Jenny Marra : Iraq (Speech in the Scottish Parliament )
19 March 2013
On the morning of Saturday 15 February 2003, I travelled from Dundee down to Glasgow.
On Buchanan Street, I joined the thousands-strong march of people as we made our way to the Scottish exhibition and conference centre to protest outside the Labour Party conference against the planned invasion of Iraq, “Not in my name.”
That is why it is with deep regret that I speak in this debate.
Today, the SNP is taking forward its agenda for the constitution in the names of the men, women and children—of Iraqis and members of military forces—who died in that conflict, and in the names of those of us who marched against it.
That is the shame of today’s Government motion.
The referendum debate should certainly not be conducted in their names.
If an independent Scotland were to be a perfect country with a perfect and uncompromised foreign policy, that would be a first for any nation on this earth.
To give up our influence in the United Kingdom and not to take part in what were, in hindsight, the right foreign policy decisions that we have made in Britain, on fighting fascism and our opposition to Vietnam.
That is the debate that we should have.
Such issues are never easy, and they never come with the benefit of hindsight, whether we mean a just war, an illegal war and those in between.
I refer to the myriad of opinions on the first Gulf war, Kosovo and the independent Republic of Ireland’s neutrality in the face of fascism.
The First Minister has already been in difficulty when faced with complex issues of international diplomacy, with his refusal to welcome the Dalai Lama to Scotland and his unwillingness to raise human rights abuses with the Chinese Government on his trade missions.
If the SNP is saying that we would have a better foreign policy if we were independent, we must debate that point seriously. I suggest to the SNP that that debate should take place in a positive manner and that it should set out an agenda for the future.
That campaign should take place in communities up and down this country because, in the meantime, this Parliament has a job to do in looking for solutions to the struggles that our communities face.
The beginning and ending of, and the reasoning for any war are no causes for anything apart from sober remembrance and reflection.
The time for political anger, arguments and recriminations over Iraq was 2003; it is not now.
It is deeply disrespectful to those who have died to conduct the debate as the opening chapter of a week that is politically driving towards the announcement of the referendum date.
Mark McDonald: Jenny Marra contends that it is too soon to be having the debate. Does she not accept that for the hundreds of thousands of casualties it is not too soon, but far too late?
Jenny Marra: Mark McDonald is clearly not listening to what I am saying, which is that this is not an appropriate debate. If the SNP wants to set out its foreign policy agenda in an independent country, it should do so by looking to the future, and not do so in the names of people who died.
One glance at the First Minister’s agenda for this week reveals a deeply cynical approach to the referendum, with debates on Iraq and Trident, then the announcement of the referendum debate on Thursday.
I sound a note of caution to the SNP.
Throughout the modern world, Scotland has been a stable society.
Nobody knows why we did not experience the riots that beset England last year, but we were fortunate not to.
The First Minister: Does Jenny Marra accept that we are having the debate because it is the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war? She said that the debate on Trident is “cynical”. Will she explain why a debate on Trident is not relevant to independence for Scotland?
Jenny Marra: I say to the First Minister that today’s debate is the most cynical thing that I have ever seen in Scottish politics.
To have this debate in this chamber while driving towards the announcement of the referendum date on Thursday is, as I said, deeply disrespectful.
I will continue with the point that I was making.
We were fortunate not to experience riots such as happened last year in England, but we should not be complacent.
With youth unemployment at 25 per cent, underemployment rife, energy prices constantly rising, increasing numbers of homes in fuel poverty and food banks emerging in all our cities—one man had to walk 13 miles across Glasgow last week to get something to eat from a food bank—it is a foolhardy campaign and Government that seeks to divide opinion along such emotive lines.
None of us in the constitutional debate should be complacent about the stability of our country.
The economic circumstances of Greece and Spain have led to unrest among young people.
I am saying this: a constitutional debate can be destabilising in itself, if it is not conducted in an extremely responsible way.
Our constitutional debate should be conducted on plans for the future.
Both sides in the debate have oceans of space to set out a vision for the future of Scotland.
I suggest the following to the SNP: it has already secured the citizens of Scotland who will vote for independence because of the war in Iraq, so please do not do a disservice to the hundreds and thousands of men, women and children who lost their lives in the Iraq conflict by playing out a constitutional debate in their names."
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