives.

For all the UN's weaknesses and problems, it is in the hands only of the UN, and not of the UK, to supply agreement to an American-led pre-emptive act of aggression against the people of Iraq.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative 11:15, 13 March 2003

The Black Watch, which is my local regiment and recruits from much of my region, was posted to the gulf less than two weeks ago. On Sunday, I spoke to the mother of a Black Watch soldier who is in Kuwait. She told me that morale among troops was high. They were well-trained and ready to do the job if the need arose. The point that she was anxious to make to me was that those young men who are putting their lives at risk want to know that, in whatever action they have to take, they will have the support of people at home. If an invasion takes place—it goes without saying that we all hope that that can still be averted—it is essential to back our forces 100 per cent.

On behalf of that mother, I appeal to all those who take anti-war stances—which are understandable—to support our forces in everything that they do if they go into action. That is the least that we owe not only to them, but to their families and friends at home. If it comes to that, let us wish our forces godspeed and pray for an early return.

A substantive issue is at the core of the debate and forms part of the SNP's motion—the legality of a war. I understand the position of those who argue that war would be illegal and against international law. The difficulty with that stance is that opinions differ, as ever when legal questions arise. For every legal opinion that war without a further UN resolution would be contrary to international law, another legal opinion says the opposite.

Photo of Bill Butler Bill Butler Labour

We are debating the most serious of subjects and people on all sides of the argument have deep feelings about it. Would the member care to comment on the position of Ken Clarke and Douglas Hogg, which is contrary to his position?

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

Like many other parties, the Conservative party is a broad church and contains members with different opinions. I disagree with Kenneth Clarke and Douglas Hogg, but they are entitled to their view. We live in a democracy.

My point is that legal opinions on the issue differ. Today, the emeritus professor of international law at the University of Strathclyde said that he was clear that the "serious consequences" to which UN resolution 1441 refers could mean war and could justify war. There is good legal opinion for that, so the matter is not as clear-cut as the SNP suggested.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

I am sorry; I have little time and I need to make progress.

Another serious point has to be made. I understand that those who are anti-war want no action to be taken, but troops are massed on the Iraqi border. If Saddam Hussein does not disarm and we cannot obtain further progress through the UN, only two options will be left. The first option is war, the dreadfulness of which goes without saying. The second option is that nothing happens. The consequence would be that, eventually, the UK and US troops would pack their bags, withdraw and go home. Can members imagine the tremendous propaganda coup that that would deliver to Saddam Hussein?

The second option would do huge damage to the credibility of the UN and of the western alliance and would give every dictator and rogue state throughout the globe carte blanche. Yes, war has unforeseen consequences, but taking the second option would have unforeseen consequences, too. Many years might have to elapse before we could look back and decide what the correct action and the least-worst option are now.

There is no easy answer. Much as I understand their motives, those who call for peace at any cost cannot ignore the political consequences of failure to take action against Saddam Hussein.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 11:19, 13 March 2003

At the outset, I will say that there was one point, and one point only, on which I agreed with David McLetchieTrish Godman quite correctly touched on it, too—which is that we must be wary of strident anti-Americanism. Nobody has asked the prairie farmers in the American mid-west, the black community in Chicago, New York or anywhere else in America or the Hispanic community in the southern states whether the military action is being taken in their name. The action is being taken in the name of George Bush and his oligarchy alone.

I do not like to be flippant at this time. I do not want to condemn or make jokes about a President who is an actor, but it may be time for Martin Sheen to take power from "The West Wing" into the White House. However, let us avoid being condemnatory of the American people; the action is being taken not in their name any more than it is in ours.

There has been criticism of the UN. The attacks have come from all sides: from those in the UK-USA alliance who seek to bribe, cajole and threaten the poorer, weaker countries; from those who are sceptical that the poorer and weaker countries can last the pace and stand up to the threats, prevarication and bribery; and from those who have seen the institutions devalued by what has happened or by the lack of progress over a generation on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

We have to remember the historical precedent. After the first world war, we came together and formed the League of Nations. When that organisation was undermined, it collapsed and the world fell into a conflict that was total war. We thought that we had learned as a result of that and we set up the United Nations because we wanted to learn—the watchword was "Never again".

The way in which we are going now undermines the United Nations. I am not the only member to have used these words in the chamber:

"Those who refuse to learn from history are condemned to repeat it."

God forbid—not in our name.

We should also stop the criticisms of the European way, which to some extent we heard from the First Minister. Along with other members, I listened to Pat Cox and I recall his congratulations for the European way. There are those who criticise France, Germany and wherever else needlessly and blindly. As Pat Cox said, we should compare and contrast the way that supports the International Court of Justice with the way of Guantanamo bay. I support the International Court of Justice. The United Nations must be pulled in. The old European way is much more sensible and much more conducive to European peace than the way of Guantanamo bay is, which sees detention without trial among other things.

What can members do? There are those who say that we should not discuss the military action, but thankfully we have moved on from that stance and from asking what an independent Scotland would do. We need to look at what a devolved country can do if it has the will to act.

Let us consider Quebec, a province that the First Minister maligned and denigrated. The Quebec National Assembly discussed the matter on Tuesday in a debate on a motion without notice. The motion said that the Assembly should

"declare its opposition to possible military action that would disregard the Charter of the United Nations and international law ... ask the Federal Government, on behalf of Quebecers, who expressed themselves in favour of peace, to not intervene in Iraq without the approval of the United Nations ... commend the concerted effort of the citizens' group ... and applaud the attachment of Quebecers to peace."

The motion was presented not only by the Leader of the Opposition, but by the Prime Minister and a member of the Assembly, and it was passed unanimously. The First Minister has denigrated the province of Quebec and maligned its Prime Minister, but Quebec has shown what can be done even in a devolved chamber. The military action is not in the name of Quebec and it must not be in the name of the Scottish Parliament or the Scottish nation.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 11:24, 13 March 2003

I have a personal Richter scale that shows that the more of a speech that is spent on abusing opponents, the weaker the arguments are. Using that scale, the speeches of the leaders of the Conservative and Labour parties registered pretty badly. In fact, Mr McLetchie failed to mention his amendment until his last sentence. If we start from the basis that people on all sides of the argument are of good will, all that we can do is set out our arguments in order to persuade others.

The key point in the debate is whether the war will make the world a better or worse place. The war will get rid of Saddam, which is a plus, as he is a bad man. What will the war replace him with? It will not be some sort of utopia, but it may well be an American colony that is run by oilmen and generals. The American performance in Afghanistan does not inspire great confidence—the Americans have run away from all their obligations in that country.

Will the war make the middle east a better place? No. Whatever Arabs think privately of Saddam's regime, they will react strongly to a war against him. The war will cause serious destabilisation in the middle east. Will the war harm the United Nations? Do we have to follow our leaders once they have established a policy? The Nuremberg trial showed that people do not have to do that. Much closer to home, the declaration of Arbroath set out the Scottish view of leadership: Robert the Bruce was a great man who had saved us from the English but, if he went wrong, he was out and we got another leader. We do not have to follow Mr Bush and Mr Blair as they drive our collective car over a precipice.

Will the war reduce terrorism? No, it will increase it. Mr bin Laden must be praying hard that Iraq is invaded, as the invasion will fuel the fires of fanaticism on both sides. What are the consequences of a war without the United Nations? The result will be that we destroy the United Nations as a serious organisation and there will be an increase in terrorism.

The invasion of Iraq is meant to be a war against terrorism, but it is a war for terrorism. It will worsen the position in Palestine, as people will become increasingly entrenched. The troubles in Palestine, which are at the core of the problem, will be harder to solve. The war will increase religious hostility, both in this country—as Jim Wallace said—and throughout the world. That will create dangerous tensions.

If the UN Security Council, rightly or wrongly, votes that a war is okay and if the UK Parliament, rightly or wrongly, votes that a war is okay, the war will be legal and the Government will have every right to go ahead with it. On a personal basis, I will have every right to continue to oppose the policy, although I will have to accept that legitimacy will be on the side of those whose policy I oppose.

