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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
13th March

As we draw this Parliamentary week to a close, we are debating the Iraq war – 5 years after it began.

This is a Member’s Debate, there will be no vote on it, but it is a very important debate.  It was brought by my SNP colleague Aileen Campbell MSP (Linda Fabiani responded for the Government), and I found it very interesting to listen to Aileen open the debate.

She made an interesting point – she pointed out that she had been a student when the 2003 protests were ongoing and she had taken to the streets and felt a regeneration of politics.  Now, five years later, she has had the great honour of being elected to her nation’s Parliament and is able to speak out from a position of greater influence as an MSP.  I am in a similar privileged and humbling position – when the war began I was working in social work in Glasgow and I took to the streets like many of my work colleagues and thousands of other people from around Scotland, I now have a national platform from which to speak out in support of my  beliefs.

The Iraq war is a sombre topic, tinged with the sadness of many families’ personal loss, Scottish families mourn their fathers, brothers and sons who have died in the service of their country, died doing a job we sent them to do.  Whatever our opinions of the conflict, we should remember the service and sacrifice of our servicemen and servicewomen, and we should salute the job they do in keeping us safe and the peacemaking and peacekeeping jobs they do across the world.

I’ve heard people say that our Parliament should not be debating things like the Iraq war because defence is reserved.  My reply to them remains that you can reserve defence, foreign affairs or whatever else, but you can not reserve morality, humanity and common decency.  Scotland’s parliament should speak out in Scotland’s name.

In 2003 the people of Scotland marched to make it clear that any war in Iraq would be fought “not in our name”.  Unfortunately, the war has been fought for five years in our name, we bear responsibility for this, each and every one of us carries a responsibility for that war and for its continuation.  The only decent action for us now is to seek a speedy and peaceful end to the conflict and to restore Iraq to the control of the Iraqi people.  Much as we disparage the actions which have been carried out in our name we have a duty to see this farce through to an end.

Linda reminded the chamber of the contribution to the development of the United Nations of Dag Hammarskjöld and Ralph Bunche and their elevation of peace to being the highest aim of the UN.  That contribution has been somewhat diluted in recent years as the doctrine of “might is right” has come to the forefront once again, and we must resist that to seek a world where peace and peaceful cooperation bring the benefits which will enhance each of our lives.

Levelling out the life opportunities that people across the world, actually engaging properly in world development and encouraging mutuality is our greatest hope for a peaceful and prosperous future.  When the child in Africa has the same life chances as the child in Europe and the community in Asia has the same worth as the community in the USA then perhaps we can see global trade based on mutual respect and a lessening of the desire to go to war.

After the invasion of Iraq as the reasoning changed before our very eyes we were told that the conflict was to bring about regime change.  It is perhaps ironic that the conflict will outlast the regimes of Tony Blair and George Bush as well as Saddam Hussein.  I am no apologist for the horrors which Saddam inflicted upon his people, but neither will I prop up the pitiful excuses of men whose desire to go down in history as a war leader appears to have taken precedence over doing what is right, what is just, and what makes the world a better place.

We told them “not in our name” they went to war in our name.  Five years, thousands of deaths, a fortune spent, no end in sight, a country destroyed, a region destabilised, and our national psyche scarred.

There are times when some issues seem to be almost too far gone to be brought back.  Those are the times when we should tell ourselves that anything is possible given the right attitude, a will to succeed, and the determination to keep going even when the situation seems hopeless.

We can make this country and this world better – if only we try.

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