John Swinney – 2019 Speech to SNP Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by John Swinney at the SNP conference held in Edinburgh on 27 April 2019.

The events of the last six months at Westminster have proven beyond any reasonable doubt; the United Kingdom political system has failed – and it has failed Scotland utterly.

Week after week of an internal battle within the Tory Party has been played out in front of us all where – for the U.K. Government – the survival of the Tory Party has been more important than protecting the jobs, livelihoods and opportunities of the people of our country.

Scotland’s vote to Remain in the EU has been ignored.

The overwhelming majority demand of the Scottish Parliament for a different course has been rejected.

The reasoned compromises suggested by the Scottish Government have been cast aside.

The powers of the Scottish Parliament have been threatened by the U.K. power grab.

Conference, as the Tory Party tried to save itself, the warm reassuring words of the 2014 No campaign about Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom counted for absolutely nothing.

And people wonder why the First Minister has asked every one of our fellow citizens to think again about what kind of country we want to live in.

This week the First Minister set out the steps our country needs to consider, to address the Brexit crisis. Just as she has done throughout the Brexit saga, Nicola Sturgeon spoke first, foremost and always in the national interest of Scotland.

If the Brexit fiasco has told us anything, it has demonstrated we need to have a better dialogue about how we change our country. A discussion that includes everyone. A reasoned debate about the choices we face. A discussion that confronts the challenges ahead but lifts the hopes and the aspirations of our people.

We all believe that Scotland’s future will be assured with independence. Our task now is to listen to views that are not ours, to find common ground and to put in place a message of hope and reassurance to our people. That is the opportunity the First Minister has created for us and we should seize that opportunity with both hands.

And the first opportunity we have is in the debate that is about to come. The Growth Commission led by Andrew Wilson has spent time, and taken care, to explore some of the real, challenging, unavoidable issues that we face in the independence debate.

They have given their thinking to us and Members around the country have engaged in a truly democratic, participative process.

And the debate comes here – where it should – to the floor of our Party Conference for our delegates to decide.

That is honest, open, respectful debate in action.

That is the way it should always be and this Party can be rightly proud of it.

While Westminster has been paralysed by Brexit, while the Tories have inflicted their damaging civil war on the rest of us, we have been building the new Scotland.

We have delivered record health funding.

We have a record number of Scots going to university and record numbers from the poorest backgrounds getting a place too.

We have some of the highest levels of inward investment in the UK and the lowest unemployment on record.

I’ll say that again…the lowest unemployment on record.

That’s not just the SNP getting on with our day job.

That’s the SNP making sure thousands of Scots have a day job to get on with in the first place.

In just the last few months, while Westminster imploded, we have enacted world leading measures to protect the victims of domestic violence.

We have established an Advanced Payment Scheme for the elderly and terminally ill victims of childhood abuse.

We have committed to funding the tuition of EU students starting their studies in Scotland in 2020 just as any good, progressive European nation should do.

And we have rolled out the new Best Start Grants and we are establishing a Scottish National Investment Bank.

Friends, I could go on and on… and I will.

More teachers.

More nurses.

Lower crime.

And for the majority… lower taxes.

Friends, many of these things are policies the old parties always said were impossible.

You cannot ask the better off to pay more so that the less well-off can pay less. That’s what they said… but we did it anyway.

Fairer taxation paying for fairer public services. Not impossible with the SNP.

But then we are the party that does the impossible.

You will never win a Holyrood election they said. We did that. Three times.

You’ll never win in the Labour heartlands. We’ve done that too. And there are no Labour heartlands now.

Then of course, they now say you cannot have another independence referendum and won’t win it if you do.

My message is simple… we’ll soon see about that!

We have secured all of these amazing achievements because our actions focus on the needs of our people, first, last and always.

And along with all of this good work for our people, in a Parliament where the Government does not have a majority, Derek Mackay has secured the agreement – with the support of the Greens – to the Scottish Government Budget for this coming year.

And Conference don’t underestimate the scale of the challenge in getting that Budget through.

The Liberals came off the fence and made a decisive intervention. They decided to take absolutely no part in the process.

The Labour Party were up for a deal according to Alex Rowley, but not up for a deal according to Richard Leonard. So the Labour Party in Scotland – coherent and united in the usual fashion.

And the Tories. Well, the Tories were the real hypocrites of the process.