It is unfortunate that the Labour amendment to the motion uses the phrase

"notes the objective of Her Majesty's Government".

Every member of a Parliament or council knows that "notes" is a weasel word. To use it in an amendment sends out a bad message about the Parliament's attitude to the war.

Pre-emptive attacks on other countries are totally destructive of the world's democratic order and they must be resisted.

Photo of Susan Deacon Susan Deacon Labour 11:28, 13 March 2003

No current issue is as important as the one that we are debating today. The prospect of war with Iraq has raised fears and anxieties across the country. It is sparked a degree of political engagement that has not been seen for many a year. For many people, their response is as much instinctive as it is intellectual. That makes their views no less valid or real. If ever there was an issue that involved a battle of hearts and minds, it is war.

As with other people, my views are shaped by many things, including more than 20 years of political activism and an involvement in international liberation struggles. I make no apology for talking about my concerns: I am the mother of young children and I know that many mothers share my concerns. There are fears about the world in which our children and our children's children might grow up. It is indeed significant that poll after poll in this country and abroad has demonstrated that there is a clear gender divide on the issue. Women remain unconvinced that military action is the right way forward in this case and at this time.

I do not doubt the sincerity of Tony Blair and the UK Government in their words or their deeds. I want to make that clear. I applaud the supreme efforts that are being made to attempt to unite the international community and to resolve the situation through diplomatic means. I particularly applaud our Government for recognising at an early stage that addressing the plight of the Palestinian people is an essential part of any lasting solution in the middle east.

However, I cannot support pre-emptive military action, which I believe is neither necessary nor justified. I cannot support a conflict in circumstances that I fear might bring increased instability to the world. I cannot support the unilateral actions of an American Administration if it rides roughshod over the views of the international community, the UN charter and the framework of international law. Moreover, I cannot support a course of action that lacks a clear mandate at home and abroad. It is no secret that that view is shared by many people in the Labour party and in the country as a whole.

The issue transcends constitutional and party-political divides, is greater than any short-term electoral concerns and most certainly should not be the stuff of political opportunism or party-political point scoring. Human life is a precious thing. The loss of any human life, whether of a British serviceman or an Iraqi child, is a tragedy. There are times when war is necessary—for example, an aggressive act might require an aggressive response. However, many of us remain unconvinced that such conditions currently apply. To say so is simply to be honest, not disloyal.

As we speak, the UN remains divided. Indeed, Europe remains divided. From the Vatican to Mandela, from international law experts to former Government advisers, from school gate to pub, club and college, the battle of hearts and minds has not been won and the case for war has not been proven. More time is needed.

We all want Saddam to disarm. None of us is under any illusion about the atrocities for which he has been responsible. However, a powerful body of opinion believes that there are still ways of resolving the crisis that do not involve the loss of hundreds—even thousands—of innocent lives. I share that view and could not live with myself if I did not express it in this chamber.

It is now almost midnight. Our country is on the brink of war. There are people in every party and none who do not believe that the case for that war has been made. Our consciences, not our whips, should decide for us today. Our Parliament and our democracy would be all the stronger for that.

Photo of Duncan Hamilton Duncan Hamilton Scottish National Party 11:32, 13 March 2003

As the Parliament wrestles with the enormity of the possible international conflict, members are asking themselves, "What can we do about it?" This is no day for grandstanding or great rhetorical flourishes. Indeed, the Parliament has risen to the occasion by having a mature and considered debate.

However, we are here to hold to account, to question, to challenge, to argue, to debate and to send out a message from the Parliament about the views of the people of Scotland. We could get into a debate about the morality of the situation, but I do not think that that would take us anywhere particularly fast. We will never all agree on that subject. Instead, I will concentrate on the legality of the matter. Although the issue has already been mentioned, there is a degree of confusion among some MSPs about the legal position.

A breach of resolution 1441 is not a justification for war. First, as George Reid and others have pointed out, there is no express authorisation of force in pursuit of a specified goal. Those conditions must be met, as was the case in Korea and with operation desert storm.

The governing principle is enshrined in article

2.4 of the UN charter and is worth putting on the record. Article 2.4 states:

"All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations."

There are only two ways in which we could secure a derogation from that guiding principle: the first is self-defence and the second is express authorisation from the Security Council. As express authorisation is not forthcoming, the argument is whether we are acting in self-defence. Indeed, that argument has been made by the State Department and has been relied on by Blair, Bush and this morning by the Tories.

The only argument for self-defence could be made in relation to what happened on 11 September 2001. However, that does not apply in this respect. If we go back to international law, we will find that the charter is clear on the matter. Any action of self-defence must be

"instant, overwhelming, leaving ... no moment for deliberation".

In other words, any such action must happen there and then and be a short, stopgap measure that gets us to the UN to allow the international community to resolve the matter.

The US and Britain have argued that, if the UN fails to act or chooses to take a different course of action from the one that they want it to take, they can somehow take matters into their own hands. However, that misses the point. Self-defence must happen instantly. If it does not, any such action is governed by the charter and the umbrella organisation of the UN.

Murdo Fraser and other members have rightly argued that academic opinion is split on the matter and that different legal views exist. However, we should be clear that this is not an academic point of debate in a law tutorial; we are talking about war, death, destruction, misery and disease. It is therefore incumbent on those who propose such a course of action to win the legal argument and not simply to say that the matter is confusing or that opinion is divided. They should tell us why the course of action that they propose is legal. If they cannot do that, we should not be going to war.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Conservative

Resolution 1441 does not supersede, but adds to, resolutions 678 and 686 and resolution 678 authorises the use of force to achieve the aims of previous UN declarations. Does that not allow further action to be taken?

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

You have very little time left, Mr Hamilton.

Photo of Duncan Hamilton Duncan Hamilton Scottish National Party

I appreciate that, Presiding Officer.

Resolution 1441 refers to resolution 678 to ensure that the matter goes back to the Security Council. Indeed, the resolution specifically refers to that.

The Conservatives talk about what the resolution says, or does not say, about "serious consequences". However, it is enough to say that the phrase "serious consequences" is not the same as "all necessary means". Resolution 1441 makes it absolutely clear that that phrase means something very different. Mr McLetchie would not accept that point earlier, but he is simply wrong.

On the basis that the war is illegal and that the Parliament is, I hope, reaching a unified view, we should send out the message that the war is wrong and that we should not be involved in it.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP 11:37, 13 March 2003

First, I want to deal with the Tory party's glaring hypocrisy in this debate. In 1988, barely a month after Saddam Hussein had brutally gassed 5,000 Iraqi Kurds in the village of Halabjah, the then Secretary of State for Trade—Mrs Thatcher's man, Tony Newton—travelled to Baghdad to break bread with Saddam and tell him that £340 million of taxpayers' money was on offer in export credits. Three months after that, Mr Newton returned to Baghdad to bring Saddam the joyous news that trade between Iraq and Britain was such that the country was Britain's third-largest market for machine tools. Most of Iraq's weapons were made from those tools, and many of them were deployed against British soldiers in 1991. Let us have no more of the Tories' hypocrisy about Saddam Hussein's brutality, because their people traded with and armed him.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

Does Mr Sheridan not recognise that, during the 1939 to 1945 war, we ran supplies to Stalin's murderous regime because it was a better alternative than Hitler's murderous regime?

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

That is almost the argument that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. It is a bit like knowing our friends by who they are, which brings me to the First Minister's speech this morning.

Disgracefully, the First Minister has sided with George Bush and his Administration. He has taken up the anti-French language that has been used in America because the French refuse to agree with what the Americans have been saying. Jack McConnell will regret the fact that he has sided with a Government that is becoming a pariah across the world. Let us be clear: to be against the American Administration is not to be anti-American. Instead, we are anti-Bush, anti-Cheney and anti-Rumsfeld; we are against that gang of corrupt gangsters who wish to build a new 21st century empire on the back of cruise missiles.

