Peace campaigners: SNP “absolutely critical” in stopping UK military action in Syria


Divisions inside the Labour party may make the SNP the crucial element in efforts to oppose military action

LEADING PEACE campaigners have called on the SNP to use its “absolutely critical” influence at Westminster to oppose military action in Syria by the UK Government.

Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to make a statement to the House of Commons on Thursday (26 November) putting forward the case for military intervention. A vote on UK military action was originally expected for early December before the close of parliament on 17 December, but it is now expected that the vote will be brought forward to as soon as the week following Thursday’s announcements.

Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War coalition told CommonSpace that the divisions within the Labour party made the SNP’s role crucial in opposing the fresh war drive.

She said: “Some right-wing Labour members will vote for bombing under any circumstances and some will vote for war in order to embarrass Jeremy Corbyn.

“This makes the SNP’s position absolutely critical. If the SNP continues to oppose the action I think we can be absolutely certain that more Labour MP’s will also oppose it.”

German also said that if the SNP were to take a pro-war position this would isolate the Labour anti-war vote: “If the SNP agrees with it (military action) there will be a consensus overall which will make it much harder for Corbyn and members of the PLP who want to oppose,” she said.

“So it is very important the SNP stick to their conference policy, their original policy and not join in with this drive to war,” she added.

The party’s conference in Aberdeen included a unanimous decision against military action in Syria. However, following the Paris attacks first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that the party is willing to “listen” to the case for war.

German also said that Stop the War was lobbying all MP’s against action and that a significant number of MP’s “from all parties” had expressed opposition or disquiet over the idea of taking military action.

However she also said: “Cameron wouldn’t have made the announcement he did last week unless he was quite confident he would win the vote and he wouldn’t take the vote unless he thought he would win.”

It was claimed by the BBC in early November that Shadow Foreign Minister Catherine West said that the Stop the War coalition would be consulted before Labour took a position on military action against Daesh. The Labour party denied the claims .

Calls for action against the terrorist group, which controls territory across Syria and Iraq, have increased since the Paris attacks on 13 November, which, it has been alleged, were inspired or even part planned by Daesh.

Reacting to the news that peace groups were calling on the SNP to oppose military action, MSP Alex Johnstone told CommonSpace: “If the SNP buckles to these demands, it will have proved yet again it is unfit to deal with international issues.

“The priority has to be keeping people in the UK safe, and that is exactly what the UK Government is trying to do. For the SNP to defy this would be nothing but a political stunt.”

An SNP spokesperson told CommonSpace that the party was “far from convinced” of the case for military action, but would await announcements expected from Cameron on Thursday.

The spokesperson said that the party did not believe that the UN resolution on 20 November constituted the legal requirements for military action, and that in this regard the party’s position remained that of 21 November.

The party press release from that day reads: “The resolution passed appears to be an enabling resolution and not a Chapter VII resolution requiring combined UN action to enforce peace in Syria. The Prime Minister should not therefore take it as authorisation for UK military action, which must be in line with international law.”

Picture courtesy of Scottish Government