MPs should have been recalled before military strikes, insists Yousaf

The Scottish First Minister said the Commons should have been told about action against Houthi rebels in Yemen before it took place.

Katrine Bussey
Friday 12 January 2024 15:22 GMT
Humza Yousaf said MPs should have been given a say on the military action in Yemen before it took place (Steve Welsh/PA)
Humza Yousaf said MPs should have been given a say on the military action in Yemen before it took place (Steve Welsh/PA) (PA Wire)

Humza Yousaf has insisted the UK Parliament should have been recalled before military strikes were launched against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The Scottish First Minister said MPs “should have had their say” before “action as serious as military intervention took place”.

He also challenged the UK Government to produce legal evidence in support of the military strikes.

UK ministers have published a summary of the legal position on the strikes, which states action was “lawfully taken” and was “the only feasible means available to deal with such attacks”.

But Mr Yousaf said he wants to see “not just a summary” but the “evidence of the legal basis” for the action.

His comments came after UK and US forces bombed military facilities used by Houthi rebels in Yemen – with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak insisting Britain had taken “limited, necessary and proportionate action in self-defence” after the Iranian-backed group attacked ships in the Red Sea.

Thursday night’s strikes were the first to be launched against Houthi militants since they started targeting international shipping in the key trade route.

The Ministry of Defence said four Royal Air Force jets struck two Houthi facilities involved in their targeting of HMS Diamond and US Navy vessels on Tuesday.

Speaking on Friday, Mr Yousaf was clear “Houthi attacks in the Red Sea must stop”, and he called for a UN Security Council resolution on the violence to be adhered to.

But he insisted: “Before action as serious as military intervention took place, MPs, who have been elected of course to represent the people, should have had their say.

“The UK, let’s be honest about this, does not have a good track record when it comes to military intervention, particularly in the Middle East.

“That is why the House of Commons should have been recalled today, ahead of military action that was taken, in order to allow for MPs to debate and scrutinise the UK Government’s plans for military action.

“If we have learnt anything from the past, the very recent 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 indeed the UK about the reasons for military intervention.

“The UK Government needs to produce evidence of the legal basis, not just a summary, the evidence of the legal basis.

“They need to articulate what is their objective, what is their end goal, and they need to give detail about the security implications of their action both in the region and here at home.”

Mr Yousaf spoke on the matter as he launched the SNP’s campaign for the general election, which is expected to take place later this year.

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said it was a “surprise” that he was in Glasgow for the campaign launch, and not in the Commons.

The MP said: “Myself and my colleagues should currently be in Westminster questioning the United Kingdom Prime Minister on his decision to launch military action.

“It is right that Parliament be recalled this weekend, so that MPs across the board can better understand the decision that has been taken, but also get answers on the consequences and what comes next.”

He later told the PA news agency he was “deeply disappointed” no-one in the SNP had been briefed by the UK Government about the situation.

However he said it is “absolutely right” the international community upholds freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.

Mr Flynn said: “The Houthis are determined for that not to happen.

“Similarly, the Houthis will be delighted about the fact that there’s military intervention.

“We know what their slogans are, ‘death to America, death to Israel’.

“They are no friends of ours. What we need to know is what the UK Government’s plan is.”

Mr Sunak insisted the US and UK had acted “in self-defence” and said the allies will not hesitate to ensure the safety of commercial shipping.

Speaking about the action as he visited Ukraine on Friday, the Prime Minister said: “We need to send a strong signal that this breach of international law is wrong.

“People can’t act like this with impunity, and that’s why together with allies we’ve decided to take this action.”

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