In The Guardian yesterday, someone wrote:

"The first stage of our widely publicised war plan is to launch 3,000 bombs and missiles on a relatively defenceless Iraqi population within the first few hours of an invasion, with the purpose of so damaging and demoralising the people that they will change their obnoxious leader, who will most likely be hidden and safe during the bombardment ... Extensive aerial bombardment, even with precise accuracy, inevitably results in 'collateral damage' ... increasingly unilateral and domineering policies have brought international trust in our country to its lowest level in memory. American stature will surely decline further if we launch a war in clear defiance of the UN."

Who said that? It was not a member of the Scottish Socialist Party. It was Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States of America, who can recognise what even Jack McConnell cannot recognise about association with George Bush and his brutal regime.

I ask members, and I appeal to the SNP and the Liberals, to have the purpose to unite behind the amendment in the name of John McAllion. Let us send a powerful, unified message from this chamber. Simply put, we do not believe that the case for war has been made. It is as simple as that. We are not prepared to engage in the massacre of innocent men, women and children. I urge members to support John McAllion's amendment. Let us show that this Parliament is standing up for peace throughout our world. [Applause.]

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Order. This is a meeting of Parliament and people in the public gallery must not applaud.

Photo of John Young John Young Conservative 11:41, 13 March 2003

In my lifetime, this country has been involved in 15 wars. I examined the list last night. Of course, one of them was the major war of all time, the second world war. Then we had the Korean war, which could have made a massive international impact if it had gone on. The rest were described as minor wars. In each and every one of those conflicts, I have supported this country without question.

Today, I have reservations, not so much about supporting this country, but because prior to any shots being fired, we may find the United Nations destroyed. I have not always agreed with the UN, but until someone produces something better, it is better than nothing. Indeed, in June 1950, when North Korea, aided by Communist China, invaded South Korea, within two weeks UN forces had landed to combat those groups. Before that war ended three years later, there were some 16 nations on the UN side. If that had not happened, and China and the North Koreans had been triumphant, Japan would have been the next target. If such an escalation of the conflict had taken place—let us make no mistake about it—a third world war would also have taken place, and the world would probably have been largely destroyed.

Photo of Lloyd Quinan Lloyd Quinan Scottish National Party

Does John Young agree that it was a Tory Government that, in 1956, led the world to the point of a third world war on the basis of an illegal war in Suez?

Photo of John Young John Young Conservative

I do not think that the outcome that could have resulted from Suez is comparable to the Korean war.

Tensions have risen in the European Union, as we know from news reports over the past few weeks. In turn, that could cause a drastic decline in that organisation. As George Reid mentioned, we are now living in an age when empires of old are gone, and they must be replaced by new economic and trade power blocks. Such groupings are necessary to this country, although they may not be necessary to the United States, because the United States is the most powerful nation in recorded history.

Saddam Hussein is an evil man leading an evil regime. All of us here unanimously share that view. There are plenty of other evil leaders in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. Saddam Hussein is evil and guilty of atrocious crimes, so why was it reported that the US was prepared to offer him and his family safe passage to a neutral country only a few weeks ago? That was like making an offer to Hitler for him and Eva Braun to escape to a neutral country.

I am no pacifist. I did national service with the Royal Air Force and the RAF Regiment and, as I said, I have supported this country in every war in which it has participated during my lifetime. Iraq is barbaric, but what about Saudi Arabia and many other countries? As a child, I experienced five air raids, and I still remember vividly the giant glow in the sky as Clydebank burned only 2 miles away from where my family was. Heaven knows what the air raids of today are like.

What President Bush and Prime Minister Blair must do is to release more detail to the chamber. We have something like 56 Labour members, and I guarantee that not one of them will agree with Tony Blair, including Jack McConnell, unless more details are brought to hand. In some ways a false face is being presented.

If war takes place, I will fully support British servicemen and servicewomen. For Jack McConnell's benefit, I stress that our armed forces must be properly armed and equipped, and any reported deficiencies must be corrected. In the survey in The Sunday Times, I said that I was against the war unless it is supported by a second UN resolution. If a veto is used in voting on that resolution, I will have to review the situation further.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour 11:45, 13 March 2003

Today's debate should be about the conduct of the Government of Iraq, in particular about what it has done with its stocks of chemical and biological weapons, and about whether it would be right to commit British forces to enforce UN resolutions in Iraq if all else fails. That is a decision that must be taken at Westminster and it is a hellish responsibility. It is literally a matter of life and death, and it is infinitely more important than any party-political consideration.

I respect people who believe that there is no such thing as a just war, but I disagree with them. I think that my father's generation was right to go to war with Nazi Germany. When doing relief work in Bosnia and Kosovo and during the conflict there, I saw more than enough evidence with my own eyes to justify the military interventions in those places. The question for most of us is whether and in what circumstances war can be justified.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour

I am sorry, but I have only a short time in which to speak.

There has been a big role change in recent years. In the 1990s, it was the Europeans who were pressing for military action against the Serbs to stop ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. At that time, the Americans were extremely reluctant to get involved. It took two years to persuade them to intervene and, meanwhile, many thousands of Muslim civilians were butchered in cold blood. US isolationism came to and end on 11 September, and now it is the Americans who are straining at the leash to go to war with Iraq, and the Europeans, including our British Government, who are urging caution and insisting on authority from the United Nations. As the only superpower, the USA carries a heavy responsibility, and it should listen to its friends.

Surely there must be universal agreement that Saddam Hussein's regime is an abomination. It has an outrageous record of crimes against its own people and its neighbours, and there are grounds for near certainty that it still has substantial stocks of chemical and biological weapons. UN resolution 1441 requires Iraq to declare and destroy those weapons, but months have passed and the Iraqi Government is still ducking and weaving. I understand and share the concerns of many of my colleagues and constituents about the horrors of war, but there is one thing that could be even worse than a possible war—if Saddam Hussein were allowed to get away with it again. If the Kurds and other members of the Iraqi opposition were to be left to his mercy for another 10 years, we would be conveying a terribly dangerous message to future tyrants all over the world. If Saddam Hussein can defy the UN with impunity and call the bluff of the international community again, not only will he be able to carry on with his reign of terror, torture and weapons of mass destruction, but people like him will also be able to do so. Any future Pinochets, Pol Pots, Mugabes or Milosevices will know that they are likely to get away with it, too—not in my name. That would be a real tragedy.

Most of us would prefer a better new world order, in which the United Nations has the will and the power to ensure that its resolutions are respected—not just some resolutions, but all of them. It is a scandal that all the UN resolutions on Palestine have been treated as diplomatic graffiti over the years. Failure to address the rights of the Palestinians has certainly made the world a more dangerous place. I want UN resolutions to be implemented in the name of all the suffering people of this planet. If Scottish servicemen and servicewomen have to go into action to enforce UN resolutions, they will have my full support and the support of almost every member of this Parliament.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party 11:49, 13 March 2003

I support John Swinney's motion, but like George Reid and many other members, I hope that the anti-war factions will coalesce around a common position at decision time tonight. As Duncan Hamilton and many other members have said, it is important that the Parliament sends a clear and loud message, not only to the people of Scotland, but to everybody who is listening in Europe and elsewhere.

I reiterate the sentiment that the issue of peace and war is far more important than issues of party or partisanship—there is no greater issue. In that context and spirit, I say to Johann Lamont that there is no division between the English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish people. In the same way, I do not believe that there is a division between the British, French, German, Swedish and other European people. Similarly, I do not believe that there is a division between the people of Europe and the people of America—all the people of the world are opposed to a war.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

The serious point that I was trying to make is that, within those countries and in the chamber, people take different views, which are all credible and serious. The views are not for or against war, but about how to deal with Saddam Hussein and terrorism.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

Although I am a nationalist, I am first and foremost an internationalist, which is the position of most members.