They demanded that we cut taxes for the rich, strip £500 million from the public finances, and then called week by week for increased spending on an eye watering number of projects.

Combined with the farce that is Brexit, with a one trick pony message that has run out of puff and an inability to convince anyone they are a serious Opposition let alone an alternative government, is it any wonder the Tory Party is now back in third place in Scottish politics.

Twelve years into Government, the SNP continues to lead in the polls and we continue to lead the change that Scotland requires.

Our agenda on education is designed to transform the lives of young people in Scotland by closing the poverty related attainment gap once and for all.

Every step of the way in the lives of our children and young people, your SNP Government is taking the action to transform lives.

The Baby Box, now in its second year with over 80,000 boxes issued, the take-up rate has reached 96% – that’s solid investment to give every child the best start in life.

Early learning and childcare is now being doubled with our 2, 3 and 4 year old children having access to quality support to start their lives in an environment of play for learning.

Pupil Equity Funding – sending £120 million directly from the Scottish Government to schools – has fuelled the empowerment of the teaching profession and helped young people overcome the burden of poverty.

An expansion of Modern Apprenticeships – along with Foundation and Graduate Apprenticeships – has created a broader range of opportunities for young people to make the right choices about their future.

Our Universities and Colleges are benefiting from over £1.5 billion of investment to deliver their vital contribution to higher and further education.

And what difference have our interventions been making?

Let’s look at level 5 qualifications – that used to be the old credit level standard grade but of course the system has changed since then.

When we took office, 71% of pupils got a level 5 qualification or better.

That figure is now 86%.

At level 6 or better – that’s Highers – when we took office, just 41% achieved the qualification.

Last year that figure reached 62.2%.

Despite all this achievement by our young people, all the unionist parties can do is run Scotland’s education system down. We’re proud of what our young people achieve.

We set ourselves two tasks for school education.

Raise standards for all and close the attainment gap.

Well here’s the progress report.

Attainment overall is up. Last year, for the first time ever, more than 30% of pupils got at least five passes at Higher or better – up from 22.2% in 2009/10.

And the poverty related attainment gap is narrowing.

The gap between those from the most and least deprived areas achieving a Higher or better has reduced for the 8th successive year and is now at a record low.

Standards up.

The attainment gap closing.

That’s the SNP record on education.

Friends, in one way the success of our schools is seen best in what happens after school.

Do pupils get that job, that place in college or university, or that apprenticeship they want?

Do they get on in life?

Overall, this year, a record 94.4% of pupils were in work, training or study within three months of leaving school.

And, the gap between those from the most and least deprived communities has halved – halved – since 2009/10.

Your SNP Government is delivering new opportunities for the young people of our nation.

The unionists may not like it but it is what we will go on doing day and daily until the job is done.

Running through all of our policy interventions is a determination to Get it Right for Every Child.

The GIRFEC agenda has encouraged our public services to take a preventative approach, to support early intervention that will improve the life chances of children.

One of the key elements in that process is how we support families.

Working with Scotland’s dynamic charity and the third sectors we can help children grow up healthy, happy and safe.

And to do so, I am today announcing a new fund of up to £16 million running over three years to partner with charities and the third sector.

Whether it is schemes aimed at supporting children who are also carers or projects that focus on adult learning, we want to break the intergenerational cycles that blight too many lives.

Across a wide range of challenges from early learning to child protection and Adverse Childhood Experiences, early intervention is key.

Your SNP government will always do all we can to get it right for every child.

Conference, the last three years since the Brexit Referendum have made one thing very clear to the people of Scotland. The voice of our country has been ignored by the Westminster Government.

The call for us to ‘lead not leave’ the United Kingdom has been exposed as the worthless, empty commitment we knew it to be in 2014.

So the question that people in Scotland have to face is what are we going to do about it?

Will we be passive as our country is ignored and economic damage is inflicted upon us?

Or – at the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Scottish Parliament – are we going to set our own agenda.

That is the choice our country faces.

For us, our role is to do what the National Party is good at.

It is to engage.

It is to listen carefully to our people.

It is to persuade and to convince.

And above all else, it is to provide the people of Scotland with an ambitious vision – brimming with hope – of what our country can be.

Let us use the unique opportunity that we have to persuade our country that her future is best independent. And do everything we possibly can to make that happen.

John Swinney – 2013 Speech to SNP Party Spring Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by John Swinney, the then Scottish Finance Minister, to the SNP Spring Conference on 24th March 2013.

