THE long-running public inquiry into the Iraq war must publish its findings before the general election, the SNP have demanded.


Angus Robertson, the party's leader at Westminster, claimed the conclusions of Sir John Chilcot's probe could have a decisive bearing on the election on Scotland, where Labour are now led by MP Jim Murphy, a supporter of the 2003 invasion.

The wide-ranging Iraq Inquiry was ordered by then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009 and began work the same year.

It finished hearing formal evidence in 2011 but, despite repeated calls, has yet to produce a final report.

An agreement last year to publish only limited details of Tony Blair's discussions with George W Bush sparked claims the inquiry could end up being a "whitewash" when it eventually reports.

Mr Robertson, who is also the Nationalists' defence spokesman, said: "It would be inconceivable to go into a General Election year still not knowing the findings of the Chilcot inquiry.

"The case for its publication is now made all the more imperative given the Labour party in Scotland is led by a Westminster MP who voted for the Iraq war.

"The findings of this inquiry have been delayed and blocked disgracefully for five years.

"The people of Scotland and the UK as a whole deserve to know the truth about how Westminster and Tony Blair's Labour Government operated in the lead up to this terrible war before they cast their vote next May and we must have full publication before then."

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: "Labour has always supported Sir John Chilcot's review. The publication timetable is entirely in his hands."

The Iraq Inquiry, which is independent of government, was ordered in response to continuing public anger over Britain's role in the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, which ended in 2011.

Mr Blair argued Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction which posed a direct threat to the security of the UK.

However, no evidence of WMDs was found.

The war toppled the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein but tens of thousands of civilians died during its bloody aftermath. It claimed the lives of 179 British service personnel.

Kofi Annan, the United Nations General Secretary at the time of the invasion, said the war was illegal and in breach of the UN charter.

The probe headed by Sir John Chilcot, a former senior civil servant, is examining the period from summer 2001 to the end of July 2009, including the run-up to the war, the invasion and its aftermath.

Lengthy delays were caused by arguments between the inquiry and the Government over the publication of correspondence between Mr Blair and Mr Bush.

Last year, Sir John confirmed the final report would only include the "gist" and edited quotes from the former Prime Minister's messages.

The former president's responses will not be made public, sparking claims of a potential whitewash.

In May, Prime Minister David Cameron said he hoped the inquiry would report before the end of 2014.

It was reported in November that key figures in the decision to take Britain to war, including Mr Blair and then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, had been sent formal letters warning them of any criticisms in the findings.

The move raised hopes the report could be published within months.

Anyone criticised in a public inquiry has the right to challenge the findings.

However Mr Blair has previously denied holding up the inquiry and said "the sooner it is published the better".

He said he looked forward to the opportunity to "frankly restate my case and defend my position".

Mr Robertson added: "The illegal invasion of Iraq is a scandal without parallel in modern times, and - more than a decade later - the war and its consequences continue to cast a long shadow.

"No one can seriously claim that peace and security in Iraq itself, the Middle East region or the world as a whole have been improved as a result of the war.

"The illegal invasion and war in Iraq was a disgrace. People deserve full disclosure about how Westminster operated in the lead up to this disastrous war."

No-one from the Iraq Inquiry was available for comment.

However, the inquiry website says: "The report will be submitted to the Prime Minister at the earliest opportunity."

In 2004, Alex Salmond launched a bid to put Mr Blair on trial over the Iraq war. His attempt to impeach the then-Prime Minister was later abandoned.

The Scottish Parliament voted narrowly to support the war in the run up to the invasion. The SNP were joined by the Lib Dems in opposing military actions in the vote by MSPs.