There have been excellent speeches from members of all parties, but the speech that will ring in most people's ears is Susan Deacon's. She spoke primarily not as a politician or as a partisan player, but as a mother of two children. There are many children in the public gallery. When we discuss the possibility of war, we should be concerned not only about the mothers and children of Scotland, but about the mothers and children of Iraq, who have had 25 years of Saddam Hussein and 10 years of the consequences of UN sanctions. They have seen half a million of their children die from hunger. As Keith Raffan said, half of the population of Iraq is under 14—that is a lot of children and a lot of mothers.

We should think very seriously before we give our name to an act of war against those people. When we fire the missiles, whether or not they are 95 per cent smart—which is a lot smarter than Tony Blair or George Bush—we cannot guarantee by any manner of means that they will not kill innocent children and mothers in Iraq. We should not fire those missiles or create a war for which there is no justification.

The debate is not primarily about politics; it is about morality. Let the message go out that the Scottish Parliament is not only a Parliament of the people, but a Parliament with morality.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

We were due to begin the closing speeches, but I am prepared to allow the debate to run on past 12.30. I hope to call the remaining members who wish to speak.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat 11:54, 13 March 2003

Nobody doubts that we are just a few days away from war. It is clear that war must be a last resort that is used when all other options have been exhausted—all members accept that. The crux of the debate is that no one believes that all our options have been exhausted. That is the point.

Any action that we take must be within the context of international law, which is the most effective route. Members have asked how we can support our troops. The answer is that operating within international law is the most effective way in which to give the support required by the men and women in our armed forces who will risk their lives for us in the middle east.

The argument that resolution 1441 gives the green light to enforcement action is simply not true. The accepted United Nations terminology used to authorise enforcement action is the phrase "all possible means", which was most pointedly not used in resolution 1441. That resolution was a unanimous warning to Saddam Hussein—even Syria voted for it. Every member of the Security Council knows that the resolution was not a mandate for military action.

The argument that any use of the veto in the Security Council would be unreasonable, so our Government could simply ignore it, is also wrong. The United Nations Security Council is the only security council that the world has. We cannot pick and choose whether to act within the only international framework that exists—we must act within international law.

I am glad that Lord James Douglas-Hamilton has returned to the chamber. I must say that he was completely wrong about the United Nations, because we do not have a mandate to enforce resolution 1441 by all possible means. Duncan Hamilton was absolutely right that the UN charter is clear that the Security Council must authorise military action. Even the right to defend oneself from direct military attack must be taken back to the Security Council as soon as is practically possible. There is no doubt that, if the UK goes to war in support of the Americans, we will be in breach of international law.

Although Britain was a founder member of the United Nations and is a permanent member of the Security Council, if we go to war, we risk contributing to the destruction of not only the United Nations, but, more important, the basis of the international system. That does not matter to some people, including the hawks who surround George Bush and the people who surround Tony Blair, such as President Bush, Mr Aznar and Australia's Mr Howard—by their friends we shall know them—but it should matter to us, and the fact that a war might mean the end of the international system should certainly matter to the Prime Minister.

Photo of Lloyd Quinan Lloyd Quinan Scottish National Party 11:58, 13 March 2003

I firmly believe that a war is not inevitable. I say that because our debate on the issue is part of a debate that is raging around the world, which I believe will lead to a peaceful solution. Last Thursday, between 3,000 and 5,000 people demonstrated outside the Parliament; some weeks before, more than 100,000 people demonstrated in Glasgow; in Rawalpindi the other day, 800,000 people demonstrated; in Madrid, 1.5 million people demonstrated; and in Milan, 1.2 million people demonstrated. The movement for peace is in the driving seat, but it is incumbent on us, as the representatives of the people of this country, to work fully with the peace movement. We must assist in preventing the war, which is not inevitable. Most important, if possible, we must coalesce around a single amendment or motion that represents the majority opinion of the people of this country.

It is extraordinary that the President of the United States, who holds Christian prayer meetings each morning before work, and the Prime Minister of this country, who is a declared Christian socialist, believe that the killing of innocent civilians to remove a brutal dictatorship is the correct way in which to proceed.

I read nothing in the New Testament that gives the right to murder in God's name. I read nothing in the New Testament that says that it is appropriate to kill for the sake of a better life. That is the theology and the attitude of the suicide bombers of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. That is the theory and the ideology of the members of al-Qa'ida who flew the aircraft into the twin towers in New York. It is misguided, it is a misinterpretation and it is a complete misunderstanding.

The confusion of the American President's position and of the position of the present British Cabinet and Prime Minister exposes the fact that, in reality, those attempted justifications are connected only to the development and control of strategic power in an area that is rich in natural resources. Yesterday, the news from the United States was that companies have already been chosen for the rebuilding of Iraq. One of those companies is the Halliburton oil and gas company. Dick Cheney, who is currently a senior leader in the American Government, is an ex-chief executive officer of Halliburton. That makes many people throughout the world believe that this war is not about justice or greater democracy in Iraq, but is about controlling completely the oil reserves of the world, and so is a war about oil. I read nothing in Christian scripture that suggests that we should shed blood for oil.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Conservative 12:02, 13 March 2003

The next few days will be vital to the future of Britain and how it decides to tackle Iraq. The Prime Minister will have to decide whether Britain's interest should come before the interests of the United Nations, China and Russia. This war is not about the diplomatic hoops that we might or might not have to jump through. It is not about giving a dictator another week, month or 17 or 24 days. It is not about oil conspiracies or anti-Palestinian plots. It is about 17 million people who live under a vicious regime that is comparable to Adolf Hitler's. It is about Britain's interest and the interests of peace and security in the middle east.

The SNP and the Liberal Democrats only want to go down the United Nations route in countering the threat. However, we should consider which countries we would have to go to, cap in hand, to get agreement in the UN Security Council. A recent Amnesty International report stated that hundreds of civilians have been killed, beaten and raped by Government forces in Guinea. The same Amnesty International report stated that human rights abuses recorded in Chechnya, in the Russian Federation, include arbitrary detention, torture and the disappearance of hundreds of people. In Angola, hundreds of unarmed civilians have been indiscriminately and deliberately killed by Government forces. Those countries are all represented on the UN Security Council. Are we saying that we are relying on their support, and that those countries will be in a position to judge right from wrong? I do not think so. Furthermore, despite France's opposition to the war, if any country epitomises unilateral foreign policy, it is France.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

Will Mr Wallace explain to us the Conservatives' alternative to the United Nations?

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Conservative

The Conservatives' position on Iraq has always been that we should act in Britain's interest. If we cannot secure a United Nations resolution, we must decide whether acting in Britain's interest is enough. The Liberal Democrats say that the UN is the only way, but under the leadership of Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrats went outside the UN to deal with Serbia and Bosnia. How quickly they have forgotten that. The reality is that we are seeing yet another two-faced position from the two-faced party.

Is Saddam Hussein complying with UN resolution 1441? He is now destroying the missiles that he said he never had, and he is about to destroy the unmanned drones that he said he never had. The destruction of missiles does not happen day by day, as it is happening in Iraq, drawn out on television, bit by bit, to divide countries' opinion on getting rid of Saddam Hussein and his regime. The destruction of missiles involves digging a hole, putting the missiles in it and blowing them up. Saddam Hussein is doing that only because of the threat of force and he is doing it day by day. It is no coincidence that he produced the missing part of the report that he should have produced back in 1991 the day after Hans Blix reported to the United Nations. We should be careful in deciding who is being used and who is not.

