Scotland politics

Chilcot Iraq Inquiry: Sturgeon urges united call to publish

Sir John Chilcot Image copyright PA
Image caption Sir John Chilcot's inquiry into the events of the Iraq war was set up in 2009

Scotland's first minister has urged political consensus in demanding that the long-awaited report into the Iraq war be published as soon as possible.

The inquiry by Sir John Chilcot was set up in 2009 and took evidence from its last witness in 2011.

However, there have been prolonged discussions over the disclosure of secret documents.

Nicola Sturgeon has written to all Scottish party leaders urging them to unite in seeking publication.

Both Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie have said they back the earliest possible publication of the findings.

The Chilcot Inquiry was commissioned by the previous government at Westminster to investigate the background to Britain's involvement in the Iraq war, which began in 2003 when Tony Blair was prime minister.

There have been growing calls for the findings to be made public before the general election in May.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ms Sturgeon wants all Scottish political parties to call for publication of the Chilcot report as quickly as possible

In the past week, a cross-party group of MPs secured a Commons debate on the issue which will take place on 29 January.

In June last year, Sir John announced he was satisfied that the "gist" of talks between Tony Blair and former US President George Bush could be made public, removing a major obstacle to publication of his report.

He then intended to write to those who were to be criticised to give them an opportunity to respond before publication.

Mr Blair has previously said he wanted the Chilcot report to be published as soon as possible and that he "resented" claims he was to blame for its slow progress.

'Lessons learnt'

UK government ministers have conceded that if the final report is not completed by the end of February, it would be wrong to release it in the heat of a closely-fought election campaign.

The first minister told BBC Scotland: "The report was meant to be published in 2012.

"Surely we can't go through a general election without people having the answers to the questions on the Iraq war that they still don't have.

"That has to happen before some of these MPs that voted for the Iraq war are back up for election."

Scottish Labour leader Mr Murphy, who was a minister under the government of Mr Blair, 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."

In response to Ms Sturgeon's letter, Scottish Labour Scottish Lib Dem leader Mr Rennie said his party was pushing for the government to release the report within one week of receiving it.

He added: "We agree with Nicola Sturgeon. 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.

"Politicians from all parties across the UK must push for these findings to be finally brought into the light."

A spokeswoman for the Iraq Inquiry said: "We will not be commenting further on the process or the progress of the report."

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