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John Thurso MP defends Syria vote abstention

By Hugh Ross

John Thurso MP - “We seem to rush to bomb people in a way we never did in the last century.”
John Thurso MP - “We seem to rush to bomb people in a way we never did in the last century.”

A HIGHLAND MP has defended his decision not to vote on whether the UK should pursue military action in Syria following a horrific chemical attack.

John Thurso abstained in the controversial House of Commons vote which saw the UK Government lose a bid to take action against President Assad’s regime.

The emergency debate was called after a chemical weapons attack in Damascus, where more than 1400 people, including children, are believed to have been killed, amid allegations it had been carried out by the country’s own government.

But the Caithness, Sutherland Easter Ross MP was not convinced about the amount of information provided on the situation and was alarmed at the consequences of military strikes in the troubled country.

The Liberal Democrat said he had grown increasingly concerned about the UK’s "rush to bomb" countries but did not rule out supporting action in the future, if the situation significantly deteriorated, which was one of the reasons he abstained.

The UK Government’s motion tabled last Thursday stated that it "deplored" the use of chemical weapons and "agreed that a strong humanitarian response was required from the international community and that this may, if necessary, require military action".

However, it was defeated by 13 votes amid angry political clashes.

John Thurso had been "completely unpersuaded" by the move for action.

"The problem is that there is a very large question mark over whether the action proposed will, or would have had the end desire," said John Thurso, who had been hill walking in Caithness when MPs were recalled for the crunch debate.

"I was not prepared to say yes to military action. What Assad was doing was wrong but we don’t know nearly enough. Certainly, before I could support such action I would need to have had a far greater degree of assurance as to the objectives and the measures of success."

In America, President Barack Obama is to consult Congress about military action and John Thurso said Westminster party leaders should have taken more time to gather further information.

He claimed that the outcome might have been different if the debate was held this week.

"I think the vote means Parliament has spoken and it would be very difficult to bring it back," said John Thurso, although he would back a fresh debate in the future, should the situation seriously escalate.

He was alarmed at the cumulative impact of conflicts like Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

"I have seen us rush to the bombs over the last 10 years," he said. "We seem to rush to bomb people in a way we never did in the last century."

John Thurso added there was a real prospect of sparking a conflict with countries like Russia and Iran through action in Syria.

He added about 150 of his constituents had been in touch following the vote after he e-mailed his reasons behind the abstention and said the vast majority supported his stance.

Fellow Highland Lib Dem MP Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, supported the Government motion but former party leader Charles Kennedy, the Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP, did not vote.

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