The Conservatives believe in protecting Britain's interest and we support the Prime Minister, although he is a Labour Prime Minister. He has bent over backwards to try to get consensus on this issue. He has done his best and has even acted against the wishes of a large majority of the Labour party who probably never wanted him as their leader. Take it from me: if the Labour party gets rid of Tony Blair—as many members of the Labour movement are now saying that it should—it will make our day. We will be back in power even quicker than we had planned.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Conservative

Let us remember that this is about Saddam Hussein; it is about right and wrong and doing what we think is best. We cannot live in the past.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Conservative

We cannot listen to the tantrums of Tommy Sheridan, who, as usual, is making it up as he goes along. In Tommy's world—

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Mr Wallace, I have cut your microphone off. Your speech is finished. Please sit down.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent 12:05, 13 March 2003

Like other members, I despise the ruthless, dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein. I also despise weapons of mass destruction, whether they be in Iraq or in the Firth of Clyde. However, any action against Iraq must be morally justifiable and within the rule of international law. It is clear that George Bush and Tony Blair are prepared to go to war without the explicit approval of the United Nations. That would be a serious challenge not only to the rule of international law, but to the very existence of the United Nations.

The United Nations is not a perfect organisation—far from it. However, it is the only show in town: the only organisation in the world that is capable of bringing together the nations of the world to work for peace and justice. It is tragic, therefore, that at this critical time we have a Prime Minister who is so belligerent and arrogant that he is prepared to defy grass-roots opinion in his own party, the majority of public opinion in this country and even the United Nations. It would be a supreme irony if his attempt to bring about regime change in Iraq were to bring about regime change in this country. According to some of the media, Tony Blair may be fighting for his political life. So what? The lives of innocent men, women and children in Iraq and the lives of our armed forces are far more important than any politician's career.

That includes MSPs, most of whom are seeking re-election in a few weeks' time. In the lead-up to any election, party-political bickering and point scoring is inevitable. However, this issue is far too important to be reduced to political posturing or opportunism. It is a matter of war and peace, life and death. I hope, therefore, that members will decide the issue—as Susan Deacon said—on the basis of their conscience and on principle, rather than on the basis of any personal advantage or imagined party-political advantage. We should decide on the basis of what is in the best interests of world peace. That is why John McAllion's amendment deserves the support of the entire Parliament.

Photo of Brian Fitzpatrick Brian Fitzpatrick Labour 12:09, 13 March 2003

The dispute in the debate is ostensibly about peace against war; we have just heard it expressed in that way again. However, such a characterisation is a distortion and, unfortunately, the distortion is deliberate, because we know that the dispute is not about peace against war. There is a wide range of views throughout the country. There is such a range within my party and other parties, among my friends and in my family. Further, individual people hold conflicting views. I wish that I had the certainties of the Ben Wallaces of the world, who see the issue in black and white and speak as though war has commenced. I do not have such certainties. I have grave concerns and see grey areas in relation to many issues in the debate. I hope that my position can be reflected in the debate.

Jim Wallace referred to President Kennedy. At Yale University in 1962, John Kennedy said:

"The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie ... but the myth—persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."

We have heard myths again during the debate, such as the myth that Blair is just Bush's poodle. People can cartoonise Tony Blair if they must, but he is no one's poodle. Regardless of their views, any honest person sees in Tony Blair a man who believes that he is doing what is right and necessary—[Interruption.]—I can hear laughter, but Tony Blair is doing his best to secure disarmament in Iraq. He is working through the United Nations and supporting international institutions. He is not lobbying for war, but seeking to avoid isolationism.

Photo of Brian Fitzpatrick Brian Fitzpatrick Labour

No, thank you.

Tony Blair knows all the risks. We all know the risks. He is seeking a further resolution and he deserves not our second-guessing but our support. We do not need prima donnas at present and we certainly do not need dons.

Photo of Brian Fitzpatrick Brian Fitzpatrick Labour


There is also the myth that, because the Labour party defends the constitution and says that today in the chamber we should have been debating public services that are within our jurisdiction and competence, we do not have a view or a comment. If there was ever a time when it was incumbent upon parliamentarians, in the middle of a crisis, to speak up for the constitution and for the mandate on which we were elected, now is that time.

As the international situation develops, views develop. However, I believe that the great majority of my colleagues—and, I trust, the majority of members in the chamber—are united behind some key facts. Let us try to narrow the debate to those facts. There is the need for Iraq to comply fully and immediately with its international obligations. We must give no succour to the butcher of Baghdad. We must seek a resolution for the middle east crisis, especially for the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. We acknowledge the leadership of our Prime Minister and the United Kingdom Government in getting the issue of Palestine back on the international agenda and seeking a solution for the issue in the context of international development.

We also support international institutions. I know that Mr Sheridan does not. He wants something other than the UN and wants to disarm this country. We give primacy for our security to the United Nations and NATO. Again, there has been no word about NATO during the debate. We also look to the United Nations to show its primacy. We reject isolationism in favour of internationalism. We cast off self-interest and seek non-proliferation, the defeat of global terrorism, and peace and progress in the middle east. For those reasons, I will support the Labour amendment and I urge members to do likewise.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party 12:13, 13 March 2003

Mr Fitzpatrick talked about narrowing the debate. Let me narrow it down sharply to one group of people. I will do so for personal reasons. As I have said previously in the chamber, in 1947 my mother left her native city to teach in Iraq and to teach the children of Iraq. It is because of that, and not simply because I speak for my party in the chamber on children and education, that I want to talk about the children of Iraq.

It is estimated, as George Reid said, that the number of civilian deaths resulting from a war could be as high as 2 million, although some estimate a figure of 500,000. Children under 14 make up half the population of Iraq. Therefore, it is likely that half of such deaths could be the deaths of children, which could mean a quarter of a million to a million dead children. After the UN campaign in the gulf in 1991, a UN assessment team described the situation in Iraq as one of near apocalyptic destruction, in which most modern means of life support were destroyed or rendered tenuous. That was in 1991; things will be even worse if there is a campaign this year.

Since 1991, the situation has gradually stabilised, if that word can be used. The proportion of children with acute malnutrition has fallen from 11 per cent to only 4 per cent. Twelve years of sanctions have created a vulnerable population, of whom 60 per cent are entirely dependent on the oil-for-food programme. That programme produces a month's food for a family in the equivalent of two Safeway shopping bags.

As always, children are at most risk in such an excessively vulnerable population. In a potential war zone, children will be completely unable to operate independently, as they always are. If they do not die from malnutrition, they will die from preventable diseases such as water-related health hazards, typhoid or diarrhoea, which result in 70 per cent of children's deaths. If they try to flee through the borders, they will have to cross the most heavily mined areas in the world. Save the Children has said of the present situation:

"The fragile gains in the humanitarian situation achieved in recent years could be erased for years to come."

In Iraq, 500,000 children under the age of five have died since 1991. The incidence of childhood leukemia is out of control—each day, four children die in hospitals in Baghdad. There is no cure rate for infant leukemia in Iraq, which is caused largely by depleted uranium that was used in the previous war.

Education has fallen to pieces. A quarter of children do not attend school. The increase in the number of children who suffer from mental illness cannot be quantified. They suffer from depression, anxiety and behavioural disorders. The number of children who do not go to school, but work, beg on the streets and clean cars—the street children—has increased massively. Children are being drawn into the conflict. They feel dispossessed and alienated and believe that the entire world is against them. The impact of war on children is always horrific. Within days, we will face a situation in which thousands of children will die.

Members have been asked to vote to say that the case for war has not been proven. Certainly, the case for killing millions of children has not been proven. Whatever else members do today, I ask them to think of those children, who should not die in our name.

Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour 12:17, 13 March 2003

Although the matter in question is reserved and the Parliament does not have responsibility for international affairs, we have the power to influence decisions. Whatever members believe, I respect those who have had the conviction to state their position and argue their case.

The case for military action against Iraq has not been proven. If any member believes that it has been proven, they should, by all means, vote against John McAllion's amendment. Logically, a vote against the amendment would indicate support for an attack now.

The issues change. If this is about weapons of mass destruction, why do members not suggest action against all nations that have such weapons, such as India, Pakistan, Israel and the USA? If getting rid of such weapons would win the war on terrorism, surely it would be logical to get rid of all of them. If the issue is about broken UN resolutions, what about Israel, Iran and Pakistan? If it is about regime change, what gives the USA and the UK the right to decide that regime change can be achieved only by war?