Conference, this has been a momentous week.

Almost 80 years after our party was formed; 14 years after the Scottish Parliament was created; six years after this party entered government – our aim of self-government took another massive step forward.

Let me start with a truth that we have all patiently put forward for decades, a truth that will play a fundamental part in the decision made by the people of Scotland on September 18th 2014:

“By international standards Scotland is a wealthy and productive country. There is no doubt that Scotland has the potential to be a successful independent nation.”

That is a quote from a group of dispassionate and impartial economic experts who form the Fiscal Commission established by the First Minister. These independent onlookers have conducted one of the most thorough analysis of Scotland’s economy that has ever been undertaken. We know that quote to be true.  Our job is to make sure our people share the confidence we have in Scotland.

Scotland has strong foundations, perhaps some of the strongest from which any country has sought its independence.  Our opponents will try to undermine the self-confidence of our people. We must never let that happen.

This Spring Conference is not only timely because of the announcement of the referendum date on Thursday.  It is timely because Wednesday’s budget confirmed the choice between two futures that the people of Scotland will face.

The choice is between a UK system that, in the Budget short-changed Scotland, with a last minute cut to the finances Parliament has already allocated, locking us further into a no-growth austerity agenda; or, the prospect of taking into our own hands the vital decisions to stimulate our economy.

In these last days of the union, we have seen the gulf that exists between our ambition for Scotland and the poverty of Westminster’s policies.

We want to transform the life chances of our people. The No campaign want to keep our people in their place.

In all the debate about Scotland’s financial future, one point is very clear: the real risk to Scotland comes from staying part of the United Kingdom.  By any measure, the Chancellor’s plan isn’t working.

The Chancellor tells us he can’t borrow to invest. Yet he is going to borrow £244 billion more than he planned to borrow just to deal with economic failure.

Sustainable public finances require a growing economy. That is not on offer from the UK – not now, not any time soon.

The UK growth forecast for 2013 started off at 2.9%. Now it is only 0.6%.

This is a damning judgement of the UK Government’s record on the economy.

Conference, the Chancellor needed to deliver a Budget to kick start the economy.

Instead, the Chancellor and the Scotland Office spent Wednesday afternoon claiming that they had given Scotland extra money, only for the cheque to bounce within a matter of hours. They’ve cut our budget by £100m, and replaced it with loans that we have to pay back.

In eight days’ time, Scotland’s spending plans – democratically agreed by our own Parliament – will be cut as a result of George Osborne’s decisions.

Scotland needs investment—not cuts. That is the price of being part of the United Kingdom.

And to make matters worse, the combined effect of the Chancellor’s cuts will deliver a hammer blow to some of the most vulnerable in our country.

Working tax credits – cut.

Housing benefit – cut.

Child benefit – cut.

Child tax credits—cut.

Council tax benefit—cut.

Disability living allowance—cut.

Employment and support allowance—cut.

Child trust funds—cut.

And unsurprisingly VAT and employee national insurance contributions—up.

And the NO campaign believe this is an example of their excellent stewardship of the UK economy.

The tragedy of this week’s budget is not simply the misguided policies of this Tory Government. It is the missed opportunity for Scotland.

The contrast with the record of the SNP government could not be clearer.

For six years, we have delivered careful management of the public finances.

We have balanced the Budget.

We have lived within our means. But we have also restored free education, abolished prescription charges, safeguarded the NHS, secured pensioners’ bus passes. And, for the sixth year in a row, we have frozen the Council Tax.

That is a triple-A record at a time when the UK has lost its triple-A rating.

But Conference, it has not been without its challenges.

Along with our local government partners, we’ve plugged Westminster’s £40million cut to the Council Tax Benefit budget for next year.

We’ve set up a £33 million Scottish Welfare Fund to administer Community Care Grants and Crisis Grants, reinstating £9 million of funding cut by Westminster in recent years to financially support an extra 100,000 vulnerable Scots.

We’ve given £5.4 million to benefits advice groups to help them cope with the increasing demand for help from hard-hit families as a result of Westminster’s cuts.

And as the First Minister announced yesterday all SNP-led local authorities will follow the lead of Dundee in halting the threat of evictions from this disgraceful tax for those struggling to pay.

We have not stood by while Westminster cuts fall hardest on our poorest.

