Scotland politics

Nicola Sturgeon sends 'good wishes' to RAF

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Media captionThe leaders of the main political parties in Scotland have sent their good wishes to RAF personnel involved in air strikes on Syria.

Scotland's first minister has said her "thoughts and good wishes" are with RAF personnel involved in air strikes targeting the Islamic State group.

But Nicola Sturgeon also stressed that she remained "deeply troubled" by UK military action in Syria.

Ms Sturgeon was speaking after six Typhoon jets left RAF Lossiemouth in Moray to join air strikes against IS.

In a Commons vote on Wednesday, all but two of Scotland's 59 MPs opposed targeting IS in Syria as well as Iraq.

But MPs voted by 397 to 223 overall in favour of extending military action

Four Tornado jets based at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus carried out the first UK air strikes in Syria just hours after the vote, when they targeted an IS-controlled oil field in eastern Syria.

The Cypriot base has been bolstered by the six Typhoons from Lossiemouth, which landed at Akrotiri at about 14:20, as well as a further two Tornados from RAF Marham in Norfolk.

An RAF Airbus A400M tactical transport aircraft has been sent from Lossiemouth to Cyprus with about 100 engineers and ground staff to service the fighter jets.

Speaking at the start of first minister's questions at Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon made clear that she still opposed military action in Syria.

She told the Holyrood chamber: "I am sure we are all mindful that British service personnel, many of them based at Lossiemouth, are now in action over Syria.

"Not withstanding my opposition to this action, my thoughts and my good wishes are very much with them at this time."

"I remain deeply troubled by the decision of the UK government to take the country into conflict with no strategy, no exit plan and against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Scotland's MPs."

The SNP said a petition on its website opposing air strikes in Syria had been signed more than 70,000 times.

Image caption The Typhoons from RAF Lossiemouth have now arrived at an RAF base Cyprus
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Media captionThe first Typhoons took off from Lossiemouth shortly after 08:00
Image copyright PA
Image caption The first British air strikes targeting the IS group in Syria were carried out by Tornados based at RAF Akrotiri
Image caption Tornados based at the Akrotiri base in Cyprus bombed an IS-held oil field in eastern Syria

During a 10-hour debate in the Commons on Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron argued that action against the "medieval monsters" of IS was legal and would "keep our country safe".

Mr Cameron cautioned that the campaign against IS would take time, saying "we're going to need to be patient and persistent".

He added: "It is complex and it is difficult what we are asking our pilots to do, and our thoughts should be with them and their families as they commence this important work."

Only two Scottish MPs - Conservative Scottish Secretary David Mundell and his Liberal Democrat predecessor Alistair Carmichael - backed military action in Syria.

All 54 of the SNP's MPs voted against, as did Michelle Thomson and Natalie McGarry, who are both currently suspended from the party, and Labour's only MP in Scotland, Ian Murray.

Manhal Alnasser: 'In Syria you are living in fear'

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Image caption Mr Alnasser still has relatives living in the Homs area of Syria

Syrian Manhal Alnasser - who is now living in Scotland - is concerned that if the so-called Islamic State were left as the only group fighting President Assad it could "backfire", and "encourage rebels" to join up.

He said: "The Russians are targeting rebel areas in the country, which will leave ISIS as the main group fighting against the Syrian regime. For Syrians, the main problem at the moment is the regime."

Mr Alnasser still has family, including three sisters, living in Syria, who are on the outskirts of the war-torn city of Homs.

He said that he was "lost for words" to describe the situation they were living in.

"It's like going back in time 100 years - there's no electricity, you have to grow your own food, there's no school, there's no education and you live in fear every day for your life."

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Labour is split over the issue, with 66 Labour MPs siding with the government in backing military action, including shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn.

Mr Benn was applauded, particularly by Conservative MPs, when he urged his own side to "confront this evil" posed by IS.

But Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale told the Scottish Parliament she, like the party's UK leader Jeremy Corbyn, was opposed to air strikes.

She said: "Like the first minister, I did not support extending air strikes into Syria. However, with British forces now involved we must come together to support the brave men and women in our armed forces."

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson expressed her "gratitude to the brave service personnel who will be involved in this necessary military action in Syria".

She added: "As too often before, their selfless efforts abroad do all ensure and help keep us living safely at home."

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