SNP Vote Against Military Action in Syria
Late on Wednesday night, along with my SNP MP colleagues, I took the decision to vote against military action in Syria.
Following the debate and developments closely over the last fortnight, SNP MPs collectively agreed that the case for military action had not convincingly been made and that UK intervention in Syria may, in fact, exacerbate an already desperate situation. This was also the view of the all-party House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee which stated that The Prime Minister had “not adequately addressed concerns.”
The division bell sounded after 10 hours of debate which saw 157 MPs submit a request to speak. As the votes were counted, it became clear that the Government had won – ultimately passing the motion by 397 votes to 223.
On the eve of the debate, SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP tabled an amendment to the government motion to block air strikes in Syria. This was signed by 110 MPs from six parties, but was not agreed.
Disappointingly the Prime Minister chose to label those intending to vote against the Government as “terrorist sympathisers” – a disgraceful slur on MPs who carefully weighed up the arguments and concluded that bombing Syria was not the best way forward. To his shame, David Cameron never apologised for these appalling remarks, despite being invited to do so on 15 separate occasions during the debate. Considering that those who voted against military action included former members of the armed forces, spouses of current service personnel, three former Tory leadership candidates and MPs from Northern Ireland – which has suffered from terrorism first hand – it was the least the Prime Minister could have done.
The civil war in Syria has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in decades, with 300,000 people killed, 9 million fleeing their homes and historic cities devastated following sustained aerial and artillery bombardment. On top of this, we have witnessed the rise of Islamic State (ISIS) an Islamo-fascist death cult that has brought dark-age barbarism to Iraq and Syria and terror to the beaches of Tunisia and streets of Paris.
To say that nothing should be done is not an option. However, acting when the consequences of action are not fully understood is foolhardy. Military analysts made it clear that air strikes will not defeat ISIS. The Prime Minister claims there are 70,000 rebels ready to them. However, despite repeated questioning, he was unable to spell out who these fighters are, how many are ‘moderate’ and how many belong to rival jihadist elements as bad as those we want to defeat. And despite claims that technology used by the RAF would minimise civilian casualties, we know from past experience that using high explosives in urban areas leads inevitably to innocent lives being lost.
The UK should have – and still should – press for Turkey to seal its borders to ISIS volunteers crossing into Syria and Iraq and cut off the export of the oil and antiquities ISIS relies on to pay its fighters. Jihadis who had trained and fought in Syria returning to France and Belgium played a major role in the Paris attacks. Clearly more work needs to be done to counter radicalisation of Muslims in communities across Europe.
The UK should press forward with diplomatic efforts to end the Syrian civil war and work with the UN and others to develop a peace plan for the next round of peace talks between Syria’s Assad regime and opposition groups, which are due to take place this month.
Opting to drop more bombs on an already beleaguered nation without an exit strategy or a credible peace-building plan can only delay a lasting solution.