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We must help Iraq ... but never forget the lessons of the allies' invasion

It doesn't seem that long ago that I walked with millions of others, passing the House of Commons, to march in protest against the disastrous decision to invade Iraq.

This one decision single-handedly politicised an entire generation.

At the time I couldn't understand why the lives of people in Scotland and their families were being devastated by decisions being made in London.

Over the past decade a deepening crisis has emerged in Iraq. The hard-line al Qaeda spin-off Isis is just 60 miles away from Baghdad, having already seized Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul. It's estimated that 500,000 residents of Mosul and surrounding areas have fled, with many more hundreds of thousands of Iraqis internally displaced. All of this is playing into a wider crisis that is dividing Sunnis and Shias across the region.

Worryingly, Foreign Secretary William Hague said in his statement to the House of Commons last week that it is believed approximately 400 British nationals and other UK-linked individuals have gone to take up arms in Syria and some of them are fighting with Isis. There is no doubt that these individuals could present a particular risk if they return to the UK.

The reason why so many of us opposed the Iraq War was not just because of the devastation it would cause on the ground in Iraq, but also because we understood that an illegal invasion would provide terrorists with the propaganda they required to radicalise more young men to their cause - including many UK citizens.

It was seven years ago that Glasgow Airport was attacked, in a plot perpetrated by Dr Bilal Abdulla, who was thought to have been radicalised in Iraq after spending most of his life there. This terrorist attack makes clear the need for robust mechanisms to be in place for when radicalised UK nationals return to this country.

The Scottish Government welcomes the current discussions that Western governments are having with regional parties about how to stop the spread of Isis, including with the Iranian Government. Scotland will play any part we can, be that to help with the increasing refugee crisis or in any other humanitarian matters.

We must not forget the terrible turmoil created by Tony Blair's disastrous decision to take our sons and daughters to war in Iraq. It is vital that we do not have short memories - the lessons of the past should inform any future action we choose to take.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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