FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been criticised for not attending a service in London to remember soldiers killed during the war in Afghanistan.
The end of the 13-year conflict was marked by a ceremony of commemoration at St Paul’s Cathedral yesterday where the Queen, Prime Minister David Cameron, military chiefs and veterans gathered in tribute to those involved in the campaign.
Almost 150,000 UK personnel were deployed to Afghanistan, and 453 British men and women died in the fight against the Taliban insurgency, including more than 30 Scots.
The Scottish Government was represented at the event by Keith Brown, a former Royal Marine and the Infrastructure, Investment and Cities Secretary who also has responsibility for veterans.
Ms Sturgeon was in Crieff, Perth and Kinross, yesterday where she gave a speech to the annual conference of local government body the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla).
Family members of Scottish soldiers killed in the conflict were joined by opposition parties in criticising the decision not to attend.
Janette Binnie, 47, whose son Sean Binnie, was killed in Helmand province in 2009, said she felt let down and called on Ms Sturgeon to apologise.
She told the Scottish Daily Mail: “I’m in a wheelchair and I made it down from Aberdeen.
“The First Minister owes the families a sincere apology for leaving us without official representation.
“It is totally unacceptable what she has done. It is shameful.”
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “I think the people of Scotland would expect their First Minister to attend such an event.
“Many Scottish soldiers lost their lives in Afghanistan, and it’s right that this is commemorated.
“Nicola Sturgeon, like her predecessor, is happy enough to go to London to give lectures on the constitution. But I think it would have been appreciated if she had attended.”
A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “Scots would expect our First Minister to have attended this service to mark the contribution of the servicemen and women who gave their lives to keep us safe.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The First Minister was unfortunately unable to attend the service of commemoration for Afghanistan due to another diary commitment.
“She asked Keith Brown, who has responsibility for veterans and is himself a former Royal Marine, to represent the Scottish Government on her behalf, to pay tribute to all those who served and to those who lost their lives.”
Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones was also not present at the event.
A spokeswoman for the Welsh Government said: “The First Minister was committed to giving evidence to a committee at the National Assembly and was therefore unable to attend this important service.
“The Finance Minister represented the Welsh Government to remember and honour all British armed services personnel, including the 33 Welsh soldiers, killed in Afghanistan. The First Minister regularly attends events to support and honour our armed forces.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS