MSPs Want Iraq War Report Published

29 January 2015, 15:19 | Updated: 29 January 2015, 15:21

The First Minister has called for the immediate publication of the Iraq war inquiry report, describing failure to do so before the general election as "scandalous''.

Nicola Sturgeon said it was "time for the truth'' on the events leading up to the 2003 invasion as she called for the delay in publishing the findings of the Chilcot inquiry to be revisited "as a matter of urgency''.

The Conservatives and Labour agreed that the report should be published as soon as possible, but they warned that its legitimacy and independence could be called into question if due process is not followed.

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie supported Scottish Government calls for publication before the election.

The inquiry was established by then prime minister Gordon Brown in 2009 and took public evidence from its last witness in 2011.

It became increasingly clear that its report was unlikely to be made public before the election after ministers said in October that it would have to be released before the end of February if it was not to impinge upon the electoral process.

Publication has been held up by wrangling over the release of confidential messages between Tony Blair and former US president George Bush, and by the so-called "Maxwellisation'' process by which people who are criticised in the report are given the chance to respond.

Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot last week revealed that there was no realistic prospect of the final report being published before the election.

Leading a debate at Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said: "I think that is scandalous. I think that is completely unacceptable.

"The ongoing delay in publishing the inquiry report is completely unjustifiable and it should be revisited as a matter of urgency.

"For as long as the report remains hidden from public view, the suspicion will remain and the suspicion will grow that it is being kept secret because of behind-the-scenes wrangling about its contents - a suspicion that is only fuelled by the extended delay until after the looming Westminster election.

"The fact that the report may make deeply uncomfortable reading for some of those involved cannot be allowed to prolong this delay any further.''

She added: "I think it would be quite simply unacceptable for the voters of this country to be asked to vote in a general election - to vote for, or perhaps not to vote for, candidates who were MPs at the time of the decision to go into war in Iraq, some of them who will have voted for the war.

"I think it is unacceptable that the public do not have answers to the questions they have before they are asked to cast their votes.''

Tory MSP Alex Fergusson said: "While I share the disappointment that it will not be published is imperative I believe that the process is completed properly.''

He added: "This is an independent inquiry. Like it or not, it is not for the Scottish Government, or indeed for the UK Government, to try to somehow strong-arm the publication date for the report of an independent inquiry.

"If that were to happen the value of the inquiry being independent would be hugely diminished.

"In all honesty, I don't really understand why the Government has chosen to debate this today other than for narrow political reasons.''