Scotland politics

SNP says key questions on Syria 'remain unanswered'

RAF Tornadoes Image copyright PA
Image caption RAF Tornadoes can currently target IS in Iraq but not in Syria

The SNP has said it will not support air strikes in Syria unless the prime minister is able to address "key questions" that "remain unanswered".

David Cameron outlined his case in the Commons for allowing the RAF to bomb the Islamic State terror group in Syria as well as in Iraq.

But the SNP's Angus Robertson said there was no effective ground support in place to take and hold territory.

And he said there was no fully-costed reconstruction plan in place for Syria.

Mr Cameron had said that there were about 70,000 "moderate" Free Syrian Army (FSA) troops as well Kurdish fighters who could work with the UK to "help eliminate" IS.

But Mr Robertson, the SNP's leader at Westminster, questioned how many of those FSA fighters were on the frontline against Daesh - another name for IS - in the north east of Syria as opposed to countering Syrian regime forces elsewhere in the country.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Cameron acknowledged that military action alone would not end the threat

He also asked Mr Cameron what the UK was doing to plan and secure long-term stability and reconstruction in Syria.

Mr Robertson said: "The UK spent 13 times more bombing Libya than on its post-conflict stability and reconstruction. So how much does the prime minister estimate the total cost of reconstruction will be, and does he think that the amount in his statement today will be sufficient?

"Two years ago the prime minister urged us to bomb the opponents of Daesh in Syria. That would probably have strengthened this terrorist organisation. Today, the prime minister wants us to launch a bombing campaign without effective ground support in place or a fully-costed reconstruction and stability plan.

"The prime minister has asked us to consider his plan. We have listened closely. However, key questions posed by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee remain unanswered.

"And unless the prime minister answers these questions satisfactorily, the Scottish National Party will not vote for airstrikes in Syria."

Mr Robertson said the SNP shared concerns about the "terrorist threat" from IS, and that the party strongly supported a ceasefire in Syria and a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who is also the SNP leader, has previously said that the party would listen to what the prime minister had to say before making a decision on whether or not to support airstrikes.

Image copyright AP
Image caption IS has its headquarters in the Syrian city of Raqqa

Her predecessor, Alex Salmond, has said that the party believes a United Nations resolution would be required before it was able to back Mr Cameron on airstrikes.

Last month, the SNP conference unanimously backed a motion which was opposed to airstrikes in Syria.

A Commons vote is expected within weeks on whether to authorise a bombing campaign, with the SNP's 54 MPs having the potential to play a crucial role.

Speaking in the Commons after publishing his response to a recent Foreign Affairs committee report on air strikes, Mr Cameron said that there was a "clear legal basis" for military action against IS in Syria.

He said this was because the UN Security Council had passed a resolution stating that IS "constitutes a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security", and calling upon member states to take "all necessary measures to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed" by the group and to "eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria".

The prime minister argued that it was in the national interest of the UK to carry out air strikes against IS militants in Syria.

He said that military action should be part of a "comprehensive strategy" to tackle IS, which would also require a "full political settlement".

The prime minister dismissed fears that that UK would become a bigger target for terror attacks if it was to bomb in Syria by saying that the UK was already a major target for IS - and that the only way to deal with that was to "take action" now.

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