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3. Before asking my question, I draw members’ attention to my entry in the register of members’ interests. Last summer, I spent time in Kurdistan as a guest of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which may be relevant to my question.
To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on how it will support humanitarian efforts in Iraq in light of the United Kingdom Parliament’s approval of air strikes in the country. (S4T-00793)
The brutality of the so-called Islamic State, or Isil, is beyond question. The Scottish Government supports international efforts to support the people of Iraq, Syria and the wider middle east, which is possible only through a long-term strategic approach that is led by regional partners and which includes tackling radicalisation at home and abroad and making efforts to cut off Isil’s sources of finance and weaponry.
The international humanitarian crisis continues, and we define our response to such situations case by case, usually related to the launch of a Disasters Emergency Committee appeal—for example, the Government gave £200,000 to the DEC’s Syria appeal.
We will continue to monitor the situation carefully and, when appropriate, we will offer support. We have written to the UK Government to that effect.
I believe that there is a role for air support from the international community to relieve a devastating humanitarian crisis and to help communities in the Kurdish region of Iraq and beyond, including in Syria, to defend themselves. Furthermore, had the Iraqi Government not blocked earlier efforts of the Kurdish regional government to properly arm its Peshmerga, the situation might never have got so dire.
Unfortunately, on Friday, the UK Government gave an open-ended commitment on Iraq for years without any real consideration of future peace and stability. Will the minister make representations to the UK Government, putting the case for proportionate and targeted use of air support specifically for the purposes that I have outlined as well as making a strong case that any future peace plan must include support for the Kurdish regions in both countries, supporting stable, democratic self-government and ensuring that they have the capacity to defend themselves in the future, thereby averting future humanitarian crises?
During Friday’s debate in the House of Commons, my colleague Angus Robertson said that the UK must not equivocate in its support for the Kurdish regional government, which must be supported. The Scottish Government supports that view. However, military action against Isil must be carried out within a long-term strategic plan that includes a plan for peace. What we were presented with by the UK Government was lacking in those elements. An open-ended bombing campaign alone will be counterproductive.
On the Kurds in Syria, the global community must redouble its efforts to find a long-term solution to the civil war in that country. A political solution must be found alongside any military solution, and it must be based on a human rights approach that protects the rights of all communities, including Kurds, in Syria. As a Government, we will support action within a long-term, strategic plan—a plan for peace is legal within the international framework—and our strong preference is that such action be led by regional partners. The First Minister will write to the Prime Minister this week to highlight the Scottish Government’s concern about the UK Government’s vote for military action against Isil without a specific timescale, without a plan for securing peace and without a long-term, strategic vision.
We support the provision of support and training to the Kurdish regional government. We understand its needs. However, any military action must not only have a legal basis—we know that it does—but be part of a long-term, strategic plan that includes a plan for peace and an exit strategy. That was missing from what was voted on on Friday. The vote on Friday did not separate actions to support the Kurdish away from the general situation in Iraq; we had to look at the action as a whole, and we could not support that action because we think that it would be counterproductive as opposed to helpful to the people on the ground, be they Kurds in Kurdistan or the wider Iraqi population.
I wrote to Hugo Swire, the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, on that very point. The Scottish Government is willing to provide any assistance that it can. Currently, Iraq does not come within the terms of our international development budget, but I am more than happy to discuss with members how we might offer such support. That offer was made to the UK Government back in August and continues to be the case. I am sure that, when the First Minister writes to the Prime Minister, he will reiterate the Scottish Government’s willingness to help with the humanitarian effort wherever we can.