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I thank the First Minister for his statement and for giving me advance sight of its contents. I also thank the justice department officials for their briefing on emergency planning some weeks ago.
The First Minister recognises the reality that this country will shortly be at war. The Scottish National Party opposes this country going to war. In the circumstances that we now face, we can only pray for the safe return of our armed forces—some of my constituents are in the Black Watch and other regiments—and express our support for them and their families. We also pray for the avoidance of civilian casualties in the conflict—we should not forget the wise counsel of my colleague George Reid that nine out of 10 casualties of war are now civilians.
The First Minister has outlined the preparations for war, how we are to respond to the conflict and how we have reached this point in the conflict. I have three specific questions about his statement.
First, bearing in mind the statutory responsibility that is exercised by local government for emergency planning and given that Parliament will be dissolved on 31 March, can the First Minister explain how he has found space in his special Cabinet committee for the Minister for Parliamentary Business but not for the Minister for Finance and Public Services, who has ministerial responsibility for local government and emergency planning?
Secondly, in his discussions with the British Government, what assurances has the First Minister sought about the preservation of civil amenities in Iraq, such as the water treatment system and power plants, which are vital to the humanitarian effort? What contribution does he believe that Scotland can make to the international humanitarian effort?
Finally, the First Minister said in our debate last Thursday on the Iraq crisis that his amendment
Can he explain why he is now willing to back