But to the people of Scotland I say, in all honesty, we cannot, within our limited powers and resources, fix every Westminster cut. To create a fair and prosperous society we need the powers of independence.

Conference, the foundations for Independence are clear.

Scotland is wealthy, in numbers and in our people.

With our geographical share of oil, Scotland would be ranked 8th out of the 34 OECD member countries. We are a rich country.

Five of the seven countries that rank above Scotland are small independent nations.

We are better off than the rest of the UK.

Our population makes up 8.4% of these Islands. Last year we contributed 9.9% in revenues to the UK and got 9.3% in return.

The difference is that Scotland was in a relatively stronger financial position than the UK to the tune of £4.4bn, or £824 per person.

With independence we could have chosen to invest an extra £1.4bn in capital projects, creating jobs and growth, to save £1.4bn in an oil fund for the future and to borrow £1.4bn less…all of that – and we would still have enough left over to undo the bedroom tax.

The numbers show that Scotland’s relatively stronger fiscal position last year was not a one off event.  Over the past five years, Scotland has been in a relatively stronger fiscal position than the UK as a whole to the tune of £12.6 billion.

And when we look further back, between 1980 and 2011, Scotland has run an average annual surplus equivalent to 0.2% of GDP, whilst the UK has run an average deficit of 3.2% of GDP.

That’s the true picture Scotland’s books present.   This country pays her way and has strong foundations for Independence.

Conference, you will have noticed we have had a bit of a rammy over oil in recent days.  A rammy over oil is nothing new.

The NO campaign have accused me of saying one thing in private about oil and a different thing in public.

That would never do would it.

Back in the 1970s the Westminster Government claimed in public that oil was volatile and running out.  But in private, the UK Government said something very different.  The Government’s Chief Economist at the time in Scotland, Gavin McCrone assessed the impact of oil.

His verdict was this:

“All that is wrong now with the SNP estimate [of government oil revenues] is that it is far too low”

Well this Government will take no lessons from the Unionists.  We say the same thing in private as we say in public.  We say oil production is rising.  Investment is rising, now worth around £100 billion.

Oil prices are higher than the Office for Budget Responsibility predicts.

Scotland is estimated to be the largest producer of hydrocarbons in the EU.  The industry has the potential to generate between £41 and £57 billion in tax revenue between 2012-13 and 2017-18.

We are on the cusp of another great boom in the oil industry and our opponents are at it again; claiming it is all going to run out; pretending that oil is a problem instead of the opportunity that it truly represents.

Conference our job is to make sure Scots are not duped out of our oil opportunity for a second time in our history.

Our opportunity is not just about oil.

We have some 25% of Europe’s potential offshore wind and tidal energy, a tenth of Europe’s wave power potential, and an estimated 50% of carbon capture and storage reserves. We remain one of the richest energy nations in Europe.

This represents a huge resource which if harnessed correctly will make an important contribution to the Scottish economy for decades to come. And as oil and gas mature, so the new technologies of renewable energy and carbon capture will be reaching their peak.

There can be no doubt, that in the event of a Yes vote in 2014 Scotland will be becoming independent from a position of relative economic strength.  Having the ability to properly combine the assets of our people with our natural assets in the pursuit of a more prosperous Scotland can only enhance our potential.

For beyond any one sector or industry, we have the strength of the people of Scotland and of our nation itself.  We have a strong intellectual base with many of our Universities regularly appearing in assessments of the Top 100 global places of learning.

Last year a record 87% of school leavers sustained their place in education, employment or training. And youth unemployment is currently falling at its fastest rate since 1992.

Our opponents only talk about what we “can’t do” never what we “can do”.  Conference, our children don’t have time any longer for Scotland’s defeatists.  We need to take control of our future.

We have to explain to Scotland what is possible.

That is why we invited a group of world leading economists, some of them Nobel laureate winners, to analyse Scotland’s economy and finances.

Their 222 page vision for the macroeconomic framework of Scotland will

– build investor and business confidence,

– enable Scotland to develop sustainable fiscal policies,

– and sustain an economy that enables Scotland to develop our own unique policies.

It’s a robust structure that provides foundations for prosperity, fairness and economic opportunity.

The work of the commission considers all the options that are of significance in designing the macroeconomic framework for an independent Scotland.

