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International Situation (Contingency Planning)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:33 pm on 19th March 2003.

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Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative 2:33 pm, 19th March 2003

On behalf of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party I concur with the First Minister's sentiments and say that our thoughts and prayers are with our servicemen and servicewomen, for a swift resolution to the conflict and a safe return to their families back home. I do not think that anybody wants war, but there are times when armed conflict is necessary to deal with dangerous and tyrannical regimes, such as Saddam Hussein's—this is such a time.

I was pleased to note the substantial backing for the Government's motion in the House of Commons, as was reflected in the votes cast by Scottish MPs at Westminster. However, irrespective of who voted for what in either of Scotland's Parliaments, does the First Minister agree that the time for wrangling and voting in divisions is behind us and that our armed forces deserve the unanimous support of us all?

Having expressed that sentiment, I will ask the First Minister a couple of specific questions. First, will he join me in welcoming the fact that Thursday's strike by the Fire Brigades Union has been called off? Does he recognise that, despite that, 19,000 troops throughout Britain are still on standby, tied up to cover any future industrial action, which has not as yet been ruled out? Does he agree that it would be most helpful if the Fire Brigades Union were to give an undertaking that there will be no more strikes as long as there is a substantial British military involvement in Iraq, thereby enabling the troops who are on standby to be released from their firefighting duties?