My SNP colleagues and I share the public horror at the bombing and destruction that has been visited on the civilian population in Aleppo in recent months. As the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in the Scottish Parliament on 15 December, we have all found the scenes from Aleppo to be heartbreaking and deeply, deeply distressing.
On 30 November, Angus Robertson MP asked the Prime Minister directly to ensure that the UK and the international community do everything possible to alleviate the suffering of the people of Aleppo. This intervention from the SNP’s Leader in Westminster followed many others from SNP Members of Parliament in previous months. By way of example, on 11 January Brendan O’Hara, MP for Argyll and Bute, called on the government to drop bread to those in need rather than to drop bombs. That call was repeated by Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, on 9 June and Patrick Grady, MP for Glasgow North, on 11 October.
The Scottish Government, with their limited power and resources in this area, have played as active a role as they can. In March 2013, they donated £100,000 to the Disasters Emergency Committee, and they later doubled that to £200,000. Earlier this year, the First Minister accepted an invitation from the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, to host an international women’s summit in Edinburgh, focused on supporting Syrian women, so that they can engage in communication, negotiation, and post-conflict planning, and become a key part of the peace process.
As regards military action, the SNP has been clear and consistent from the beginning in its opposition to UK air strikes in Syria. Military means alone will not suffice to bring about the UK Government’s stated goal of defeating Daesh and helping bring into being a government in Syria which will be neither authoritarian and repressive on the one hand, nor politically extreme on the other. The successful implementation of a no-fly zone would depend on several specific conditions which do not currently exist. The SNP position is that any no-fly zone should be part of a universal and unconditional, UN-monitored ceasefire which includes the immediate and unrestricted delivery of humanitarian aid to the people who so desperately need it.
We will continue to urge all parties to end their military operations immediately and to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid to the people of Syria. We will continue to press the UK Government to end its campaign of aerial bombardment and to redouble diplomatic efforts at the UN Security Council.