They make the argument that retaining Sterling would make sense for Scotland and the rest of the UK.  It would give price stability and enable a future independent Government to use the full  fiscal and economic flexibility that comes with sovereignty to  change and adapt to new economic circumstances, promote growth and create jobs.

A Sterling zone would provide a consistent and transparent framework to manage the transition process, and ensures that the rest of the UK would also retain an integrated market with a key trading partner.

And Conference, far from all the rhetoric we know the UK Government accepts that it is possible.

And I’m pretty sure conference that our £45bn worth of exports to the UK will bring them to the table the very moment the Yes ballots are counted.

The Fiscal Commission also recommended an independent fiscal body to consider fiscal discipline.

Scotland knows the hardship suffered when a country lets its finances get out of control.

Westminster took us into the second largest structural budget deficit in the EU despite a decade of continuous economic growth. We know what this exposure led to when the recession hit. We see the impact on intergenerational poverty. We have nothing to be thankful to Alistair Darling for his stewardship of the UK economy.

The Fiscal Commission also encouraged us to set up an oil fund.

Norway has had their oil for forty years—the same amount of time Westminster has squandered ours. They formed an oil fund 17 years ago which is now worth £450 billion.

We’ll save on the upside and deliver for Scotland’s pensioners and future generations.

As the Commission makes clear, as a nation our economic fundamentals are sound – but, Conference and Scotland, we could do better.

The sad truth remains: while many of our economic characteristics are as strong, if not better than the UK as a whole, we lag behind many other countries of a comparable size both on key economic and social indicators.

The Fiscal Commission gave us a substantial and thoughtful route map on creating a sound economic framework for an Independent Scotland. I thank them for this work and I have some advice for the NO campaign. Read the report – you’ll learn something about how to run sustainable public finances.

Conference, the Fiscal Commission also told us something else.  We live in a society of growing inequality.

In terms of GDP per head, the UK is currently ranked 17th in the OECD and 28th in the UN’s Human Development Index – between the Czech Republic and Greece.

Too many of our people live in poverty, part of a UK economic structure and society which is one of the most unequal in the advanced economies.

Despite growth in recent decades, inequalities have grown rather than fallen, and the gap between the rich and poor has become greater. Those inequalities will only rise as a result of the forthcoming welfare reforms.

Indeed, the OECD in 2011 showed that since 1975 income inequality among working age people increased more quickly in the UK than in any other OECD country

Regional variations within the UK have also widened. Policy decisions have been taken at the UK level with little consideration for their impact in different parts of the UK.

Every person struggling with the impact of poverty is a member of our society unable to play their full part in the economic life of our country. All this does is hinder our efforts to become a stronger and more successful nation where all have the opportunity to flourish.

So our pledge to the people of Scotland is this.  The point of Scotland is becoming independent is to give us the power to boost the economy and tackle inequality.  That is what people can expect with Independence.

With independence – Scotland would have control over new economic levers that can be used to deliver economic growth, boost resilience, achieve greater fairness and opportunity, promote sustainability and boost long term competitiveness.

We can fully unlock Scotland’s job creation potential and improve the prospects of the people in Scotland.

At the heart therefore of our case for independence is the argument for greater economic powers for Scotland to be able to grow our economy more quickly and build a more cohesive, sustainable and inclusive society.

Scotland has proven its competence in managing the powers we currently hold. Independence will allow us to build upon this platform of trust and competence into areas of responsibility available to other comparable nations.

With the momentous date in the diary, let’s get ready for a day when policies are no longer engineered in London and endured in Scotland.

A day when we are no longer held back.

Independence offers the people of Scotland the chance to make our country a wealthier, fairer, more sustainable place in which we can all to live.

That is the bright future that lies ahead for our country.

John Swinney – 2003 Speech on Iraq

Below is the text of the speech made by John Swinney in the Scottish Parliament on 13th March 2003.

Presiding Officer,

Two months ago the SNP led a debate in this – our national Parliament – on the growing crisis in Iraq.

That day we set out our “deep and serious concern” that the UK Government was pursuing “an inevitable path to war.”

Two months on I believe we were right then and we are right today. Tony Blair and George Bush are determined to go to war – regardless of the UN, regardless of world opinion and regardless of the evidence.

The final proof was revealed this week.

Before a single shot has been fired the United States is already inviting tenders for post-war rebuilding work in Iraq.

So war in Iraq is now an economic opportunity for American construction firms. With thousands of lives, the Middle East peace process and the stability of the world all at risk that is nothing short of an obscenity.

