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Sturgeon leads Chilcot report plea

The delay in publishing the Chilcot Inquiry report into the Iraq war is a "scandal", Scotland's First Minister has said.

Political leaders north of the border have united to call for the findings of the probe to be made public before the general election on May 7.

The multimillion-pound inquiry, examining decisions and actions taken around the invasion of Iraq in 2003, was launched more than five years ago with the final round of hearings taking place in early 2011.

Nicola Sturgeon has written to opposition party leaders to rally support for a call for the report to be published without further delay.

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy and his Liberal Democrat counterpart Willie Rennie said they too want to see the findings released as soon as possible.

Ms Sturgeon said: "Years have since passed, and the public still await publication of this report into the UK's worst foreign policy disaster of modern times.

"I believe the delay to be a scandal, and that we as political leaders in Scotland should stand together and issue a joint call for the publication of Chilcot prior to the general election in May, which at this stage seems a more than reasonable timescale.

"I would ask that you indicate your willingness to be part of a consensus in Scotland urging publication of Chilcot before the general election, in order that its contents and conclusions can be fully debated in that public, democratic context."

Mr Murphy said: "The Chilcot Inquiry is a crucially important piece of work that must be conducted thoroughly and forensically.

"The inquiry was initiated by Labour in July 2009, because it is vital to identify the lessons that can be learned from the conflict.

"There is rightly real public interest in the findings of such an important inquiry and I think it is right that there is the earliest possible publication of the report."

The MP for East Renfrewshire added: "Clearly the precise date is for the inquiry team to decide but I think it's necessary that the report is published soon."

A Commons debate on the report will take place on January 29, at the request of Tory MP David Davis who last week said the delay in publication is influencing MPs' ability to make decisions to go to war now, for example in Syria, because there remain doubts over what happened in Tony Blair's government over Iraq.

Mr Davis said on Tuesday that he hoped it would ''nudge'' its author, Sir John Chilcot, either to publish or explain to the public why it has not been released.

Mr Rennie said the report should be released as soon as possible, even if that means releasing it in the "purdah" period before the election.

He said: "It is important that the lessons learnt from the Chilcot report are learnt whilst there are people involved in Parliament who are in a position to answer for their actions.

"It has been over five years since the Iraq inquiry began taking oral evidence. The publication of the report has been long awaited.

"Liberal Democrats are pushing for the Chilcot report to be published within one week of receipt - even if the report is submitted within purdah period. Politicians from all parties across the UK must push for these findings to be finally brought into the light."

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee that oversees the security services, said responses from those mentioned in the report should be gathered quickly.

He told the Sunday Telegraph: "I think it's awful that it's not being published this side of the end of parliament. I think it's appalling.

"That should be able to be done in weeks not months. It is counter-productive. It is against the national interest to have a report of this kind hanging around for as long as it has."

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson said: "The Iraq war broke bonds of trust between the UK Government and the people, and trust continues to be undermined by the non-publication of Chilcot.

"The publication of the Chilcot report is all the more important now that the Labour Party in Scotland is led by a Westminster MP who voted for the Iraq war - unlike many of his distinguished colleagues at the time who opposed Tony Blair's war policy - and I trust that Jim Murphy will join the First Minister's call.

"It would be intolerable if we went through a UK general election without the Chilcot report being in the public domain, and I trust that all political leaders in Scotland will support this important initiative."


From Belfast Telegraph