Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The parties' position on the war #4: SNP

Like the Lib Dems, the SNP cited the absence of UN legal cover as their reason for opposing the war. Unlike the Liberals, here the SNP can at least claim to have been consistent: prior to his premature resignation as party leader, Alex Salmond also took the view that NATO forces should not have been allowed to stop Milosevic's ethnic cleansing rampage through Kosovo without the permission of the Russians.

He did, however, support - and vote for in the UK Parliament - the UN sanctioned military action against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

When they're out canvassing for the Muslim vote with the promise of even more religious segregation in our already disfigured education system, you can bet the SNP activists will neglect to mention that last point.

Beyond the UN rationale, the stance on Iraq forms part of the SNP's long tradition of isolationism: their policy, as well as to withdraw from the Union with England and Wales, is still to withdraw from NATO - the armed forces of an independent Scotland reserved, one presumes, to address the real and present danger presented by the declining fish stocks in the North Sea.

If remarks made by Nicola Sturgeon are at all typical of the wider party, their reasoning behind their opposition to the war includes a crude - and breathtakingly crass - identification of Scotland with Iraq as small countries that have both suffered from interference at the hands of larger, more militarily effective imperial powers.

Alex Salmond on television the other evening was patiently explaining that because it is London rather than the European Central Bank that controls our monetary and fiscal policy, Scottish homeowners have to endure slightly higher interest rates than the European average.

Oh, the crushing burden of the English yoke!

I think the SNP should make this comparison instead: the Kurds are the largest stateless nation on the face of the planet. There are around twenty-three million of them and they have been mistreated in every country in which they're settled - and nowhere more than in Ba'athist Iraq where the northern part has a Kurdish population roughly the size of Scotland.

Oppression Iraq-style involved not marginal differences in interest rates but the use of chemical weapons and mass graves to subdue the restive Kurds.

Given the way that the SNP go all moist when they talk about small nations, you'd think the nationalists might have been prepared to lend their support to the cause of the Iraqi Kurds.

Instead, John Swinney - while he was keeping the leadership chair warm for Alex Salmond - joined the ranks of those who marched through Scotland's streets to insist that the other five-sixths of the Iraqi population should remain in Saddam Hussein's grip for a little "more time".

And what really makes me want to vomit is the spectacle of Alex Salmond exuding smirky confidence that the SNP will be rewarded at the polls for this shameful, self-interested performance.

If any of the prospective SNP candidates are canvassing in Glasgow, their minders should perhaps steer them away from those exiled Iraqi Kurds and Shias who reject Salmond's analysis and - with all due respect to the SNP - are eminently well-qualified to do so.

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