Much has happened over these past two months that demands further debate. Events which could shape the future of our world and our country’s place in that world.

In recent weeks we have witnessed further reports from the UN weapons inspectors, an accelerated military build-up, intense diplomatic manoeuvring and a deadline for war.

And yesterday the United Nations was thrown into chaos as the lobbying for war grew ever more desperate.

But despite the frantic efforts since our last debate on January the 16th, the marches, the arguments and the counter-arguments, one thing has remained constant.

The people of Scotland have not been moved. We – and millions across the globe – are saying to George Bush and Tony Blair: Not in our name.

My position is that no case for military action against Iraq has been proven.

I believe that any pre-emptive action by the US and the UK without a specific UN mandate would be contrary to international law.

I believe that no UK forces should take part in any military action without a UN mandate that specifically authorises action based on clear, compelling and published evidence.

At the outset let me stress two points.

Firstly, I – and this party – will always support Scottish armed forces.

Hundreds of Scottish-based servicemen and women are being deployed to the Gulf.

Part of supporting our troops is telling the Government – the people who give the orders – when it is wrong to commit our troops to action.

Our courageous and professional servicemen and women expect to be deployed as a last resort, when all other options have been exhausted. Today – with the inspection regime delivering results – that is patently not the case.

The second point I want to stress is this. Saddam’s regime is barbaric. On that there is no argument.

I find it offensive that those of us who oppose war – across all parties – are lectured to on the nature of his regime. We are well aware of Saddam’s atrocities.

But so were members of the Conservative Government who approved the building of an Iraqi chemical weapons plant at the same time that Saddam was using poison gas during the Iran-Iraq war.

So I’ll take no lectures from the gung-ho faction warning of the dangers of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. Those dangers have been considerably heightened by the actions of previous US and UK Governments. And they should be ashamed of those actions.

Presiding Officer,

More than 50 years ago the countries of the world came together in the city of San Francisco to establish the United Nations.

Their primary aim was set out in the first words of the UN charter: to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.

And crucially the charter sets out “that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest.”

The common interest. Not the interest of the United States or the United Kingdom. But the common interest of the world as a whole.

And nobody has given the United States monopoly power to decide what the interests of the rest of the world should be.

That attitude is patronising at best; profoundly dangerous at worst.

The proper forum for deciding the world’s common interest is the United Nations; not the Oval Office.

And the United Nations has spoken.

Any unilateral war launched against Iraq would be contrary to international law.

In a significant intervention the Secretary-General himself, Kofi Annan, said only on Monday: “If the US and others were to go outside the security council and take military action, it would not be in conformity with the UN charter.”

From the world’s top diplomat that is as damning an assessment of unilateral action as it is possible to get.

And it is absolutely clear, as we debate this issue today, perhaps days from war – there IS no UN mandate for military action in Iraq. In the forseeable future there WILL BE no UN mandate for military action in Iraq. And for those of us who believe in the rule of international law, that means there should be – no military action in Iraq.

Presiding Officer,

UN Security Council Resolution 1441 – adopted by the security council on November the 8th – is not a mandate for war. Nowhere in that resolution – nowhere – is there specific authorisation for force.

It is a resolution which calls for disarmament. It establishes an enhanced inspection regime. And it warns Iraq it will face “serious consequences” if it does not comply.

Writing in the Herald this week Robert Black, professor of Scots Law at Edinburgh University said: “There is absolutely no warrant in principle or authority for maintaining that this entitles one or more of the members of the security council, as distinct from the security council as a body, to determine what those consequences shall in fact be.”

And Professor Black has further argued that the recent draft resolution – the so-called second resolution – also does not constitute a legal mandate for war.

“Any contention,” says Professor Black, “by the UK and US governments that Resolution 1441 (either alone or if supplemented by the draft resolution) legitimises in international law resort to armed intervention in Iraq is without legal foundation.”

But we don’t need to rely on legal opinion. On the very day that 1441 was passed the US ambassador to the United Nations himself said the resolution did not contain any automatic triggers for war.

In the last Gulf War, when my Party supported the then Government’s position, the UN had passed a resolution stating that “all necessary means” should be used to enforce compliance.

The reason we do not have a resolution using the terms that authorise war is because the UK and the US know the security council will not agree to such authorisation. Why? Because the majority on the security council knows the case for war against Iraq has simply not been proven.

