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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 16 January, 2003, 17:37 GMT
UK hurtling towards war - Swinney
John Swinney
The parliament has been debating the Iraq crisis
Britain and the United States have embarked on an "inevitable path to war" with Iraq, according to the Scottish National Party leader.

As Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Scotland, John Swinney opened a debate on the Iraq crisis in the Scottish Parliament.

He told MSPs that the UK Government must he held to account over any future military action.

He also warned that any unilateral or bilateral military action with the US without United Nations endorsement would weaken the international community.

The US and UK are currently pursuing an inevitable path to war and I feel it is our duty to steer this government away from this inappropriate approach

John Swinney, SNP leader
Mr Swinney said: "We've had the rhetoric, we've had the public relations offensive, now we have the military action.

"Along with many other people in Scotland today I fear there can only be one conclusion.

"The US and UK are currently pursuing an inevitable path to war and I feel it is our duty to steer this government away from this inappropriate approach."

Mr Swinney made his comments in an SNP-instigated debate on the Iraq crisis.

Although defence and foreign policy powers are reserved to Westminster, the SNP has argued that its debate would help in filling a democratic void on the issue.

Public ignored

It has accused Labour of failing to allow proper debate on the Iraq crisis at Westminster and of ignoring public opinion on the issue.

The Labour MSP Tom McCabe accused the SNP of political opportunism by forcing the parliament to debate Iraq.

He said: "Whether they like it or not and whether they intend it or not, in tabling this motion they open themselves up to the charge of using a tense and worrying international situation to illuminate their views on the constitution at a time when brave young women and men in our armed forces might find themselves in deadly conflict."

Mr McCabe praised Prime Minister Tony Blair's attempts to secure a peaceful resolution to the issue and said the SNp debate was as "opportunistic as it is repugnant".

Mr Blair would be failing in his duty if he were simply to wring his hands and do nothing about it."

Phil Gaillie MSP

Scottish Conservative MSP Phil Gallie said that despite his political differences with Mr Blair, the country should trust the prime minister if he believes Britain's national security is under threat.

He said: "Mr Blair would be failing in his duty if he were simply to wring his hands and do nothing about it."

He said that while the SNP's calls for a second UN resolution before any military action was a preferred option, it should not be seen as a block on troops being sent into Iraq.

But Liberal Democrats said there must be a fresh UN resolution and a Commons vote before troops are committed.

'New hell'

Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott said he could not support the SNP motion since this opposed war in all circumstances.

He said: "This debate is not simply about Saddam Hussein's evil regime and the nature of the threat posed by it to world peace, but how the world in general and the UK in particular confronts the threat posed by those who flout international law."

Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan told MSPs it would be "a nonsense" if the Scottish Parliament did not discuss the current situation,

He said: "It is important that we discuss whether or not we think unleashing a new hell on the people of Iraq is right or wrong, just or unjust, legal or illegal, moral or immoral."

Scotland's only Green MSP Robin Harper said: "If we are going to have a war then let it be, as Tommy Sheridan said, one against poverty and inequality, not against people."

Resolution vote

Labour won the vote with the backing of the Conservatives.

MSPs agreed that if Saddam Hussein fails to comply with the United Nations resolution then the security council should meet again.

Moves by the SNP and the Liberal Democrats for a more hardline amendment demanding a specific mandate from the UN before British troops are sent to war were rejected.

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  The BBC's Brian Taylor
"Labour carried the day with Tory support"

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16 Jan 03 | Politics
16 Jan 03 | Scotland
15 Jan 03 | Scotland
15 Jan 03 | Politics
13 Jan 03 | Scotland
29 Sep 02 | Scotland
09 Nov 01 | Scotland
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