HeadLine: It’s war
The Mirror, 21/02/2003, p7
by SHAUN MILNE
ANY hopes Jack McConnell had of throwing camouflage nets over plans for
war with Iraq were dashed last night.
Instead, he was faced with a cross-party assault as the Scottish
Parliament’s big guns went into action over the Gulf crisis.
Labour – through the First Minister – got the first shots on target,
accusing the SNP of “duplicity” over their stance on the war.
But Nationalist leader John Swinney, whose party have caught Labour
napping with some early manoeuvring on the election field, soon
returned fire in a series of awkward questions.
And, as the Lib Dems beat a hasty retreat, the Tories were taking
pot-shots at everyone.
The confrontation came hot on the heels of the huge anti-war protests
in Glasgow and London, while six Labour MSPs had backed a motion by
party dissident Susan Deacon opposing any “pre-emptive” attack on Iraq.
Yesterday’s battle began as Swinney said: “Can I ask the First Minister
– what are his views?”
Amid loud Labour laughter, McConnell shot back: “A lot clearer than
yours, Mr Swinney.
“My views are very clear – Saddam Hussein should disarm.
“He should comply with the UN resolutions and cooperate with the
Swinney – shouting over the din from Labour benches – then offered his
He said: “One, no illegal war. Two, no action without a specific UN
mandate. Three, no action without the evidence.”
The SNP leader went on: “They are also the views of the people of
Scotland – and the views of some of your backbenchers as well.”
And he challenged McConnell to tell Prime Minister Tony Blair his
hardline stance was “not in our name”.
But the First Minister said: “The events of the past week simply prove
that the SNP is a permanent party of protest in Scotland.
“They shift from being the anti-war party on Saturday to being the
in-favour-of-war party on Monday night.”
But Swinney hit back, saying: “Let’s look at the events of the last few
days. The UN inspectors’ report is published – and the British
Government reacts with disappointment. 100,000 people take to the
streets of Glasgow – and the First Minister casts their views aside.”
But McConnell insisted: “The British Government has been absolutely
clear in its desire to act through the UN.
“I did listen to the people of Scotland last weekend. And I listen to
them again everywhere I go.”
Not to be outdone, Scots Tory leader David McLetchie threw a few
grenades of his own, as he said the First Minister had a responsibility
to explain the Government’s position on Iraq. He said: “It’s not simply
enough to attack the inconsistencies of some of his opponents in this
McLetchie said the case against Saddam Hussein had to be made clear to
The Tory chief said McConnell was “right” to accuse the SNP of
advocating an “unprincipled” position but suggested the Lib Dems were
Angry Lib Dem leader and Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace, called a
point of order, accusing McLetchie of making “patently untrue” claims.
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