Even the resolution of March 7 – which sets a deadline but still does not constitute a mandate – is not going to receive approval from the UN security council. Whatever happens President Chirac has said France will exercise its veto. Tony Blair’s reaction? This would be “unreasonable”.

So we are left with the question when is a veto reasonable or unreasonable?

Since 1980 on 14 occasions Britain has voted – along with the majority of the security council on resolutions relating to Israel and the occupied territories.

On the self-same 14 occasions the US has vetoed those resolutions.

Why is it reasonable to veto the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians and unreasonable to veto war in Iraq?

But it’s not just France’s veto that Mr Blair should be worried about. He should be worried that despite all his efforts he has failed to win the argument.

He’s failed to win the argument because no-one is clear what precisely the argument is.

Last year it was regime change.

Then it was the war against terrorism.

Then it was disarmament.

Then it was the moral case.

And then last week President Bush went all the way back to the beginning again and said it was about regime change.

If the US and UK can’t agree a justification among themselves, how on earth do they expect the rest of the world to support a war in Iraq?

What the rest of the world DOES support is the inspection process.

And the inspection process is starting to work.

On February 14 Hans Blix reported increased co-operation from Iraq.

On Friday Dr Blix reported further progress.

On the question of interviewing scientists he said “Iraq has provided the names of many persons.”

On the question of alleged mobile production units for biological weapons he said: “No evidence of proscribed activities have so far been found.”

On the question of destroying the Al-Samoud 2 missiles, he said: “The destruction undertaken constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament. We are not watching the breaking of toothpicks. Lethal weapons are being destroyed.”

On the question of chemical weapons, he said: “There is a significant Iraqi effort underway to clarify a major source of uncertainty.”

On the question of time, he said: “It would not take years, nor weeks, but months.”

So if the process can take months – why did the UK Government put down a deadline of 10 days?

The international community has asked the inspectors to undertake an onerous task. Let’s give them the time they need to complete the job we have asked them to do.

This week it’s become clear they are not going to be given that time. The US wants the inspections over by tomorrow. The UK by Monday. Both countries have rejected the Franco-German proposal for 120 days. Both countries have rejected the non-aligned proposal of 45 days. Why? Because the United States has decided to go to war. And nothing will divert President Bush from that path.

I doubt there is a single person in this country who honestly believes the UK Government is in control of either the events or the timescale.

It has never been more obvious. On this issue power lies with the US. And the UK, sadly, is now little more than an out-station for the White House press office.

The British Government is now relying on what it calls six key tests – six conditions it has set Iraq to avoid war.

One of those tests is for Saddam Hussein to appear on television. Last night a former national security adviser to the White House called that test “trivial.”

And he is right. Tony Blair has to understand – demanding a television appearance is no substitute for a legal mandate for war.

Presiding officer,

As with all wars, there is one certainty. The people who will suffer most will be civilians.

Innocent people will die.

According to the UN up to two million could be left homeless.

And 900,000 refugees could be created.

In February the UN launched an appeal for 120 million dollars to cope with the impending humanitarian disaster. So far western Governments have pledged just a quarter of that amount.

The British Government have allocated an extra £1.75 billion to the Ministry of Defence to fight the war. But the Department for International Development has not received a single extra penny to cope with the consequences.

I have no doubt that many of those who support war do so out of genuine concern for the Iraqi people and the conditions they live in today.

But I would have more respect for the politicians who put forward those arguments if they backed their tough words with hard cash.

These are desperately dangerous times for the world.

And these are desperately difficult issues to wrestle with.

No right thinking person can have anything but revulsion for Saddam Hussein.

But I – along with the vast majority of people in this country – cannot escape the feeling that what is happening in our name is just wrong.

A unilateral strike on Iraq is wrong. Ignoring international law is wrong. Going to war without the evidence is wrong.

Three years ago, in a widely admired speech, the now deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party told this Parliament:

“Please understand that the peace process is not just about an absence of war. It is about taking positive steps to resolve conflict.”

As I survey the world today, I simply do not believe enough has been done to resolve this conflict peacefully.

The next few days will prove crucial for all of us who live on this fragile planet. Decisions taken will have profound consequences for generations to come. Today this Parliament can make its voice heard. I urge Parliament to ensure that voice is a voice for peace. I move the motion.