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by Margaret Taylor
12 January 2024
Stephen Flynn: Recall parliament to debate Houthi airstrikes

Stephen Flynn was talking at the SNP's general election launch event | Alamy

Stephen Flynn: Recall parliament to debate Houthi airstrikes

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn has used his party’s general election campaign launch to berate the prime minister over failing to recall parliament in relation to airstrikes launched by British forces in Yemen.

US and UK military launched strikes against Houthi targets overnight, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak saying it was a "limited, necessary and proportionate action in self-defence" taken in response to attacks on international ships in the Red Sea.

The Iran-backed Houthi group, which is opposed to US and Israeli influence in the Middle East, began targeting commercial ships in the Red Sea in November but tensions escalated this week after a British warship joined with US forces to shoot down seven drones launched by Houthis.

The airstrikes launched overnight on Thursday targeted 16 Houthi positions, including command centres, munitions depots and air defence systems, with US President Joe Biden saying they would send "a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation in one of the world's most critical commercial routes".

Addressing an audience of MPs, MSPs and party activists in Glasgow on Friday, Flynn said he was "surprised to be here today because myself and my colleagues in this room should be in Westminster questioning the UK prime minister on his decision to launch military attacks".

"It’s right that parliament be recalled [so we can] better understand the decisions that have been taken and get answers on the consequences and what comes next," he said.

First Minister Humza Yousaf also used his speech at the launch event to address the issue, saying that MPs should have been consulted before any action was taken.

"Before action as serious as military intervention takes place MPs, who have been elected to represent the people, should have their say," he said.

"The UK does not have a good track record when it comes to military intervention in the Middle East. That is why the House of Commons should have been recalled today, ahead of any military action being taken, to allow MPs to debate and scrutinise the UK Government’s plans for military action.

"If we have learnt anything from the past, it is that any decision to instigate military action should be evidence based, and we should be transparent with the people of Scotland and the UK about the reasons for military intervention.

"The UK Government needs to produce evidence for the legal basis [for the strikes], they need to articulate what their objective and end goal is, and they need to give detail about the security implications of their action both in the region and here at home."

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is reported as saying he would be "happy to facilitate" a parliamentary recall so the matter can be retrospectively debated and voted on.

It is understood that Downing Street has ruled that out, however, with a spokesperson for No 10 saying that Sunak will instead make a statement in the Commons on Monday.

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