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Last Updated:  Saturday, 22 March, 2003, 11:54 GMT
Labour conference urged to unite
John Reid
John Reid addressed the conference
Scottish Labour have heard a call for unity on the final morning of their conference in Dundee.

The gathering, which has been dominated by thoughts of the conflict in Iraq, was shortened to half a day because of the war.

UK Labour Party chairman John Reid has been addressing delegates on the situation in the Gulf and on the Holyrood elections ahead.

Dr Reid urged activists to put internal divisions over Iraq behind them and acknowledged the concern of anti-war protesters.

We could have done nothing, we didn't do that and people are entitled to ask us to face the moral consequences of our actions
John Reid
"The immense damage which has been inflicted overnight in Iraq has been inflicted on the personnel, the command, the control, the headquarters, the machinery and the apparatus of a whole terror machine which has blighted and tormented the lives of the Iraqi people for over a quarter of a century," he said.

"We could have done nothing, we didn't do that and people are entitled to ask us to face the moral consequences of our actions, but please don't pretend there are no moral consequences of refusing to act."

Dr Reid went on to say that the fact there were anti-war demonstrations taking place around the country should be celebrated.

"We never forget you will not see protest marches in Iraq, you will not hear voices of decent in Baghdad."

Unity call

But he accused SNP leader John Swinney of opportunism in his party's position on the war.

Turning to the Scottish Parliament elections, the UK party leader called for delegates to unify in campaigning for a future that represents the Scottish people.

"Make sure that it is another step in a united effort in shaping a modern programme for progress based on set of enduring values," he said.

On Friday evening the party had staged a debate on Iraq after pressure from anti-war Labour activists and unions.

The debate was held in private and no vote was taken, nor was any formal resolution passed at the end of two hours of discussions.

Harder line

But the fact that the debate was conducted in that form represented a victory for unions and activists, who had earlier staged a successful rebellion in protest at plans to confine discussions on Iraq to a private question and answer session.

The compromised deal that emerged also resulted in a significant hardening of tone in a Scottish Labour Party Executive statement on Iraq.

As originally drafted by party chiefs, it "regretted the inability to achieve a further UN resolution".

But talks with unions led to this being sharpened into a statement "regretting military action has commenced without the explicit authorisation of a further UN resolution" - a form of wording more critical, by implication, of the decision to go to war.

It was a very constructive and mature debate. It's a pity it took so long to get there
Susan Deacon
At the end of the two hour closed doors debate, the rebels welcomed the concessions they had extracted.

Anti-war left-wing Labour MSP John McAllion said: "It felt like being in the Labour Party again for the first time in years - to see the trade unions and constituency parties working together to try to get a grass roots view across and to say that the leadership can't tell them what to do or dragoon them into the sort of positions they don't want to be dragooned into."

Former Health Minister Susan Deacon said: "It was a very constructive and mature debate. It's a pity it took so long to get there."

The conference closed with an address from the Scottish Secretary Helen liddell.

She claimed a Labour vote on 1 May would give the Scottish people the opportunities they are entitled to.




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