SNP letter to Theresa May: Parliament must get a vote on Syria

Below is the full text of the letter to Theresa May from SNP Defence Spokesperson at Westminster, Stewart McDonald MP, on the recent events in Syria.

Dear Prime Minister, 

I wanted to write to you as you consider the UK government’s response to recent events in Syria.

The Scottish National Party unequivocally condemns the use of chemical weapons – which are illegal under international law. We continue to support humanitarian and diplomatic efforts to ensure such attacks never happen again, and believe that this must be part of a wider effort to end the war.

The harrowing images of children and adults, killed and injured in these brutal and barbaric attacks, show the need for the UK government to work with our international partners to clamp down on the development and use of chemical weapons in Syria, and hold those responsible to account.

This must mean action to block the Syrian government’s purchasing and importing abilities, further sanctions against personnel and companies involved, and increased efforts to document those involved in chemical warfare infrastructure to support future war crimes prosecutions.

At this stage, I understand you are giving consideration to joining a possible US and French mission to target the Assad regime. President Trump has made it clear that he does wish to use military force in this way, and I would urge extreme caution on the UK government’s part in considering its response.

Undoubtedly the use of chemical weapons cannot be allowed to become normal, but there are options open to the UK government that do not involve the use of lethal force, and would not require UK forces to deepen our military role in an already extremely complex theatre of war.

I am not convinced that the retaliatory airstrikes being proposed by the United States is a proper way forward. Though should the UK government wish to participate then it must only do so if the UK parliament gives its consent. This is a view shared by a cross-party group of MPs who have signed EDM 92 to that effect, and a number of your own colleagues who have put forward this view in the media these past few days.

The UK is only actively engaged in Syria because the UK government carried a motion on December 2nd 2015 in which it asked parliament to approve the “exclusive” targeting of Daesh in that country. If the UK government wishes to expand its involvement then it would be a scandal if it did so without a full debate and vote in the House of Commons.

There must be a proper response to such a heinous attack. As the third party, the SNP is open to discussing with the UK government what form that should take. However, we cannot support any action that is not part of an overall strategy to bring the war to an end that risks escalating violence or widens the conflict.

I am copying this letter to other party leaders.

Yours sincerely,

Stewart McDonald MP

SNP Defence Spokesperson