Many campaigners for peace and organisations such as the STUC have detested Saddam Hussein's brutal and oppressive regime for many years. The chemical attack on Halabjah has been mentioned. At the time, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the peace movement tried to raise the issue, but it was hardly reported—Pauline McNeill mentioned that. The west supported Iraq at the time, so the evil dictator was our evil dictator. Of course, any country can abhor the regime of another country, but that does not give it the right to go to war, launch a pre-emptive attack or take unilateral military action.

I want to address a legitimate point that John Home Robertson made. The six tests that were announced yesterday do not mention the suffering of the Iraqi people; they are all concerned with weapons of mass destruction. Presumably, therefore, if those six tests are met, the UK Government will allow Saddam Hussein and his regime to stay and carry on with their oppression.

This war is not about the suffering of the Iraqi people. Can it really be a solution to Saddam Hussein's oppressive and brutal regime for the UK and the USA to blanket bomb Iraq and cause carnage among thousands of innocent Iraqi people? Can it be right to hold those people responsible for Saddam Hussein's actions?

It is hard to believe that anyone can support an argument that says that we should bomb people to liberate them and which accuses those who do not feel inclined to be persuaded by that logic of having blood on their hands. That is breathtaking.

Whatever this war is about, it is not about democracy, as Donald Gorrie said. The Iraqi people will not choose a new Government or leader. The USA has already indicated that it will install a governor general. Like other members, I am horrified by the fact that the USA has already handed out contracts for the rebuilding of Iraq to US companies. Of course, a new regime will be more generous with oil rights and more sympathetic to global capitalism.

Sanctions are killing innocent people in Iraq. One in five children are chronically malnourished and poor water quality is the main cause of child mortality. Sanctions, it could be argued, also serve to shore up the hideous regime by making the people of Iraq dependent on that regime.

If we attack Iraq, the humanitarian consequences for innocent civilians in Iraq will be horrendous. I believe that decisions have already been influenced to some extent by the voices and actions of those who are opposed to the war. That opposition must continue. We must reject resignation and put the Government under pressure until the very last minute to stop the war.

I am afraid that the Labour amendment today is anodyne. It says nothing and means nothing. Anyone who is anti-war in any way must support the amendment in John McAllion's name.

For the sake of the Iraqi people and our armed forces—indeed, for all our sakes—the war must be stopped. I ask members to support the amendment in John McAllion's name and to add their voices and that of the Scottish Parliament to all the voices that are trying to stop the war.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat 12:23, 13 March 2003

There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein's regime must disarm. Few hold any truck with his regime and its actions. There is no doubt that UN resolution 1441 made the inspectors' work possible. Saddam Hussein's regime must be disarmed of its weapons of mass destruction. This debate and the debate across the country have been about how to achieve that objective. It is true that there have been 17 UN resolutions on Iraq, but Keith Raffan's earlier point about containment was important. What threat does Saddam Hussein currently pose to the international community? For the period of the Clinton Administration, the UK Government was happy to go along with a policy of containment. Only when the US Administration changed and the policy of pre-emption came into play did the UK's policy change. It is that inconsistency of approach, which many have mentioned today, that worries many people throughout the country.

It seems certain that a second UN resolution on this matter will be vetoed and voted against. As the Spanish foreign minister said last night, it is not even certain whether it is worth putting a second resolution to a vote. However, on Monday, as John Swinney said, Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, said that if the US and others were to go outside the UN Security Council and take unilateral action, they

"would not be in conformity with the UN charter".

Given the French line this morning, and the veto that still therefore overshadows the second resolution, Kofi Annan's words are immensely important. If a veto is used, there will be no resolution.

There has been much criticism of the French, but it is important to remember that the French and the Germans were on the receiving end of Donald Rumsfeld's tactful suggestion that they were the "old Europe". It is important to recognise that in international diplomacy, as in every walk of life, language of that nature does not constructively aid a process of international deliberation.

It is also important to recognise that the US has used a veto at the United Nations 76 times since 1946. The United Kingdom has used its veto 32 times, and France 18 times, the last of which was in 1989. A veto is a veto is a veto. If the international world matters, with the United Nations at its kernel, we cannot pick and mix. The importance of the United Nations has been paramount for many members. For me, it is hugely rewarding that so many have made that point. What is the alternative? The Conservatives certainly did not answer that question; they do not have an answer. President Bush's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said earlier this week that the US would replace the United Nations with "another international body" to disarm Saddam if the UN remained recalcitrant. What in heaven's name did he mean?

I share the concerns of many members, if not the majority, that the US Administration's policy of pre-emptive action when its national security is threatened is profoundly dangerous. The developing situation around North Korea's nuclear arsenal only reinforces that danger. The irony of ironies is that the US is now asking the UN to consider North Korea's nuclear arsenals. Members have rightly mentioned other rogue states around the world.

I am not anti-American. I lived in America for a year and have many friends there. I am, however, very concerned about a right-wing Republican Administration that seeks to change the international world order in pursuing a policy of pre-emptive action.

Three international institutions have shaped the UK's international perspective: the EU, NATO and the United Nations. As Susan Deacon said, they are all divided over Iraq. The world community has just put the International Criminal Court into being, as Pauline McNeill mentioned. She was right to say that the United States should be involved in that. We cannot pick and mix when building our international institutions. Future world strength in resolving such intractable problems as the current crisis needs the maintenance and enhancement of such bodies.

I was disappointed by the Conservatives' approach this morning. I have listened to people such as Kenneth Clark, Geoffrey Howe and, today, John Young—[Applause.] I do not make any political point. They have supported the position of many throughout Britain. I cannot believe that any member—and I say this to Labour members—is comfortable about being supported by Iain Duncan Smith's Tories and by David McLetchie, who gave that cheap speech this morning. Forgive me, as I have forgotten who mentioned this point first, but for David McLetchie to mention the word "humanitarian" only once in 12 and a half minutes, given the subject of his amendment, showed the true position of the Conservatives.

Members may recognise the Liberal Democrat amendment, as it is very similar to the one that we lodged in January and the same as the House of Commons amendment that we tabled in November. I know that many members believe strongly in the importance of international institutions; that is what has been so important for me in the debate. Those institutions must be rebuilt. The Liberal Democrat amendment encourages an approach towards Iraq whereby the United Nations is the only institution with the political and moral authority in this situation, and under which there should be no military action unless it is sanctioned by the UN Security Council, and only as a last resort, after all other avenues have been pursued. The amendment supports more time for the weapons inspectors and a substantive vote in the House of Commons. I was pleased that the First Minister recognised that in his remarks.

This is not easy for any member, especially Labour members. The case for war has not been made. More time is needed. Is that too much to ask? I encourage Parliament to support the Liberal Democrat amendment at this most grievously difficult international time.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative 12:29, 13 March 2003

I intend to make no political points whatever in my speech, but I will respond to a couple of issues on which I feel that my party has been unfairly treated, concerning the involvement of previous Governments. John Swinney commented that the Conservatives provided a chemical weapons factory for Iraq. That was not the case—it was never thought that the factory would be for chemical weapons, and the Conservatives were among the first to sign up to the chemical and biological weapons agreement to remove those weapons from the world scene.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I am sorry, but I do not have time.

Margaret Ewing suggested that the Labour party, the Liberals and the Scottish National Party came together to argue the case for the Kurds and the Shi'ite Muslims. I remind members that the Conservative Government committed our troops to the no-fly zones and that we went to protect Kurds and Shi'ite Muslims.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

To be fair to the Conservative party, its Government was divided about that chemical plant. The former Foreign Office minister Richard Luce demanded that there be a ban on building it, whereas Paul Channon, the trade minister at the time, said that such a ban would do our trade prospects with Iraq no good. That point supports what I said earlier.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

That is a different point from the one about the intention to build a chemical weapons plant.

I remind Mr Sheridan that his trade union friends pressurised the then secretary of state on that matter. The trade unions' interest was British jobs, and, perhaps wrongly, that was also the interest of our secretary of state. However, the trade union movement applied more pressure than anyone else did.

