Sturgeon will listen to Cameron on Syria airstrikes

Nicola Sturgeon at First Ministers Questions today. Picture: PA
Nicola Sturgeon at First Ministers Questions today. Picture: PA
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Nicola Sturgeon yesterday signalled there was potential for a shift in SNP policy on Syrian airstrikes when she said she would listen to David Cameron’s plans to launch attacks.

Ms Sturgeon suggested it would be “impossible” not to give the Prime Minister a hearing after the appalling events that saw the deaths of 129 people in Paris last week.

Her remarks were made despite the SNP unanimously passing a motion opposing UK participation in the ongoing military action in Syria at its autumn conference last month.

But shortly after Ms Sturgeon indicated there could be a change of tack, she was effectively undermined by Alex Salmond who said the SNP had not yet heard anything that would convince the party to support airstrikes against IS in Syria.

Last month Ms Sturgeon said her party would oppose this use of force, arguing then that what is needed “is not more bombing, but a renewed and intensive diplomatic initiative”.

But speaking to BBC Scotland, the First Minister said: “I’m prepared to listen. Given what is happening, what has happened, I think it would be irresponsible not to do that.

“But I think it is incumbent on the Prime Minister, if he is going to bring a proposal for air strikes to the House of Commons, that he makes that case and he addresses that case to these key points.”

Mr Cameron has already signalled his determination to seek Commons support for extending RAF air strikes against IS - currently restricted to Iraq - into Syria in the wake of the terror attacks in the French capital.

Prime Minister insisted the question of how to dismantle Islamic State (IS) bases in Syria ‘’cannot be dodged forever’’ as he pushed for Britain to join air strikes.

He also dismissed suggestions that the UK should only take military action if there was a UN Security Council resolution, saying he would not ‘’outsource to Russian veto the decisions that we need to keep our country safe’’.

Mr Salmond, who is now his party’s foreign affairs spokesman, was insistent that a mandate from the UN was an essential condition of the SNP supporting action when he was interviewed on the subject.

Mr Salmond told the BBC: “We haven’t heard in the SNP benches anything yet that would convince us that being the thirteenth country to start bombing in Syria is going to make any material difference whatsoever to anything.

“What we’d like to hear is far, far more about diplomatic initiatives through the United Nations and also the real practical things like interrupting the financial flows into Daesh to actually make a material difference to what’s happening in the Middle East.”

Mr Salmond said the role of the United Nations was important because it was regarded as the “voice of the international community”.

He added that the involvement of the UN “would be a condition of the SNP looking at this issue [air strikes in Syria]”

Yesterday the First Minister’s spokesman said: “We would always want to see UN backing for action.”