Sturgeon condemns proposed UK military action in Syria

Scotland’s first minister tells SNP conference she will campaign against Brexit

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon has condemned proposals for British military action in Syria, warning that it could add to the "unimaginable human suffering there".

In her closing address to the Scottish National Party's (SNP) annual conference in Aberdeen, Ms Sturgeon said the party will vote against military action, a move that increases pressure on Labour, which is divided on the issue.

“The motivation for UK military action appears to be based on a need to do something, rather than any real consideration of whether the action proposed will make a positive difference. The question has not been answered - when airstrikes by US, Russian, Arab, Turkish and French forces have not brought this multi-layered conflict closer to a resolution, what possible grounds are there for believing that adding UK airstrikes will do so,” the first minister said.

British prime minister David Cameron is hoping to win support at Westminster for UK military action in Syria but with some of his Conservative MPs opposed to it, he will need opposition votes to secure a majority. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn opposes military action but some MPs on the right of his party could support the government.


Mr Cameron lost a vote on military action against Syria in August 2013, a defeat that prompted US president Barack Obama to have a similar resolution withdrawn from Congress.

Ms Sturgeon said that while Britain should do more to help refugees from the conflict in Syria, there was no justification for the use of force.

“What is needed is not more bombing, but a renewed and intensive diplomatic initiative, led by the UN, to seek a lasting resolution of the conflict and defeat the horror that is Isis,” she said.

Ms Sturgeon warned on Thursday that if the UK votes to leave the European Union, it could trigger a second referendum on Scottish independence. In her closing speech to the conference, she promised that the SNP will campaign energetically to keep the UK within the EU.

“We reject utterly the parochialism and the xenophobia of UKIP. And we despair at the failure of leadership of a Prime Minister pandering to eurosceptics in his party, but unable to articulate clearly and precisely what it is he is seeking to renegotiate,” she said.

"David Cameron might play fast and loose with our place in Europe. But be in no doubt - the SNP will campaign positively for Scotland, and the UK, to stay in the European Union."

This year’s SNP conference was the biggest in the party’s history, reflecting a year of extraordinary growth since its defeat in last year’s referendum on Scottish independence. The party’s membership has increased from 25,000 to more than 114,000, the SNP won 56 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats in May and polls suggest it is on course to win a third term in government in Scotland next year.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times