I am disappointed that Tavish Scott criticised David McLetchie for not mentioning the humanitarian aspect of this issue. Hardly any other member has mentioned that aspect. [Interruption.] I concede that Donald Gorrie did so, but hardly anyone else made such comments.

I am also disappointed with the report of the International Development Committee in the House of Commons, which demonstrates that no effort is being given to afterthought. What would be the outcome of a war in Iraq? Donald Gorrie described the administrative chaos that would follow such a war. Vast humanitarian support would be needed. John Swinney made a valid point in suggesting that money has been laid aside to cover our armed services. However, money should also have been laid aside for humanitarian effort.

I am disappointed by Clare Short's position. She may have reservations about this war, but her overseas development programme, on which she has been working for the past six years, is a bigger task for her to consider. I would have thought that she would have been putting more time and effort into that programme than into undermining her Government. It is wrong for her to do that at this time.

I return to the current situation and the major dilemma that all members face. None of us wants a war. Anyone who wants to go to war must be cracked. That is the last thing that we need for people and the last thing into which any politician would want to drive their nation. However, we must examine the situation that actually exists. Whether we like it or not, the troops are on the borders of Iraq. Jim Wallace and others acknowledged that the presence of the troops has induced a change of heart in Iraq, which has allowed the weapons inspectors back in.

Much has been said today about time limits. We have been told that the inspectors should be given a little more time. The weapons inspectors should have been in Iraq for the past 12 years, but they were booted out six or seven years ago. If the troops had not been deployed, where would we be today? However, they cannot be left there for ever.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I will give way because Margo MacDonald has not yet spoken in the debate.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

I apologise for not being present earlier. I was at an international women's day meeting at which I spoke to Iraqi women.

Is there a time limit that Phil Gallie would consider reasonable for the work of the inspectors—who might become investigators—in Iraq?

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I take the member's point. Realistically, the time that we need to get the message home to Saddam has probably just about expired.

I do not believe that we can continue to leave the inspectors there ad infinitum. The decision that needs to be taken now is whether we use our troops or bring them home. That is the stark reality that the Prime Minister faces. The morale, expertise and commitment of our troops will be undermined if they are left in the desert for the next three or four months.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

That is the argument that John McAllion is making, but let us be logical. If that argument is followed, Tommy Sheridan must ask himself what would happen next. Saddam Hussein would be seen as a great icon, someone who had reduced the United Nations to division and won his argument against the wider interests of the world. He would create a focus for all in this world who want to bring about destruction. He would provide a source of the most evil weapons, the use of which we just cannot imagine. We cannot afford to leave Saddam Hussein in that position. To withdraw our troops at this point would create that situation with respect to Saddam Hussein.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I say to all members that it would be very easy to support John McAllion's amendment, but it would be the wrong thing to do.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour 12:36, 13 March 2003

We have had a full and frank exchange of views, the majority of which have been expressed in the tone and manner in which the people of Scotland would expect the Parliament to conduct its business. I remind the chamber that, like Jack McConnell, I grew up as an activist in various political organisations and movements around the time of the anti-apartheid movement and the anti-racism demonstrations. I have worked continuously in the organisations in which I have been involved on issues such as Palestine, the western Sahara, and a range of other causes at times when they were not necessarily at the frontline or popular. Many of my colleagues—on the Labour benches and on other benches—have also done that.

I have also worked with people such as John Home Robertson and others in the aftermath of conflict, looking at what happened to children in Romania and Bosnia. I take on board the points that have been made this morning and I will come to the comments that Mike Russell, in particular, and Phil Gallie made on humanitarian aid.

We have been asked to express the views of our constituents. I am doing what many other people have done. I am struggling with the dilemmas that many of our constituents and the people of Scotland have. Some of my constituents in Cumnock have written to me, because they have family in the forces and they know that my position is that that kind of action should not be taken lightly or easily. They have written to me to express their real concerns about the current position.

Susan Deacon said that she is a parent. I am a parent too. I am the parent of a 17-year-old boy who is aware of the situation and can say to me that, whatever decisions we make, we must not make them lightly and we must not make party-political points.

We also know that there are many moral views and opinions. I have heard from the churches and I have heard some of those views expressed here today. There are people in my party, and others, who are passionately anti-war under any circumstances and I respect those views and opinions. Others think that we should have done more, sooner and I also respect those views and opinions, although I do not necessarily agree with them.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

No. I want to make progress before I take interventions.

There are those who have strong views on the situation around international and humanitarian aid. I think that the views expressed today are a microcosm of the range of views held throughout Scotland and in my party. A quotation was used in the early stages of the debate today, which is something that I said in a previous debate.

Peace is not just the absence of war. It is about promoting fairness, freedom, justice and equality in a positive way and with compassion and humanity. My whole working and political life has been about that peace, that freedom and that justice.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I will come to the member shortly.

Like many of my colleagues who have spoken in the debate, I recognise that everyone wants a just peace in the middle east. That is why I am prepared to support the Labour party's amendment. I do not want a rush towards war—nothing could be further from the truth. I recognise the genuine fears and concerns that have been expressed. I want to make it clear that amendment S1M-4012.6 supports the United Nations and recognises the UK Government's efforts to secure a further resolution.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

As Brian Fitzpatrick and Pauline McNeill said, the Labour party's amendment recognises the crucial role of the UN in resolving all conflicts in the middle east. We want all nations, including the USA, to work within the UN. [ Interruption. ] I listened to other members without interrupting them.

We recognise the efforts of the UK Government to secure a further resolution. As Jack McConnell said this morning, there is also a recognition that, if possible, the House of Commons should vote again before any conflict. As has been said, the debate is not a game or a debating contest and it is not about scoring party-political points. The fact that a judgment call has to be made has been reflected in the speeches of many members.

There is a fine balance between taking military action, which risks innocent lives, and taking no action. Innocent lives have been lost and might continue to be lost.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

Like George Reid, Mike Russell made a very powerful speech about the effect of conflict on children and young people. Mike Russell also highlighted what happens when there is injustice in a place such as Iraq. There will be no justice for the children in Iraq, who have no education or medical aid and no prospects unless something changes in that country. We would not be in such a position if Iraq gave up its weapons of mass destruction and complied with the UN. I promised that I would give way.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

Does Cathy Jamieson accept that many people in this country would be greatly reassured if the Prime Minister and, indeed, the Labour leadership in the Scottish Parliament gave an absolute commitment to act only with the sanction, backing and authority of the UN?

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I know that Robert Brown is genuine in making that point. We want to work through the UN to put pressure on the Iraqi regime to give up its weapons.

I want to pick up the points that Phil Gallie made. Regardless of what happens, we must ensure that we allow aid and support to be given to rebuild the Iraqi communities that are struggling. We must ensure that the children get the health care and the education that they need.

Some members have suggested that war is inevitable. Trish Godman and others made it clear that there is still the possibility of a peaceful solution. The Labour party supports the Prime Minister in his continuous efforts to push for such a solution.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The member is now over time.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I am trying to answer the points that members made.

The Labour amendment reflects the view that a peaceful solution is still possible. It also reflects the fact that the situation is changing rapidly and recognises that there must be scope for continuing negotiations. I am reflecting the views of the vast majority of my colleagues in the Parliament.

The Presiding Officer is asking me to wind up. We have had a good debate and a mature discussion. I hope that members will follow their consciences when they vote, and that they will not send the wrong message or do anything that undermines the possibility of a fair, just and humanitarian solution to the problems of the middle east, which we all want.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party 12:45, 13 March 2003

We may be in the last days before military conflict. Today may be the last chance for this Parliament to express the views of its members, their constituents and Scotland on a war that would have global ramifications. The consequences of such a war will not be over in the brief spell of a "shock and awe" military bombardment, but will last for years.

Clear positions have been set out during the debate—some clearer than others. They have ranged from Margaret Ewing's comments about her constituents in the gulf to Murdo Fraser's analysis that the troops should go in now that they are there. For clarity, I will go through the amendments and the amendments to the amendment in the order in which they will be voted on.

The Conservative amendment, in the name of Phil Gallie, supports Tony Blair but seeks to bring the humanitarian consequences of war to the fore. Phil Gallie is right to raise the humanitarian aspects and, I trust, will receive the support of all members. However, as Donald Gorrie said, it is a pity that the Tory leader did not speak to the Tory amendment, but displayed muddled thinking on what is or is not an authorisation for war. Perhaps he should have listened to John Young.

When John McAllion, in a powerful speech, spoke to his amendment, he said that the case for war had not been proven. We agree and we will support John McAllion's amendment to the Labour amendment. His single-line amendment is the same as the amendment that was supported by 199 MPs at Westminster. I think that John McAllion's amendment will garner support from many. If any members think that their opposition to the SNP is greater than their opposition to an illegal war, they may find safe haven in John McAllion's amendment, which takes the position that was supported at Westminster by Labour, Liberals, some Tories and the SNP.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

We have had a good debate this morning and we have heard a range of views from all parties. Can it be the case that only in the SNP is there no difference of views? What we have heard this morning suggests that there is a range of views.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

In the last days of this Parliament, we have a chance to speak with the range of voices that we have heard today, but we also have a chance to vote. Would not it be better for the cause of peace if our vote was unanimous?

I turn to the Labour party amendment. If there was an undercurrent in the debate, it was about time. Should the weapons inspectors have more time? Why should the UK take us to war at this particular time? Should this Parliament express a view before or only after war starts? Should we be commentators after the event or participants during the debate? What is our job as democrats? How much time is there before war starts?

The Labour party amendment expresses no opinion on those matters but simply states a series of facts. It states the obvious without saying anything at all and so defeats the purpose of today's debate—which is perhaps its aim. The amendment states that UN authority is crucial in the middle east. Of course it is. My party has consistently expressed that justice for the Palestinians is key to stability and peace in the region. Nobody seriously disputes that. However, tonight's vote will not add to the peace process if we do not speak out against war.

The amendment also states that Saddam is a danger and should co-operate with resolution 1441. Of course he should, but again that is not in dispute. The key issue is whether resolution 1441 is a mandate for war and whether there has been a serious material breach of that resolution. That case has not been proven. Only today, we heard Tony Blair tell Iain Duncan Smith that a second UN resolution on Iraq is now probably less likely than at any time. That means that we are back with 1441.

Cathy Jamieson, who is deputy leader of the Labour party, seemed to speak in a personal capacity as if she had forgotten that she was summing up for the Labour party. Before a previous vote, she told the Carrick Gazette:

"The important thing from my point of view, and the reason why I was happy to support the government position was that it states that any move against Iraq would have to be with the full support of the UN."

In his contribution, the First Minister said that the Labour party amendment says that there should be a UN resolution before action. I have looked at the text of that amendment and I cannot see where it says that there must or should be a UN resolution before action. Would the deputy leader of the Labour party clarify that? Where in the motion does it say that there should or must be a new UN resolution before action?

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

Fiona Hyslop is quoting from a local newspaper, which, for Parliament's information, interviewed me back in January. The paper also said that the local MP, George Foulkes, supported the Government's stance and the point that I made about Iraq at that stage, as did my colleague Phil Gallie. At that stage, even one of the SNP members for the south of Scotland said that he supported that position. [ Interruption. ]

Fiona Hyslop asked for information and I have given that information. I also said today that I will do nothing to jeopardise the delicate and serious negotiations that are being conducted by the Prime Minister. No one in the chamber should do that.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Thank you. I think we have it. The key issue is whether the Labour party in Scotland supports a Government that goes to war without a UN resolution. That is the key question and the key point for debate.

My next point is whether it is the objective of Her Majesty's Government to secure a further resolution before any military intervention. Clearly it is—we note that the Government is pursuing a second resolution. That does not give the Parliament any authority to say that there must or should be a UN mandate before there is a war.

The Labour amendment adds nothing. What do we say to our constituents when they ask what we did in the Parliament in their name? Do we say "Nothing at all"? I am worried that the aim of the Labour amendment is to silence the Parliament on the debate of the day in the hours before war. The amendment is non-specific and it expresses no opinion even as to whether a second resolution should be supported, regardless of whether it is a mandate for war. It just notes the pursuit of a non-specific resolution. Is that what the Parliament will be reduced to voting on at decision time? If members believe that it is time to speak out, they should not be silenced by the Labour party's amendment.

I turn to some of the contributions from Labour members. John Home Robertson said that if we argue for war, it should be on the basis of human rights abuses. If we go to war to rectify human rights abuses, there is a queue and a lottery. Why Iraq now and why it first?

The Liberal Democrats' amendment is perhaps a more cautious variation, but we might be presented with it before a final vote is taken on the SNP motion. We sought clarification from the Liberal Democrats as to whether their amendment means that they agree with us that a specific military mandate is required for military action. That clarification was given.

Tavish Scott spoke about the importance of expressing concern about the US Administration. Many others have pointed out that our opposition is not to the American people; it is to an Administration that is in a rush to war. If there is clear and compelling evidence, it has not been presented. The inspectors need more time; the six undecided countries have asked that the inspectors be given 45 more days. The French, Russians and Chinese have asked for 120 more days.

Who should provide the evidence? The UK Prime Minister now wants to pre-empt the weapons inspectors and set his own terms and conditions for the evidence. Tony Blair wants to bypass the inspectors and set his own six conditions. Even the US thinks that that idea is questionable. If only one of those conditions is not met, that will be a trigger for war.

Is there a mandate for war on which to vote? The legality of the case is crucial to today's debate. John Swinney spoke of the references by Robert Black in The Scotsman today and other contributions. Is not it a cruel irony that Kofi Annan was at the launch of the International Criminal Court when he spoke about it being illegal to go to war without a UN mandate? As Pauline McNeill said, it is interesting to note that the UK is a member of the International Criminal Court and the US is not.

I return to the key point. The First Minister glossed over the central issue, which is, if a second resolution falls, does he regard resolution 1441 as a legal trigger for war? He is hiding behind the phenomenon of an unreasonable veto, which is not grounded in international law. With the prospect of war looming, and the prospect of the latest unspecific resolution fading, where does he stand? Where is the authorisation for military action? Mike Rumbles was right to emphasise the need for a specific mandate. George Reid, John McAllion and others spoke at this critical hour of the importance of the UN. That is the key issue.

We have heard many moving reflections on the consequences of war and on the humanitarian aspects. Our key question is: do we believe that the plan is to shock and awe the children of Baghdad? Is that the best route—the only route—at this time to disarm Saddam Hussein? Trish Godman talked about the hardship of the people of Iraq, as did Alex Neil, as did George Reid, as did Michael Russell.

We heard about the international view in the wider debate. The eyes of the world wait and watch and worry. The voices of the world spoke—not just those of the non-aligned members, France, Germany and Russia—and they spoke of the need for time. If members read the latest, wider UN debate they will hear the views of people across the globe.

In conclusion, the seriousness of the arguments that have been deployed and the sincerity of members reflect that it was right to bring this debate to the chamber today, but the key issue is time. Is it time to speak or is it time to be silent?

This is not the time for silence. War does not stop at Westminster. We must not be silent. We cannot be silent. SNP, Lib Dem, Tory, Labour, Green, SSP or non-aligned, we cannot be silent. We have a chance—just a chance—in the last days of this Parliament to speak with a unanimous voice. We have a chance to give a voice to the many people in this land who say, "Not in our name." With Susan Deacon, I share the grave anxiety of the mothers of Scotland. Those mothers and fathers want to know if the case for war has been proven before our sons kill their daughters, before our daughters maim their sons, and before a war in our name starves their children. Not in my name do we march to war, when there is still time for peace.

The clock is ticking. Does it tick in this place as part of a timetable to war, or as the hand reaches midnight does it strike a chime for peace?